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What Is Sage Used For?

The Wisdom of Sage
Botanical name: Salvia officinalis

Sage Nutrition Facts

Sage has been revered for centuries for its medicinal as well as culinary uses, since it was named for that quality. The botanical name comes from the Latin word "salvere," meaning "to be saved." A member of the mint family of plants and closely related to rosemary, its warm and musky essence is essential for making the fragrant dressing that goes so well with turkey.

A perennial plant growing one to two feet high, sage produces small, grey-green, deeply-veined leaves and comes in a wide variety of "flavors," although some are ornamental only. Russian sage originated in Afghanistan and spread to Tibet, while the common culinary sages first grew in the Mediterranean and Balkan regions. One of the most popular culinary types is pineapple sage, which bears bright red flowers and a sweet fragrance (explaining its name), good for teas and potpourri. Golden sage has variegated leaves, and purple sage indicates the color of leaf and flower it produces. Tricolor is just that, with white, purple, and green variegated leaves. Three-lobed sage denotes three leaves to a stem.

Sage usually comes in one of three ways: fresh, ground, and "rubbed." Rubbed sage literally comes off the leaf almost like a powder and is extremely light and fluffy. Fresh is the most flavorful and fragrant, making the most pungent recipes. When fresh isn't readily available, perhaps your best bet is ground sage, although it tends to lose its strength after a year or so. It's best stored in a cool, dark place, in a glass jar with a tightly fitted lid.

Sage pairs well with cheese. Sprinkling roughly chopped sage leaves near the end of caramelizing onions or mushrooms, egg bakes, omelets, and even tea are other delicious ways to use this herb.

Health Benefits of Sage

Sage is known for its natural antiseptic, preservative and bacteria-killing abilities in meat. Volatile oils (distilled from the blossoms) contain the phenolic flavonoids apigenin, diosmetin, and luteolin, plus volatile oils such as rosmarinic acid, which can be easily absorbed into the body. Medicinally used for muscle aches, rheumatism, and aromatherapy, these oils also contain ketones, including A- and B-thujone, which enhance mental clarity and upgrade memory, as evidenced by clinical tests comparing tests scores with and without the use of sage. This knowledge has been extremely useful in treating cognitive decline and patients suffering from Alzheimer's. It's interesting that this herb has been prized for that purpose for over 1,000 years.

In fact, sage, made into a drink from the leaves, has been called the "thinker's tea" and even helps ease depression.

Three-lobed sage contains the flavone salvigenin which may help prevent cardiovascular disease. Between the flavonoids, phenolic acids, and the enzymes superoxide dismutase and peroxidase, sage contains powerful antioxidant powers for neutralizing harmful free radicals, as well as compounds that fight inflammation, bronchial asthma, and atherosclerosis (a.k.a. hardening of the arteries).

A gram of sage as seen in the nutritional profile indicates the health benefits even a small amount provides. Vitamin K is the most prominent, with 43% of the daily recommended serving in the more practical serving of one tablespoon. Sage is also an excellent source of fiber, vitamin A, folate, calcium, iron, magnesium, manganese, and B vitamins such as folic acid, thiamin, pyridoxine, and riboflavin in much higher doses than the recommended daily requirements, plus healthy amounts of vitamin C, vitamin E, thiamin, and copper.

Sage Nutrition Facts

Serving Size: 1 tbsp (2 grams), ground
  Amt. Per
Serving
% Daily
Value*
Calories 6  
Calories from Fat 2  
Total Fat 0 g 0%
Saturated Fat 0 g 1%
Trans Fat    
Cholesterol 0 mg 0%
Sodium 0 mg 1%
Total Carbohydrates 1 g 0%
Dietary Fiber 1 g 3%
Sugar 0 g  
Protein 0 g  
Vitamin A2% Vitamin C 1%
Calcium3% Iron 3%

*Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie

Studies on Sage

One study noted the history of sage's power to enhance memory, even without much evidence regarding its efficacy. A placebo-controlled, double-blind, crossover trial on sage involving 44 participants showed significantly improved, immediate, and several-hours-later measures of word and cognitive recall. The results represented the first systematic evidence that "salvia is capable of acute modulation of cognition in healthy young adults.”1

In 2011, research showed that traditional uses for sage as a medicinal for menopausal symptoms has more than a little merit. Eight medical practices in Switzerland participated in a study on sage that involved 71 patients, all averaging 56 years of age, menopausal for at least 12 months, and experiencing at least five hot flashes a day. Each was treated with a once-per-day tablet of fresh sage leaves for eight weeks. This preparation demonstrated clinical value in treating mild, moderate, severe, and very severe hot flashes, which decreased by nearly 50% to 100% over eight weeks in the treatment.2

Sage Healthy Recipes:
Brussels Sprouts with Chestnuts and Sage

Sage Healthy Recipes
Ingredients:
2 pounds Brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved 1 tablespoon butter 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil 3 tablespoons reduced-sodium chicken broth
¾ cup coarsely chopped chestnuts, (about 4 ounces; see Tip) 2 teaspoons chopped fresh sage ½ teaspoon salt Freshly ground pepper to taste

Procedures:

  1. Bring a large saucepan of water to a boil. Add Brussels sprouts and cook until bright green and just tender, 6 to 8 minutes. Drain well.
  2. Melt butter with oil and broth in a large skillet over medium heat. Add Brussels sprouts, chestnuts and sage and cook, stirring often, until heated through, 2 to 4 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Serve warm or at room temperature.

This recipe makes 12 servings.
(From: Eating Well)

Sage Fun Facts

Used as a medicinal and preservative for as long as any other herb, sage was highly revered by the Greeks and Romans, who even devised a special gathering ceremony. Arabian healers of the 10th century believed that eating it would grant immortality, and Europeans four centuries later used it to ward off witchcraft. Three cases of tea leaves reportedly were traded for one case of sage leaves by 17th century Chinese because they appreciated sage tea.

Summary

There's a reason why sage has the scientific name "to save." Healers have been using this herb for a number of ailments for thousands of years. Different varieties like purple or Russian have slightly different fragrances and flavors while providing different benefits for the body. So while you're enjoying cheese laced with sage, you're receiving advantages like flavonoids, phenolic acids, enzymes, and antioxidants for lowered heart disease risk, inflammation, and menopausal symptoms, better concentration, and relief from bronchial asthma while killing off free radicals in the cells (to name just a few).

Growing sage is easy, indoors or out. A few snips added to your favorite recipes give you much more than great flavor.


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