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Salvia officinalis

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

This article is about the culinary herb known as "sage". For other uses see Sage
Salvia officinalis

Flowers of Salvia officinalis

Scientific classification
S. officinalis
Binomial name
Salvia officinalis

Salvia officinalis flower closeup

Salvia officinalis (sage, also called garden sage, or common sage) is a perennial, evergreen
subshrub, with woody stems, grayish leaves, and blue to purplish flowers. It is a member of the
family Lamiaceae and is native to the Mediterranean region, though it has naturalized in many
places throughout the world. It has a long history of medicinal and culinary use, and in modern

times as an ornamental garden plant. The common name "sage" is also used for a number of
related and unrelated species.


1 Names
2 Taxonomy
3 Description
4 History
5 Uses
o 5.1 Culinary use
o 5.2 Essential oil
o 5.3 Health
6 Cultivars
7 See also
8 References
9 Further reading
10 External links

S. officinalis has numerous common names. Some of the best-known are sage, common sage,
garden sage, golden sage, kitchen sage, true sage, culinary sage, Dalmatian sage, and broadleaf
sage. Cultivated forms include purple sage and red sage. The specific epithet officinalis refers to
plants with a well-established medicinal or culinary value.[1]

S. officinalis was described by Carl Linnaeus in 1753. It has been grown for centuries in the Old
World for its food and healing properties, and was often described in old herbals for the many
miraculous properties attributed to it.[2] The specific epithet, officinalis, refers to the plant's
medicinal usethe officina was the traditional storeroom of a monastery where herbs and
medicines were stored.[1][3] S. officinalis has been classified under many other scientific names
over the years, including six different names since 1940 alone.[4] It is the type species for the
genus Salvia.
The second most commonly used species of sage is Salvia lavandulaefolia, which shares a
similar composition with Salvia officinalis, with the exception that lavandulaefolia contains very
little of the potentially toxic GABAA receptor-antagonizing monoterpenoid thujone.[5]


Sage leaves
Cultivars are quite variable in size, leaf and flower color, and foliage pattern, with many
variegated leaf types. The Old World type grows to approximately 2 ft (0.61 m) tall and wide,
with lavender flowers most common, though they can also be white, pink, or purple. The plant
flowers in late spring or summer. The leaves are oblong, ranging in size up to 2.5 in (6.4 cm)
long by 1 in (2.5 cm) wide. Leaves are grey-green, rugose on the upper side, and nearly white
underneath due to the many short soft hairs. Modern cultivars include leaves with purple, rose,
cream, and yellow in many variegated combinations.[2]


Painting from Koehler's Medicinal Plants (1887)

S. officinalis has been used since ancient times for warding off evil, snakebites, increasing
women's fertility, and more. Theophrastus wrote about two different sages, a wild undershrub he
called sphakos, and a similar cultivated plant he called elelisphakos. Pliny the Elder said the
latter plant was called salvia by the Romans, and used as a diuretic, a local anesthetic for the
skin, a styptic, and for other uses. Charlemagne recommended the plant for cultivation in the
early Middle Ages, and during the Carolingian Empire, it was cultivated in monastery gardens.[6]

Walafrid Strabo described it in his poem Hortulus as having a sweet scent and being useful for
many human ailmentshe went back to the Greek root for the name and called it lelifagus.[7]
The plant had a high reputation throughout the Middle Ages, with many sayings referring to its
healing properties and value.[8] It was sometimes called S. salvatrix (sage the savior), and was
one of the ingredients of Four Thieves Vinegar, a blend of herbs which was supposed to ward off
the plague. Dioscorides, Pliny, and Galen all recommended sage as a diuretic, hemostatic,
emmenagogue, and tonic.[7]

Culinary use

The top side of a sage leaf - trichomes are visible.

The underside of a sage leaf - more trichomes are visible on this side.

A pot of salvia officinalis

The seeds of sage

In Britain, sage has for generations been listed as one of the essential herbs, along with parsley,
rosemary and thyme (as in the folk song "Scarborough Fair"). It has a savory, slightly peppery
flavor. It appears in many European cuisines, notably Italian, Balkan and Middle Eastern
cookery. In Italian cuisine, it is an essential condiment for Saltimbocca and other dishes,
favoured with fish. In British and American cooking, it is traditionally served as sage and onion
stuffing, an accompaniment to roast turkey or chicken at Christmas or Thanksgiving Day. Other
dishes include pork casserole, Sage Derby cheese and Lincolnshire sausages. Despite the
common use of traditional and available herbs in French cuisine, sage never found favour there.

Essential oil
Main article: sage oil
Common sage is grown in parts of Europe for distillation of an essential oil, though other species
such as Salvia fruticosa may also be harvested and distilled with it. The essential oil contains
cineole, borneol, and thujone. Sage leaf contains tannic acid, oleic acid, ursonic acid, ursolic
acid, carnosol, carnosic acid, fumaric acid, chlorogenic acid, caffeic acid, niacin, nicotinamide,
flavones, flavonoid glycosides, and estrogenic substances.[9][unreliable source?]

A number of double-blind, placebo-controlled, randomized, balanced-crossover studies in
healthy humans have demonstrated improved memory, attention/executive function, alertness
and mood following single doses of cholinesterase-inhibiting sage extracts or essential oils.[10] A
single, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial in a small cohort (n = 30) of Alzheimer's disease
patients also demonstrated improved cognitive functioning and behavioral function (Clinical
Dementia Rating) following a 16-week administration of a Salvia officinalis alcoholic
According to Peter Rogers' team at Bristol University,[12] researchers have concluded that
extracts of sage can enhance cognitive performance. This was compared to the similar effect of
the caffeine found in tea and coffee.


In favorable conditions in the garden, S. officinalis can grow to a substantial size (1 square metre
or more), but a number of cultivars are more compact. As such they are valued as small
ornamental flowering shrubs, rather than for their herbal properties. Some provide low ground
cover, especially in sunny dry environments. Like many herbs they can be killed by a cold wet
winter, especially if the soil is not well drained. But they are easily propagated from summer
cuttings, and some cultivars are produced from seeds.
Named cultivars include:

'Alba', a white-flowered cultivar

'Aurea', golden sage
'Berggarten', a cultivar with large leaves, which rarely blooms, extending the useful life
of the leaves
'Extrakta', has leaves with higher oil concentrations
'Icterina', a cultivar with yellow-green variegated leaves
'Lavandulaefolia', a small leaved cultivar
'Purpurascens' ('Purpurea'), a purple-leafed cultivar
'Tricolor', a cultivar with white, yellow and green variegated leaves

'Icterina'[13] and 'Purpurascens'[14] have gained the Royal Horticultural Society's Award of Garden

See also

Aroma compound

Harrison, Lorraine (2012). RHS Latin for gardeners. United Kingdom: Mitchell Beazley.
p. 224. ISBN 9781845337315.
Clebsch, Betsy; Carol D. Barner (2003). The New Book of Salvias. Timber Press. p. 216.
ISBN 978-0-88192-560-9.
Stearn, William T. (2004). Botanical Latin. Timber Press (OR). p. 456. ISBN 0-88192-6272.
Sutton, John (2004). The Gardener's Guide to Growing Salvias. Workman Publishing
Company. p. 17. ISBN 978-0-88192-671-2.
Olsen, RW (25 April 2000). "Absinthe and gamma-aminobutyric acid receptors.".
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 97 (9): 4417
8. PMID 10781032.
Watters, L. L. (1901). An Analytical Investigation of Garden Sage (Salvia officinalis, Linne).
New York: Columbia University.

Kintzios, Spiridon E. (2000). Sage: The Genus Salvia. CRC Press. pp. 1011. ISBN 978-905823-005-8.
An Anglo-Saxon manuscript read "Why should man die when he has sage?" Kintzios, p. 10
"Sage". OBeWise Nutriceutica. Applied Health. Archived from the original on November
26, 2007. Retrieved 2008-02-04.
Kennedy, D. O.; Wightman, E. L. (11 January 2011). "Herbal Extracts and Phytochemicals:
Plant Secondary Metabolites and the Enhancement of Human Brain Function". Advances in
Nutrition: An International Review Journal 2 (1): 3250. doi:10.3945/an.110.000117.
PMC 3042794. PMID 22211188.
Akhondzadeh, S; Noroozian, M; Mohammadi, M; Ohadinia, S; Jamshidi, AH; Khani, M
(February 2003). "Salvia officinalis extract in the treatment of patients with mild to moderate
Alzheimer's disease: a double blind, randomized and placebo-controlled trial.". Journal of
clinical pharmacy and therapeutics 28 (1): 539. PMID 12605619.
Mosley, Michael. "Unexpected ways to wake up your brain". BBC. Retrieved 30
October 2014.
"RHS Plant Selector - Salvia officinalis 'Icterina'". Retrieved 26 July 2013.
14. "RHS Plant Selector - Salvia officinalis 'Purpurascens'". Retrieved 2 June 2013.

Further reading

The Herb Society of America New Encyclopedia of Herbs & Their Uses, Deni Bown
(New York: DK, 2001)