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 and culinary uses. The botanical name comes from the Latin word "salvere," meaning "to be saved."1

A member of the mint family of plants and closely related to rosemary,2 its warm and musky essence is essential for making the fragrant dressing that goes so well with turkey.

A perennial plant growing 1 to 2 feet high, sage produces small, grey-green and deeply veined leaves, with the intensity of the flavor growing stronger as the plant ages.3

Sage comes in various forms: Russian sage is known for its lavender-purple flowers and ornamental applications, while the common sage is regarded for its pungent aroma that is widely used in cooking.4

Another popular sage variant used in cooking is pineapple sage, which bears bright red flowers and a sweet fragrance, which is good for teas.5

Golden sage has variegated leaves,6 and purple sage indicates the color of leaf and flower it produces.7 Tricolor is just that, with white, purple and green variegated leaves. Three-lobed sage denotes three leaves to a stem.8 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.9 Fresh is the most flavorful and fragrant, making the most pungent recipes. When fresh sage isn't readily available, 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.10,11

Sage pairs well with cheese.12 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.13

How to Choose Good Sage

how to grow harvest sage

If you’re growing your own sage plants, it’s important to know the best harvesting time for high-quality results. According to SF Gate, the best flavor for sage is the time before the plant flowers and when the leaves are large enough to be used. However, during the first year of growing, do not harvest too much to help your plants mature to its fullest potential.14 To choose the best leaves, pick ones that have a vibrant green-gray color and are free from spots and yellowing.15

Harvest the leaves using sharp pruning shears to reduce damage. If you don’t have one, you can gently pull at the base of the leaf. Lastly, leaves tastes best when picked during early morning or late evening.16

Health Benefits of Sage

health benefits of sage

Sage is known for its antifungal, antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties.17,18 Volatile oils (distilled from the blossoms) contain the phenolic flavonoids apigenin, diosmetin and luteolin,19,20 plus rosmarinic acid, which can be easily absorbed into the body.21

Medicinally used for muscle aches, rheumatism and aromatherapy, these oils also contain ketones, including A- and B-thujone,22,23 which can help enhance mental clarity and memory. This knowledge can be extremely useful in treating cognitive decline and patients suffering from Alzheimer's.24 In fact, sage, made into a drink from the leaves, has been called the "thinker's tea."25

A gram of sage (as seen in the nutritional profile) indicates the health benefits that even a small amount provides. Vitamin K is the most prominent, with 43 percent of the daily recommended serving in the more practical serving of 1 tablespoon.

Sage is also an excellent source of fiber, vitamin A, calcium, iron, magnesium, manganese, and B vitamins such as folate, thiamin, pyridoxine and riboflavin in much higher doses than the recommended daily requirements, plus healthy amounts of vitamins C and E, thiamin, and copper.26

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 A 2% Vitamin C 1%
Calcium 3% 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 ability 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 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.” 27

In 2011, research showed that traditional medicinal uses for sage 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 percent over eight weeks in the treatment. 28

Sage Healthy Recipes:
Brussels Sprouts With Chestnuts and Sage

Sage Healthy Recipes

Ingredients:

2 pounds Brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved

1 tablespoon raw, grass fed butter

1 tablespoon coconut oil

3 tablespoons reduced-sodium chicken broth

3/4 cup coarsely chopped chestnuts, (about 4 ounces; see Tip)

2 teaspoons chopped fresh sage

1/2 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, six to eight 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, two to four minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Serve warm or at room temperature.

This recipe makes 12 servings.
(From: Eating Well29)

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.30 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’s scientific name means "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, as well as better concentration and relief from bronchial asthma. 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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