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Salvia officinalis L.

Family : Labiatae


Sage (Salvia officinalis), a shrubby perennial herb of the mint, is native to southern European countries and is widely cultivated in gardens in most parts of the world. Sage was used by the ancient Greek and Romans as a medicinal herb. In the Middle Ages it was used to treat many diseases. Colonial Americans used sage both medicinally and as a culinary herb very frequently.


Sage is a variable evergreen perennial shrub, with strong taproot and square woody, branching stems. The plants grow to a height of about 2 feet and generally do not bloom until the second season. Whorls of violet-blue flowers appear in spikes in summer. The plant has large, finely toothed, elliptical leaves, ranging from 5 to 7 cm long. They are silver-grey to green velvety, or hairy to the touch.


Propagation may be from seeds, stem cuttings, or crown divisions. Seeds should be planted in a coldframe, window box, or prepared seedbed and the young plants transplanted when 2 or 3 inches high. Plants grown from seed are generally of mixed types; for this reason propagation by cuttings made from desirable plants or by layering is preferred. To induce bushy growth points of shoots are nipped off and this is renewed every 4-5 years as shrubs become leggy. Six to eight inches of the top growth can be cut from the plant about twice during the season. The leaves should be harvested before the plant blooms.

The tops may be tied in small bundles or spread on screens and dried in a well-ventilated room away from direct sunlight. If the leaves are dusty or gritty, they should be washed in cold water before drying. When they are thoroughly dry remove the stems and pack the clean dry leaves in paper bags or some other closed container.

Sage contains about 1.5-2.5% volatile oil. Major components are thujone, borneol and cineole. It is available as an essential oil and oleoresin. The oleoresin contains 30 - 35% volatile oil.

Culinary use

Sage is a very popular herb generally used as a potent condiment for meat, fish, Mediterranean dishes, and as a base for sage tea. The powdered leaves rubbed on the outside of fresh pork, ham, and loin gives a flavor resembling that of stuffed turkey. The major flavour component of fresh pork sausage seasoning is sage. The extractives of sage are also utilized primarily in the processed meat industry.

Medicinal and other use

Sage is also known to have antioxidant and antimicrobial activity. Sage infusion is used to treat depression, nervous anxiety and liver disorders. Homeopathic preparations with it are given for circulation and menopausal problems. Leaves are also antiseptic, used in gargles for laryngitis and tonsilitis. They are good as a mouth freshner and tooth cleanser. Essential oil is used in perfumery.


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