Sage Health Benefits and Side Effects

Written by: Christopher Karam | ✔️ Medically Reviewed by: Dr. Riad M., M.D - G.P and Micheal B., M.D | Last Updated: 2020 April 19

History of Sage

Sage (Salvia Divinorum) is a powerful plant with many health benefits and side effects, most of which stems from its vitamin and nutrition contents.

Salvia Divinorum is the scientific name for sage. Sage has been used throughout history as a type of sage tea to fight disease, used as an essential oil, and for traditions as well as spiritual rituals.

It’s a popular herb used among our ancestors, sage is part of the list of medicinal plants that are grown and used around the world for their multiple medicinal and culinary uses.

sage plant on wooden board

The sage herb is one of the few plants that can successfully substitute chemical antibiotics for animals. As the antibiotic drug compounds were formed and produced in the early 1900s, sage was used for treating infections and inflammations before the creation of antibiotics.

Sage does not substitute any antibiotics, the advice of your medical professional is what you must follow.

Due to the increased demand for antibiotic-free meat grows, major food companies and farms continue to reduce or remove existing animal diets that include the use of antibiotics.

Uses and Nutritional Values

Here is the list of medicinal plants, herbs, and spices that are used in traditional remedies, modern medications, and used in cooking recipes that work well with sage:

Many medicinal herbs, as well as other ingredients, are used to increase lean meat yields as animals were found to consume more food and live a healthier life when their diets consisted of these herbs and spices:

  • Mint (major active compound: Menthol)

  • Cinnamon (major active compound: Eugenol)

  • Garlic (major active compound: Allicin)

  • Cumin (major active compound: Anethol)

  • Celery (major active compound: Apiol)

  • Cayenne (major active compound: Capsaicin)

  • Rosemary (major active compound: Allyl Izotiocianat)

  • Horseradish (major active compound: Cineol)

Phytogenic compounds also increased the body mass of pork, chickens, and beef. Antibiotics are still used to treat acutely sick animals, such as Tylosin and Chlortetracycline which help maintain a strong immune system for all factory-farmed animals and help livestock develop faster which promotes growth.

wild golden sage plants

Sage has been used in traditional medicine for its antimicrobial, anti-diabetic, antioxidant effects, to improve human wellness, all due to the large list of health benefits of sage.

Sage extract and essential oils are used in certain drugs and medications used to treat certain diseases and complications such as:

  • Loss of appetite

  • Gas (flatulence)

  • Stomach pain (gastritis)

  • Diarrhea

  • Bloating

  • Overproduction of saliva

  • Heartburn

  • Depression

  • Memory loss

  • Alzheimer’s disease

Sage has an extensive medical history through medications, essential oils, and aromatic treatments due to all of its health benefits. The sage plant gifts those who use it with its never-ending restorative and culinary health benefits.

The significant vitamins and minerals found in Sage include:

  • Vitamins A, C, and E

  • Folate and folic acid

  • Magnesium

  • Iron

  • Calcium

  • Manganese

  • Riboflavin

  • Pyridoxine

  • Thiamin

  • Copper

  • Thiamin

This is the list of flavonoids found in sage:

  • Luteolin

  • Apigenin

  • Hispidulin

  • Kaempferol

  • Quercetin

The list of terpenoids found in sage:

  • α and β-Thujone (Alpha and Beta Thujone)

  • Camphor

  • 1 and 8-cineole

  • α-humulene (alpha humulene)

  • β-caryophyllene (beta-caryophyllene)

  • Viridiflorol

  • Carnosic acid

  • Ursolic acid

  • Carnosol

  • Tanshinones

The list of polysaccharides found in sage:

  • Arabinogalactans

  • Pectin

History and Cultural Use

In the past, the French used to have large harvests of sage, which they created into a tea, named sage tea or “Tisane de Sauge“ that had the following list of health benefits:

  • Provides menopausal relief

  • Increased bone health

  • Improved insulin sensitivity

  • Assisted with blood health

  • Brain health and function

  • Improved memory

In the years 760 to 770, Charlemagne (Charles the Great), was one of the European Continents' greatest medieval king. Honoring the plant most, out of all the known medicinal plants found in Europe at the time.

Before sage got its modernized name, it was known as Salvia. Salvia belongs to the mint family of herbs that has over 500+ different specifies of plants.

Due to the multiple health benefits of sage, different cultures have used it only for specific treatments that were known at that time.

In 812 AD, sage was one of the types of tea herbs that were requested to be planted all around German Imperial homesteads and farmlands. This was due to its profitable business exchanges and for its therapeutic as well as medicinal uses.

Imposing laws that forced all government-controlled farms and monasteries to plant various medicinal plants, sage being the most prominent.

Numerous types of Sage are local to Mediterranean Europe and have been generally used for the treatment of a wide scope of medical issues and diseases including:

  • Blood circulation

  • Stomach related infections

  • Cancer

  • Coughing

  • Brain function disorders

  • Bronchitis

  • Asthma

  • Memory issues

  • Angina (chest pain or discomfort caused by your heart not getting enough oxygen-rich blood through the arteries)

  • Throat and mouth aggravation

  • Menopause and menstrual complications (similar to parsley)

  • Excessive perspiring (sweating)

wild sage plant

Sage plants are customarily noted for their cancer prevention agent impacts and capacity to upgrade 'head and cerebrum' functionalities, manage blood and brain health, improve memory health, stimulate the faculties, and defer age-related intellectual decrease.

Highly respected botanists (plant biologists) in 1597 discovered how sage is useful for the mind and that it “revives the nerves and memory" of the elderly. Over the years, people started making it into a tea to promote healthy memory and longevity.

Chinese merchants who were captivated with French sage tea began exchanging 4 pounds of their Chinese teas and essential oils for every pound of French sage tea.

During Ancient Rome, sage was considered to have potent health-boosting properties, especially in the absorption of fatty meats in the diets of the Romans at that time. Making sage an essential component of the official Roman pharmacopeia (Roman Pharmacy and wellness clinics) and diet.

The herb was used by the Romans for:

  • Treating ulcers

  • Helps heal wounds, improves blood clotting

  • Relieves and soothes irritated throats

The Chinese used sage to treat:

  • Improving joint and bone health as well as reducing pains

  • Fighting off cancer

  • Typhoid fever

  • Colds

  • Reduce the symptoms of liver disease and kidney disease

Mexico has been using and growing sage throughout its history. It’s mostly grown in Southern Mexico's province of Oaxaca.

In Mexico, among the Mazatec indigenous groups, a sage leaf is referred to as Xka Pastora (the herb of Mary). The plant represented the Virgin mother of Jesus and was used as a religious tool for Christians throughout Mexico.

The Mazatec shamans (pseudo Doctors) of Mexico at the time used sage as a drug in healing ceremonies to awaken the suppressed consciousness in people.

The shamans had other techniques that were used to open the human consciousness as well, but the most effective tool was the sage herb.

Salvinorin A, a psychotropic molecule and an active ingredient found in sage leaves operates in the human brain and manipulates its sensors as well as function, by activating the kappa-opioid receptors (KOR) and blocking other signals in the brain.

When the nightly ritual is performed on the individual, they’ve experienced an awakening through their consciousness and typically reported that their illnesses have been cured.

Disclaimer: This is for information and educational purposes only. This section is not to suggest, imply, or approve the use of sage as a drug. Always consult a medical professional before making drastic changes to your lifestyle.

To fight disease and sickness, sage leaves can be used in a tea or can be chewed whole. Keeping the leaves in their entirety, including the stems and roots.

Additionally, reports on patients in Mexico suffering from epilepsy, depression, headaches, anxiety, digestive and urinary system complications found that consuming sage helped relieve some of these symptoms. Although, be aware that these claims have no extensive studies to prove these benefits.

Eating and Cooking with Sage

Sage’s health benefits, savory flavor, and availability make it a perfect herb and spice to add to just about any savory homemade dish or cooking recipe.

Proteins and meats that go well with sage include:

  • Pork

  • Duck

  • Lamb

  • Beef

  • Poultry

  • Chicken

  • Game meats

  • Seafood

  • Eggs

  • Cheese such as goat cheese, ricotta cheese, parmesan (Parmigiano Reggiano)

Cereals, pasta, and other fibrous and starchy carbohydrates that go well with sage include:

  • Vegetables and legumes such as potatoes, sweet potatoes, squash, beans, white and red onions, celery, carrots, bell peppers, bread, white and brown rice

  • Pasta such as linguine, gnocchi, ravioli, tortellini, and lasagna

Essential oils, and cooking oils that go well with sage include:

  • Lemons and lemon essential oil, lavender essential oil, tea tree essential oil, oranges and orange essential oil, bergamot essential oil

  • Chamomile flowers, licorice, cloves and clove oil, marigold, bael, white wine and red wine, apple cider vinegar

  • Butter, margarine, honey and maple syrup, avocado oil, sunflower oil, olives and olive oil, carrier oil, coconut oil, sesame seeds and sesame oil, truffle oil, sunflower oil, and vegetable oil

wild sage plants

Using sage with oils and other binding ingredients can drastically transform the taste of basic sauces, and enhance it by adding multiple layers of flavor.

Herbs, spices, seasonings, and teas that go well with sage include:

Traditional Recipes

Sage infused oils are great over chicken, vegetables, pasta (especially ravioli), spaghetti squash, and butternut squash.

Standard seafood recipes use a reduced sage cream sauce that works for all types of shellfish, crustaceans, and large cuts of fish such as salmon and tuna.

You can also include sage into a lemon zest marinade or rub for chicken, or as an olive oil marinade for barbecued steak. It’ll combine many different textures, tastes, and aromas.

These are just some examples of how you can include sage into your daily diet. A tablespoon of sage has 43% of the recommended daily amount (RDA) of vitamin K and 25% of your RDA of fiber.

The Health Benefits of Using Sage Tea

Another way to get the most out of the health benefits of sage is by making a tea with the leaves. It’s full of healthy antioxidants and plant-based compounds that help you lose weight by increasing your metabolism (BMR).

The increase in your metabolism will improve your overall health by allowing your blood to better circulate, reducing blood pressure and risk of cardiovascular disease.

By also allowing nutrients and oxygen in the bloodstream to travel more efficiently through your system which will lead to:

  • Improves digestion

  • Healthier brain function

  • Healthier skin

  • Improves cell health

  • Reduce stress

Blood pressure control one of the biggest effects of drinking sage tea, due to the vitamins and nutrients. The main factors that impact high or low blood pressure are vitamin k, iron, manganese, vitamin B6, and calcium.

Additionally, blood sugar regulation is also improved due to the natural source of fiber and its low amount of calories.

As you age, your mental health becomes more important as your cognitive processing, memory, and overall mental health declines. Alzheimer's disease is an aggressive and common disease that affects over 5.7 million people over the age of 65.

We can preserve our brain health and function by drinking sage tea or including sage into your diet at least once or twice per week. Sage is full of potent plant-based compounds, vitamins, and minerals.

Renowned for sage’s restorative health benefits, as well as its uses in cooking and wellness routines makes it a powerful addition to almost any diet.

Benefits of Burning White Sage

The act of burning white sage has been around for centuries to perform rituals and ceremonies but has recently gained popularity in 2016.

The benefits of burning sage have always been ignored in North America due to the difference in lifestyle, although as time goes by, cultural adaptations are always being revisited.

The ritual is known as smudging, which is performed to rid “bad spirits and negative energy” in anything tangible.

This is practical because this process gives people the peace of mind that they’re contributing to their well-being, health, and positivity. Little scientific research and studies to prove the effects of Smudging.

The only proven benefits of smudging are:

  • Releases negative ions which reduces pet and dust allergens, the presence of mold, and improves the quality of the oxygen

  • Improved sleep and sleep quality

  • Lowers blood pressure due to reduced stress

bundle of sage leaves

Sage Health Benefits

Sage has many health benefits that range from improving mental health and processing to reducing blood pressure, risk of diseases, and cancer.

There are 2 forms of sage, (Salvia officinalis) and Spanish sage (Salvia lavandulaefolia) both of which have the same effects and are used for medications to treat certain complications, diseases, infections, and other chronic conditions such as:

  1. Digestive problems

  2. Gas (flatulence) and stomach pain (gastritis)

  3. Loss of appetite

  4. Excessive sweating

  5. Stomach disease and diarrhea

  6. Bloating and flatulence

  7. Heartburn and acid reflux

  8. Depression

  9. Cerebral ischemia, increasing blood flow to the brain

  10. Helps prevent lung cancer

  11. Diabetes

  12. High cholesterol

  13. Alzheimer's disease

  14. Bone diseases

  15. Cold sores

  16. Menopausal symptoms

  17. Tonsillitis, swelling of the tonsils, and dry mouth

  18. Asthma

  19. Sunburn

  20. Reducing inflammation and reducing pain

All variations of sage including essential oils, loose-leaf, and extracts all contribute to reducing bad LDL cholesterol levels and raising good HDL cholesterol levels.

1. Increases Good HDL Cholesterol Levels

High levels of bad LDL cholesterol is a key factor in cardiovascular disease, heart attacks, high blood pressure, and strokes.

According to the American Heart Foundation, high cholesterol is the primary contributor to the increased risk of heart-related diseases, affecting 1 in 3 Americans.

Every year, the rate of death in North America due to coronary illnesses and stroke increases by about 5% per year, currently affecting over 145,000 Americans per year.

Sage can help reduce the rate of the coronary illness epidemic in the United States, which is now growing worldwide.

Bad cholesterol can develop in your arteries and veins, increasing the risk of a stroke by 30 to 40% in people over the age of 25, damaging other internal organs such as the liver, lungs, and pancreas.

One study using sage found that patients taking 0.4 grams to 1.5 grams of sage per day through either tea, extracts, or loose leafs found a reduction of in their blood lipids by 16% to 20% while reducing overall cholesterol levels peaking over of 3 months.

Researchers found other additional health benefits that occurred during this study which also included: including improved memory, attention, word recall, speed of memory, mood, alertness, and calmness through short-term ingestion trials. Long-term (over 1 year) results require further investigation.

Your body needs good cholesterol to produce and regulate your hormones (estrogen, testosterone, and adrenal hormones), build cell membranes, improves metabolism, produce vitamin D, and produce stomach acid (bile) which helps the body digest and absorb nutrients easily.

Too much LDL in the blood leads to clogged arteries, the molecules begin to stick together and create a plaque that gets lodged in your arteries, requiring a healthy diet and blood thinners to remove. Sage helps minimize this by improving your blood circulation.

Here is a guide for healthy cholesterol levels, ranging from good levels to the harmful ones:

  • Bad LDL cholesterol: less than 99 md/dl (best), more than 190 md/dl (bad)

  • Good HDL cholesterol: more than 50 md/dl (best), less than 40 md/dl (bad)

2. Sage Benefits Brain Function and Memory

Acetylcholine (ACh) is a neurotransmitter involved in cholinergic signalling used to simulate acetylcholine, which is the main transmitter of nerve impulses in the parasympathetic nervous system (autonomic nervous system).

close up of sage leaves

The parasympathetic nervous system is responsible for the autonomous actions performed by the body which includes:

  • The regulation of blood pressure

  • Heartbeats

  • Immune system

  • Digestion and production of stomach acids

  • Subconscious breathing

As well as many others. Both of these neurotransmitters play an important role in several other aspects of cognitive function and behaviour which includes improved:

  • Attention

  • Learning

  • Alertness

  • Memory

  • Has strong anti-inflammatory and free radical protective properties

  • Blocks and repairs damaged brain cells

  • Prevents amyloid-beta plaques in the brain (β-amyloid peptide (Aβ), related to the prevention of Alzheimer’s disease)

  • Motivation through the release of Dopamine

Taking Spanish sage essential oils or tea concentrate could substantially improve memory in people over 18 or people’s brains that have fully developed. A research paper found that it could also prevent early-onset Alzheimer's and dementia due to the cognitive improvements of sage when used in aromatherapy treatments.

Alzheimer’s disease and dementia are thought to be caused by:

  • Cholinergic neuron damage

  • Oxidative stress

  • Chronic inflammation

Aromatherapy treatments using sage found that inhaling its essential oils helped prevent acetylcholinesterase (AChE), which improved overall cognitive performance in patients suffering from Alzheimer’s disease.

Aromatherapy with herbs from the Lamiaceae or Labiatae family (family of mints) essential oils using:

  • Chamomile

  • Lavender

  • Marjoram

  • Peppermint

  • Basil

  • Oregano

  • Mint

  • Rosemary

  • Monoterpenoids from Thyme (Thymus vulgaris)

  • Thymol

  • Carvacrol

  • Linalool

  • Lemon myrtle

These essential oils can significantly reduce agitated behavior in AD patients and have been found to inhibit AChE as well. Research shows that sage has been used for 1000s of years for memory improvements. The memory-boosting properties come from the essential and volatile oils found in its leaves.

Another study conducted by Australia's Merdoch University revealed that sage can have beneficial effects after just 5 hours after consumption.

Fundamentally, sage extract hinders the production of acetylcholinesterase so acetylcholine isn't broken down and stays longer in around your neural receptors, between your synapses.

golden sage leaves and plants

3. Lowers Blood Sugar Levels

In the past 100 years, sugar consumption has grown by about 120% by both corporations using sugar in their ingredient list or consumers who are increasingly eating more sweets, confections, and unhealthy desserts.

In today’s market, it’s much more difficult to reduce your sugar intake as over 70% of packaged foods contain some form of sugar, fructose, or corn syrup.

Chronically spiked blood sugar levels from refined sugars and carbs can lead to the development of type 1 or type 2 diabetes. You can prevent diabetes by exercising and choosing to eat healthier foods such as:

Diets that are high in carbohydrates can benefit from including sage into their diets. Sage has been proven to lower blood sugar levels in rats who have type 1 diabetes.

In an animal study, 100mg of sage extract per kg of body weight per mouse was given orally for 1 month. After 29 days, insulin sensitivity, blood plasma, triglycerides, and levels of inflammation have all improved. Benefiting the health and function of your pancreas and heart.

4. Full of Healthy Fats

Eating foods containing healthy fats that have monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids will have multiple health benefits such as:

  • Maintaining healthy eyes and vision

  • Helps burn body fat

  • Builds healthy cells

  • Maintains neuron and brain health

  • Improves liver function

  • Helps the body flush out toxins

Harmful and unhealthy fats come from foods such as bacon, sausage, dairy butter, and deserts. These all contain hydrogenated oils and trans fatty acids.

These fats are bad because they cause plaques to build-up in your arteries. Over time, after accumulating a large layer of plaque it starts to narrow the blood vessels and arteries which may cause heart attacks and strokes.

You can get loads of healthy monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats from eating foods such as:

There are many processes, functions, and effects that insulin has on the digestive system. When food is consumed, glucose and nutrition are absorbed by the stomach then followed by the intestines, which enter into the bloodstream.

Glucose travels through the entire cardiovascular system to be used by organs and cell tissues such as the liver, muscles, brain, and adipose tissue (fat).

Blood glucose is what causes blood sugar levels to rise. The increased level of blood sugar sends a signal to the pancreas to secrete a hormone called insulin.

Insulin is then secreted depending on high your blood glucose levels are to maintain and stabilize energy levels. The more sensitive you are to insulin, the better your energy and mood will be throughout the day.

Insulin also allows your cells to absorb glucose better, which is what maintains consistent energy levels. This response also allows you to consistently burn fat since it keeps your metabolism active.

There’s been a study using mice that have been fed sage extract daily for 30 days. After the trial, insulin sensitivity increased, improved triglyceride and blood plasma levels, as well as decreased inflammation across each subject.

Pancreatic diseases can also be mitigated by using sage essential oils. It helps to regulate blood glucose levels when taken once per day for 3 months.

Sage also improves insulin sensitivity to dangerously high glucose(blood sugar) levels and helps manage insulin sensitivity to normal glucose(blood sugar) levels after some time of use in tested diabetes patients.

sage plant farm

6. Benefits Bone Health

Sage leaves are also used to improve bone health, metabolism and treat bone resorption. Red sage (Salvia miltiorrhiza or Danshen) is most effective for its bone healing properties, widely used in traditional Chinese medicine.

The health benefits range from helping reduce high cholesterol, treating type 2 diabetes, and improving bone health as well as metabolism. Study shows that compounds in red sage have been used to block the Cathepsin K (CatK or CTSK) enzyme.

Cathepsin K is responsible for the catabolic break down of collagen in bones, as well as elastin and gelatin. This causes various chronic diseases and bone atrophic complications such as:

  • Osteoporosis

  • Bone resorption

  • Paget's disease of bone

  • Joint weakness

  • Arthritis

  • Type 1 and type 2 diabetes

In an additional study involving mice, red sage was given to mice along with sorbitol increased Tanshinone IIA production by over 9x compared to when ingesting red sage alone.

Tanshinone IIA is a proven anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and cytotoxic against a variety of cancerous cells, especially breast cancer and prostate cancer.

The mice benefited by experiencing an increase in bone mass, density, and healing by an average of 35% in each category. Research is still being conducted to study the full effectiveness of these compounds found in this variation of sage.

7. May Prevent Leukemia

Blood is the basis of human life, carrying oxygen to every type of cell in your body. Some types of cancer such as Leukemia can drastically influence and reduce the life span of your red blood cells, along with its other serious side effects.

Even after successful treatment of Leukemia, through all of the cancer treatments and radiation, a majority of survivors develop anemia. Anemia is when you don’t have enough healthy red blood cells to carry oxygen to your cells.

For this reason, Leukemia and other cancer patients are the largest consumers of blood products such as:

  • Whole blood

  • Blood components

  • Blood plasma

  • Platelets

  • Cryoprecipitate (from frozen plasma)

The various phenolic acids in sage are linked to better brain functioning, lower risk of cancer, and better memory. For example, caffeic acid benefits your health by reducing inflammation, preventing premature ageing, and reduces the rate of exercise-related fatigue.

Here’s the list of phenolic acids found in sage:

  • Caffeic acid

  • Rosmarinic acid

  • Salvianolic acid

  • Sagecoumarin

  • Lithospermic acid

  • Sagerinic acid

  • Yunnaneic acids

  • Chlorogenic acid

  • Rosmarinic acid

  • Ellagic acid

wild sage plant

8. May Reduce Symptoms of Menopause

Sage can offer relief for women going through menopause. Menopause occurs in women in their 40’s, usually after age 45. Women reach this stage after they have not had their period for one year.

This is caused by the ovaries ceasing production of estrogen and progesterone. Menopause may cause common and severe side effects such as:

  • Hot flashes

  • Irregular bleeding

  • Mood swings

  • Problem sleeping and irritability

  • Fatigue

  • Vaginal dryness

  • Night sweats

  • Hair loss

Hot flashes and having trouble sleeping are some of the most common symptoms of women in the menopausal stage.

Hot flashes start as sudden heating around the face, neck, and chest areas. Causing a redness of the skin, sweating, and a sudden loss of body heat that’ll cause the chills.

Due to the various severe side effects of menopause, essential oil remedies are sought after to help reduce and possibly eliminate symptoms.

Essential oils found in sage have been clinically proven in multiple studies to reduce the frequency hot flashes as well as both excessive sweating and night sweats.

Over 8 weeks, 71 women age between 50 and 60 years old have been in their menopausal stage for at least 12 months.

They were given 1 tablet of fresh sage leaves daily. As each week progressed, their frequency of hot flushes per day and night sweats were reduced by 46% in week 2, to 100% after week 8.

For most women, sage essential oils is a healthier and safer option compared to other available treatments including:

  • Hormone therapy (estrogen therapy)

  • Low-dose antidepressants

  • Vaginally administered estrogens

  • Gabapentin (Neurontin, a medication used for treating hot flashes, seizures, and neuropathic pain)

  • Clonidine (Catapres, used for treating high blood pressure, ADHD, drug withdrawal, menopausal flushing, and diarrhea)

  • Osteoporosis medications (Alendronate, Risedronate, Ibandronate), used to increase bone mineral density (BMD) in postmenopausal women

When looking for sage essential oils choose a brand that has had its leaves steam distilled and 100% pure, and when using your oils, it’s recommended to take two drops under your tongue. Check the labelling of each product to see their recommended doses.

9. Improves Skin Health

A study conducted using sage-infused creams (acyclovir) along with rhubarb root extract was able to accelerate the healing of cold sores. Acyclovir creams heal mouth blisters in 5 to 7 days.

When acyclovir and rhubarb are paired and applied together, blisters and cold sores can heal in about 5 days. Sage and rhubarb are much more effective together compared to using sage or rhubarb extract alone.

Applying sage-infused creams to your skin also helps with blocking UV light as well as reduces skin redness and irritation.

rubbed ground and dried sage spices

Sage Side Effects and Detriments

As healthy and as beneficial sage can be, it does come with some substantial side effects. It has been widely reported that some species of sage contain a plant-based chemical compound called thujone.

Thujone can harm the nervous system in many ways by either causing seizures, damage to the nervous system as well as the liver. Most of the side effects of sage come from its complex and potent plant-based chemical compounds.

Regularly including 10 to 40 grams of sage into your daily diet will most likely not cause any harm, but as always, for specific doses, you need to contact your healthcare professional.

A study conducted on mice, that were given 11 mg/kg body weight/day found that it was inducing clonic seizures in all mice. Another commonality between sage’s side effects is that they’re mostly caused by overdoses, either by ingesting sage leaves too often or by overdosing on essential oils.

Moderate consumption is still recommended by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), reaffirming its nutritional and health benefits.

Here is the full list of the side effects of sage:

  • Can increase blood pressure in patients with a history of heart issues, strokes, and hypertension

  • May cause an upset stomach, diarrhea, vomiting, and digestive complications

  • Vertigo and tremors

  • Irregular and rapid heart rate

  • Seizures

  • Kidney damage

Burning sage may cause mild side effects such as:

  • Nasal congestion

  • Sneezing

  • Wheezing

  • Watery eyes

  • Coughing

Consuming over 12 drops of sage extract per day is dangerous and most probably toxic, causing adverse reactions to your cardiovascular system, brain, stomach acid, and cholesterol levels.

1. Many Issues for Breastfeeding and pregnant women

Taking sage during pregnancy can be harmful to the mother and developing child, similarly to parlsey.

This is because of the thujone acid chemical, which can be found in all sage products and variations. Thujone acid can accelerate a woman’s menstrual cycle, which may also cause a miscarriage or premature labor.

This is due to the effect that sage has on oxytocin levels, often called the “love hormone”. Oxytocin is hormone and neuropeptide that’s produced in the brain and is released during:

  • Sexual and social bonding

  • Hugging

  • Cuddling

  • Sexual reproduction and intercourse

  • Right after childbirth

Oxytocin makes you have feelings of warmth, love, and care which made it present in multiple anti-anxiety and antidepressant drugs. The issue with oxytocin during pregnancy is that it causes contractions of the womb, stimulating the uterine muscles to contract.

Also increasing the production of prostaglandins, which further promotes contractions of the uterus and the muscles around the mammary glands (breastfeeding muscles).

Reducing the overall milk supply of the breasts as you will begin to lactate more frequently and intensely. Multiple studies are proving that thujone acid can also reduce lactation and the overall milk supply of the mother who is looking to breastfeed their child.

2. May Cause Dangerous Blood Pressure Levels

Sage may drastically alter your cholesterol and blood pressure levels due to its essential oils. The harm comes when you sit on both sides of the spectrum.

Sage may also increase blood pressure in individuals who already have higher blood pressure and lower blood pressure in individuals who already have lower blood pressure.

This effect has various side effects including:

  • Heart issues

  • Strokes

  • Hypertension

  • Upset stomach

  • Diarrhea

  • Vomiting

  • Digestive issues

These are more relevant in people who have already had heart and digestive related diseases, complications, or surgeries. Keep track of how you feel and if any issues arise, cut back or remove sage entirely from your diet.

3. Thujone Can Provoke Seizures

Thujone is an active terpene compound that has psychoactive effects. It’s present in many drugs, most commonly in THC products including cannabis.

This convulsant chemical produces sudden and involuntary muscle contractions in higher dosages. Like all other neurochemical compounds, it can have serious side effects if consumed too frequently or in large doses.

Consuming too much sage includes the additional side effects of thujone, causing:

  • Seizures

  • Schizophrenia

  • Paralysis

  • Death

  • Numbness of arms and legs

  • Tremors

  • Difficulty sleeping, restlessness, and nightmares

  • Muscle atrophy (muscle breakdown)

  • Kidney failure

  • Stomach cramps and vomiting

  • Dizziness

  • Dehydration and urine retention

All of these complications stem from the manipulation of the neurotransmitters and nervous systems caused by the overconsumption of psychoactive and neurochemical compounds.

Rating and Recommendation

Slightly Recommended

Sage is a very complex herb that’s used in cooking recipes, desserts, alcoholic drinks, teas, and in burning rituals. If you’re looking to include sage into your diet, the easiest way to start is by adding dried sage powder to your meals.

Throughout history, sage has long been used for its various health benefits, availability, nutritious essential oils, and its ability to improve overall health and wellness.

This makes sage especially useful for people looking to improve the health of their brain function, blood pressure, cholesterol levels, and reducing symptoms of menopause in women which is one of sage’s most useful health benefits.

Here’s the full list of the health benefits of sage:

  1. Increases Good HDL Cholesterol Levels

  2. Sage Benefits Brain Function and Memory

  3. Lowers Blood Sugar Levels

  4. Full of Healthy Fats

  5. Improves Insulin Sensitivity

  6. Benefits Bone Health

  7. May Prevent Leukemia

  8. May Reduce Symptoms of Menopause

  9. Improves Skin Health

Here’s the list of side effects of sage:

  1. Many Issues for Breastfeeding and pregnant women

  2. May Cause Dangerous Blood Pressure Levels

  3. Thujone Can Provoke Seizures

Various plant-based compounds such as polysaccharides, flavonoids, and terpenoids are found in sage which contributes to its ability to regulate cholesterol and blood sugar levels, brain health as well as a supplement for insulin sensitivity.

As long as you can maintain a healthy intake, which is less than 20 grams of dried sage or 0.25 ml (6 drops) of sage essential oil per day it can be a healthy source of fats and antioxidants.

Frequently Asked Questions

Sage is a healthy leafy green herb that's used in medicine, burning, smudging, and cooking. It's been used worldwide and for centuries due to all of its health benefits and minimal side effects.

There are 2 forms of sage, (Salvia officinalis) and Spanish sage (Salvia lavandulaefolia) both of which have many health benefits that are used for medications as well as to cure and treat certain complications, diseases, infections, and other chronic conditions such as:

1. digestive problems

2. gas (flatulence)

3. loss of appetite

4. stomach pain (gastritis)

5. diarrhea

6. bloating

7. heartburn

8. depression

9. cerebral ischemia, increasing blood flow to the brain

10. helps prevent lung cancer

11. diabetes

12. high cholesterol

13. Alzheimer's disease

14. cold sores

15. menopausal symptoms

16. tonsillitis, swelling of the tonsils

17. asthma

18. sunburn

19. reducing inflammation and reducing pain

Sage burning

Burning sage is a traditional ritual performed by native North Americans for "removing any lingering negative energies".

A research paper from the Journal of Ethnopharmacol had found that burning sage helped reduce airborne bacteria. Many cultures around the world share similar rituals for improving their well-being.

Burning health herbs or using medicinal smoke can purify the air in the area and eliminate up to 95% of harmful airborne bacteria for up to 25 hours.

Other aromatic and medicinal herbs that can be used for smudging and burning include:

Rosemary

Lavender

basil

Sweetgrass

Hyssop

Eucalyptus

Valerian

Bay leaf

Mugwort

Sweet clover

Mullein

Yarrow

Eastern White Cedar (Thuja Occidentalis)

Eastern Red Cedar or Juniper (Juniperus virginiana)

White Pine (Pinus Strobus)

Staghorn sumac

Are also great for "cleansing your environment of negative energy", to generate wisdom and clarity, and to promote healing.

Here's how to burn sage properly using smudging:

1. Bundle your dried sage herbs with a cable or through compression

2. Light one end of the bundle and blow out the fire, allowing the herbs to smoke and burn slowly

3. Slightly shake the burning bundle of herbs through the areas you're looking to cleanse or leave it in an abalone shell, then place the bunch in a holder that allows the herbs to burn freely without oversight.

What is sage, and what does it mean?

Sage (Salvia officinalis) is an evergreen shrub that has wooden stems, native to Mediterranean regions and is part of the family of Mints (Lamiaceae).

Its growing popularity in cooking, medicine and medical applications made it readily available worldwide, sold by many online stores and brick and mortar stores.

Sage is loaded with essential oils and vitamins, overdosing on vitamin K through too much sage is very likely.

If you're using sage essential oils, avoid using over 10 drops. The general limit for safety reasons is 12 drops, anything above these amounts may be toxic.

To be safe, avoid consuming over 2 teaspoons or 9 grams of sage per day. If your diet is already rich in vitamin K, overdosing can be poisonous, lead to toxicity, and cause numerous side effects such as:

Vertigo

Vomiting

Restlessness

Kidney damage

Increased heart rate

Tremors

Seizures

What you need to make sage tea is the following: kettle, dried or fresh sage leaves, and tea sachets.

Here's how to make sage tea:

1. Over a stove, bring water to a rolling boil in either a pan or kettle.

2. Pour the hot water into your cup or kettle.

3. Add your sage leaves into a sachet and let it steep in your kettle or cup for 5 minutes, any longer will bring out a strong flavor.

4. Optional: add some honey, sweetener, sugar, or milk to change the flavor profile.

5. You can store your tea for later since you can drink it hot or cold. Enjoy!

Sage's price changes due to its freshness, seasonality, and source.

How much does sage cost?

Dried sage seasoning costs between 2$ per ounce up to 4.50$ per ounce. Sage smudge sticks cost between 2$ to 4$ each 4-inch stick.

Articles and Sources

1. J Tradit Complement Med. (2014 April 02) Chemistry, Pharmacology, and Medicinal Property of Sage (Salvia) to Prevent and Cure Illnesses such as Obesity, Diabetes, Depression, Dementia, Lupus, Autism, Heart Disease, and Cancer

2. Neural Regen Res. (2019 March 03) Essential oils and functional herbs for healthy aging

3. Adv Ther. (2011 June 06) First time proof of sage's tolerability and efficacy in menopausal women with hot flushes.

4. National Institute on Aging (NIA) (2017 June 26) https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/hot-flashes-what-can-i-do

5. Clin Cancer Res. (2001 December 12) Mesothelin is overexpressed in the vast majority of ductal adenocarcinomas of the pancreas: identification of a new pancreatic cancer marker by serial analysis of gene expression (SAGE).

6. PeerJ. (2018 January 09) Preventive effects of Salvia officinalis leaf extract on insulin resistance and inflammation in a model of high fat diet-induced obesity in mice that responds to rosiglitazone.

7. J Ethnopharmacol. (2010 October 28) Activation of the nuclear receptor PPARγ by metabolites isolated from sage (Salvia officinalis L.).

8. Bone. (2003 April 04) Common herbs, essential oils, and monoterpenes potently modulate bone metabolism.

9. J Tradit Complement Med. (2017 October 04) Pharmacological properties of Salvia officinalis and its components

10. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. (2006 January 24) Gene expression profiles in acute myeloid leukemia with common translocations using SAGE

11. Enzyme Microb Technol. (2001 January 01) The effect of yeast elicitor on the growth and secondary metabolism of hairy root cultures of Salvia miltiorrhiza.

12. Biotechnol Appl Biochem. (2007 April 04) Enhancement of tanshinone production in Salvia miltiorrhiza Bunge (red or Chinese sage) hairy-root culture by hyperosmotic stress and yeast elicitor.

13. Drugs R D. (2017 March 01) Salvia (Sage): A Review of its Potential Cognitive-Enhancing and Protective Effects

14. Forsch Komplementarmed Klass Naturheilkd. (2001 December 01) Combined herbal preparation for topical treatment of Herpes labialis.

15. Electron Physician. (2017 November 11) A review of effective herbal medicines in controlling menopausal symptoms

16. Am J Pathol. (2002 April 02) Discovery of novel tumor markers of pancreatic cancer using global gene expression technology.

17. Mutat Res. (2005 April 01) Ultraviolet radiation-mediated damage to cellular DNA.

18. Mutat Res. (2016 September 15) Sage

19. Neuropsychopharmacology. (2006 April 04) Effects of cholinesterase inhibiting sage (Salvia officinalis) on mood, anxiety and performance on a psychological stressor battery.

20. Regul Toxicol Pharmacol. (2010 December 03) Risk assessment of thujone in foods and medicines containing sage and wormwood--evidence for a need of regulatory changes?

21. BMC Res Notes. (2017 December 08) Changes in salivary oxytocin after inhalation of clary sage essential oil scent in term-pregnant women: a feasibility pilot study

22. Forensic Sci Int. (2006 April 01) Thujone--cause of absinthism?

sage plant leaves and salvia officinalis herbs

Sage Nutrition Facts

Serving Size 100 g (about 3.5 Oz or 0.44 Cups)

Amount Per Serving
Calories 315 Calories from Fat 115
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 12.8 g 19 %
Saturated Fat 7 g 35 %
Polyunsaturated fat 1.76 g
Monounsaturated fat 1.87 g
Trans Fat 0 g
Cholesterol 0 mg 0 %
Sodium 11 mg 0 %
Potassium 1.07 g 29 %
Total Carbohydrate 60.7 g 20 %
Dietary Fiber 40.3 g 161 %
Sugars 1.71 g
Protein 10.6 g 20 %
Vitamin A 197 % Vitamin C 36 %
Vitamin E 50 % Vitamin K 1425 %
Vitamin D 0 % Vitamin B6 44 %
Calcium 165 % Iron 351 %
Magnesium 102 % Cobalamin 0 %

Calories per gram:

Fat: 9 | Carbohydrate: 4 | Protein: 4

Source: USDA's Nutrient Database

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