12 Health Benefits and Uses of Sage (2024)

Sage is a staple herb in various cuisines around the world. It contains antioxidants, which may help promote oral health and brain function. It may also help to lower cholesterol and blood sugar.

Sage is also called common sage, garden sage, and Salvia officinalis. It belongs to the mint family, alongside other herbs like oregano, rosemary, basil, and thyme (1).

Sage has a strong aroma and earthy flavor, which is why it’s typically used in small amounts. Even so, it’s packed with various important nutrients and compounds

Sage is a natural cleaning agent, pesticide, and ritual object in spiritual sage burning or smudging.

This green herb is available fresh, dried, or in oil form — and has numerous health benefits.

Here are 12 surprising health benefits of sage.

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Sage packs a healthy dose of vitamins and minerals.

One teaspoon (0.7 grams) of ground sage contains (2):

  • Calories: 2
  • Protein: 0.1 grams
  • Carbs: 0.4 grams
  • Fat: 0.3 grams
  • Fiber: 0.3 grams
  • Vitamin K: 12 mcg (10% DV)
  • Iron: 0.2 mg (1.1% DV)
  • Vitamin B6: 0.02 mg (1.2% DV)
  • Calcium: 12 mg (<1% DV)
  • Manganese: 0.02 mg (<1% DV)

As you can see, a small amount of sage packs 10% of your daily vitamin K needs (2).

Sage also contains small amounts (<1% DV) of magnesium, zinc, copper and vitamins A, C and E.

What’s more, this aromatic spice houses caffeic acid, chlorogenic acid, rosmarinic acid, ellagic acid and rutin — all of which play a role in its beneficial health effects (3).

Since it’s consumed in tiny amounts, sage provides only minuscule amounts of carbs, calories, protein and fiber.

Antioxidants are molecules that help fortify your body’s defenses, neutralizing potentially harmful free radicals that are linked to chronic diseases (4).

Sage contains over 160 distinct polyphenols, which are plant-based chemical compounds that act as antioxidants in your body (5).

Evidence from test tube and animal studies suggest that compounds found in sage may have anti-inflammatory, anticancer, and neuroprotective effects (1, 3).

A small, older study found that drinking a little over 1 cup (300 ml) of sage tea twice daily significantly increased blood levels of antioxidant enzymes. It also lowered both total cholesterol and “bad” LDL cholesterol, as well as raising “good” HDL cholesterol (6).

Sage has antimicrobial effects, which may protect against microbes that promote dental plaque.

In a 2015 study, a sage-based mouthwash was shown to effectively kill the Streptococcus mutans bacteria, which is notorious for causing dental cavities (7, 8).

Another study in 2021 used sage-based mouthwash in late-stage cancer patients. Dental plaque was significantly reduced in the sage group, but plaque was also reduced in the normal saline mouthwash group (9).

In a test-tube study, sage extract was found to kill and halt the spread of both oral bacteria and Candida albicans, a fungus that may also cause cavities (10, 11).

During menopause, your body experiences a natural decline in the hormone estrogen. This can cause a wide range of unpleasant symptoms.

Symptoms include hot flashes, excessive sweating, vagin*l dryness and irritability.

Common sage was traditionally used to reduce menopause symptoms (12).

It’s believed that compounds in sage have estrogen-like properties, allowing them to bind to certain receptors in your brain to help improve memory and treat hot flashes and excessive sweating (12).

A 2023 meta-analysis of 4 studies using doses ranging from 100 mg to 280 mg per day found that sage supplements significantly reduced the frequency, though not the severity, of hot flashes over 4-12 weeks, compared to a placebo (13).

The leaves of common sage have been used traditionally as a remedy against diabetes.

Human and animal research indicates that it may help lower blood sugar levels.

In one study, sage extract reduced blood glucose levels in rats with type 1 diabetes by activating a specific receptor. When this receptor is activated, it can help clear excess free fatty acids in the blood, which in turn improves insulin sensitivity (14, 15).

Another study in mice with type 2 diabetes found that sage tea acts like metformin — a drug prescribed to manage blood sugar in people with the same disease (16).

In another animal study, sage leaf extract has been shown to lower blood sugar and improve insulin sensitivity in mice with a similar effect as rosiglitazone, another anti-diabetes drug (17).

Human research is limited, but one meta-analysis of three trials found that sage significantly reduced fasting blood sugar and HbA1c (18).

However, there is still not enough evidence to recommend sage as a diabetes treatment. More human research is needed.

Sage can help support your brain and memory in several ways.

For one, it’s loaded with compounds that can act as antioxidants, which have been shown to buffer your brain’s defense system (19, 20).

It also appears to halt the breakdown of the chemical messenger acetylcholine (ACH), which has a role in memory. ACH levels appear to fall in Alzheimer’s disease (21, 22).

In one study, 39 participants with mild to moderate Alzheimer’s disease consumed either 60 drops (2 ml) of a sage extract supplement or a placebo daily for four months.

Those taking the sage extract performed better on tests that measured memory, problem-solving, reasoning and other cognitive abilities (21).

In healthy adults, sage was shown to improve memory in low doses. Higher doses also elevated mood and increased alertness, calmness and contentedness (23).

A 2021 randomized controlled clinical trial found that healthy people who took 600 mg of a proprietary sage extract daily for 2 weeks showed significant improvements in working memory, when compared to a placebo (24).

Every 33 seconds, one person in the US dies from heart disease (25).

High “bad” LDL cholesterol is a key heart disease risk factor, affecting over 50% of American adults (26).

In addition, the CDC estimates that 86 million adults over 20 in the US have total cholesterol levels above 200 mg/dL (27).

Sage may help lower “bad” LDL cholesterol, which can build up in your arteries and potentially cause damage.

In one study, consuming sage tea twice daily lowered “bad” LDL cholesterol and total blood cholesterol while raising “good” HDL cholesterol after just two weeks (6).

Several other human studies illustrate a similar effect with sage extract (28, 29, 30, 31).

Cancer is a leading cause of death in which cells grow abnormally (32).

Interestingly, animal and test-tube studies demonstrate that sage may fight certain types of cancer (33).

In these studies, sage extracts not only suppress the growth of cancer cells but also stimulate cell death.

While this research is encouraging, human studies are needed to determine whether sage is effective at fighting cancer in humans.

Sage and its compounds are linked to several other health benefits.

However, these benefits have not been extensively researched.

  1. May alleviate diarrhea: Fresh sage is a traditional remedy for diarrhea. Test-tube and animal studies found that it contains compounds that may alleviate diarrhea by relaxing your gut (34, 35).
  2. May combat skin aging: Several test-tube studies suggest that sage compounds may help fight signs of aging, such as wrinkles (36, 37).

Sage comes in several forms and can be used in a variety of ways.

Fresh sage leaves have a strong aromatic flavor and are best used sparingly in dishes.

Here are some ways you can add fresh sage to your diet:

  • Sprinkle as a garnish on soups.
  • Mix into a stuffing in roast dishes.
  • Combine chopped leaves with butter to make sage butter.
  • Add chopped leaves to tomato sauce.
  • Serve it with eggs in an omelet.

Dried sage is often preferred by cooks and comes ground, rubbed or in whole leaves.

Here are some ways you can use dried sage:

  • As a rub for meats.
  • As a seasoning for roasted vegetables.
  • Combined with mashed potatoes or squash for a more earthy flavor.

You can also purchase sage products, such as sage tea and sage extract supplements.

Sage is generally considered safe, but concentrated sage oil or other sage supplements can have side effects, and should not be used during pregnancy or lactation, or by children (38, 39).

The NIH states in one 2023 case report that prolonged use of sage oil or sage alcohol tincture may cause serious adverse effects in some, including vomiting, nausea, diarrhea, hypertension, elevated heartbeat, or convulsions (40).

In addition to this, an older case report from 2011 documented that a new born and a toddler experienced seizures after exposure to sage oil (41).

Some people are concerned about thujone, a compound found in common sage. Animal research has found that high doses of thujone may be toxic to the brain (42).

That said, it’s unclear how much thujone would need to be consumed to have toxic effects in humans (42).

What’s more, it’s nearly impossible to consume toxic amounts of thujone through foods. However, drinking too much sage tea or ingesting sage essential oils — which should be avoided in any case — may have toxic effects.

To be on the safe side, limit sage tea consumption to 3–6 cups a day (43).

Otherwise, if you are concerned about thujone in common sage, then you can simply consume Spanish sage (Salvia lavandulaefolia) instead, as it does not contain thujone (44).

Sage is an herb with several promising health benefits.

It’s high in antioxidants and may help support oral health, aid brain function and lower blood sugar and cholesterol levels.

This green spice is also easy to add to almost any savory dish. It can be enjoyed fresh, dried or as a tea.

12 Health Benefits and Uses of Sage (2024)
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