By Joy Stephenson-Laws, JD, Founder
Sage is a musky, aromatic herb and part of the mint family. It is closely related to another herb you may be familiar with - rosemary. There are more than 900 species of Sage throughout the world, and many of them are native to the Mediterranean region.
Common sage (also called garden sage) is most commonly used for cooking. It makes a great flavoring agent for pretty much any dish: meats, vegetables, eggs and pastas. You can even make your own sage tea, something I am looking forward to trying at home.
Another type of sage, pineapple sage, grows beautiful, tubular red flowers that are edible and taste like citrus and mint. The leaves contain the flavor of pineapple. This type of sage is popular in baking and fancy cocktail recipes. Looking to perk up a piña colada? Pineapple sage is the way to go! You can also do a pineapple sage iced tea.
Then there are other types of sage, like golden and white, which are used for ornamental purposes or for potpourri and incense.
Most types of sage appear to be edible, but keep in mind some types, like red sage, do not have FDA approval. So I recommend sticking to common sage for culinary purposes or pineapple if you want to be a bit more adventurous. Whatever type you buy, do your research and always inquire whether it is safe for you to personally use.
You can purchase fresh sage or dried sage leaves. Sage leaf extract is available in the form of liquids, throat sprays, tablets, lozenges, capsules and oils.
I could spend months researching the different types of sage in the world. But I am more interested in the potential health benefits. And after researching the benefits, I now feel more inclined to include this powerful herb in my diet.
Here is why...
Sage may be a powerful antioxidant.
Sage contains powerful antioxidant properties. Antioxidants play a key role in protecting the body against oxidative stress and free radical damage (essentially inflammation) which are believed to be contributors to all types of illness, including cancer, heart disease, diabetes and a weakened immune system.
“The antioxidant properties of sage have been studied extensively, and are found to be related to the presence of rosmarinic acid and carnosic acid,” reports the National Institutes of Health (NIH). “In addition, salvianolic acid, which is a rosmarinic acid dimer isolated from the sage extract, showed a high antioxidant activity and is a very significant scavenger of free radicals.”
There is even one study that reported liver antioxidant status improved after subjects drank sage tea for just two weeks.
Sage may be good for your mental health.
Spanish sage, Chinese sage and common sage have been used for centuries as restoratives of lost or declining mental functions such as in Alzheimer's disease, the NIH reports. Regarding Alzheimer’s, an enzyme called acetylcholinesterase (AChE) is responsible for damaging acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter substance involved in the signal transferring between the synapses.
The NIH says, “AChE inhibitor drugs act by counteracting the acetylcholine deficit and enhancing the acetylcholine in the brain.”
An essential oil of sage has proven to stop 46% of AChE activity at a dose of just 0.5 mg/ml.
Sage has also proven to improve mood, memory and cognition, calmness and alertness.
Sage may help with the management of diabetes.
In animal studies, sage had glucose lowering effects without affecting pancreatic insulin production.
“In a study, drinking of sage tea (common sage) (300 ml, twice a day) showed increase in antioxidant defenses and improved the lipid profile, without causing any hepatotoxicity [liver damage] or inducing any adverse effects such as changes in blood pressure, heart rate, and body weight, which may indirectly improve the diabetic condition,” the NIH reports.
Sage may help provide relief from hot flashes.
Many reports praise sage for its ability to provide relief from hot flashes.
“Once-daily application of the fresh sage extract demonstrated good clinical value in terms of safety, efficacy, and tolerability in the treatment of menopausal hot flashes and climacteric symptoms, validated by statistical analysis and the clinically relevant verdict of patients and physicians,” according to the NIH.
Sage may help soothe digestive issues.
Sage may make a great, natural digestive aid. Because of its anti-inflammatory and antispasmodic properties, it may help provide relief from stomach cramps and gas. Sage also as antimicrobial powers, so it may help kill bacteria in the stomach that can cause diarrhea and nausea. If you suffer from digestive issues, sipping sage tea in between meals may help.
The phenolic acids present in sage are reportedly great protectors from Staphylococcus aureus, the bacteria that causes staph infections.
Sage may help relieve sore throat...and more.
It’s cold and flu season. The antiseptic and anti-inflammatory components of sage may help prevent infections and soothe a sore throat if you already have one. Sage may help clear congestion and promote better breathing. It may even reduce gum inflammation, gingivitis, and provide relief from canker sores.
And check out some of the nutrient content in just one tablespoon of ground sage:
- Calcium, 33 mg. Along with building and maintaining strong healthy bones and teeth, this mineral is needed in many vital body processes like muscle contraction, bone metabolism, blood clotting, hormone release, neurotransmitters and many more. Calcium may even decrease your risk of colorectal cancer.
- Magnesium, 9 mg. This mineral helps regulate blood pressure, contributes to bone metabolism and has antioxidant functions. Magnesium is also great for pain management. Many people use magnesium as a safe alternative to ibuprofen or acetaminophen. Magnesium may even help alleviate leg cramps women may experience during pregnancy.
- Potassium, 21 mg. Potassium may help lower blood pressure by balancing out negative effects of salt. According to Harvard Health, “[w]hen it comes to fighting high blood pressure, the average American diet delivers too much sodium and too little potassium. Eating to reverse this imbalance could prevent or control high blood pressure and translate into fewer heart attacks, strokes, and deaths from heart disease.” Parsley is a great way to add flavor to your food without adding salt.
- Vitamin A, 118 IU. According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, [w]e need vitamin A for good vision and eye health, for a strong immune system, and for healthy skin and mucous membranes.” Vitamin A may also reduce the development of cataracts and may reduce macular degeneration, the leading cause of vision loss.
- Vitamin K, 34.3 mcg. This vitamin is critical for proper blood clotting and bone metabolism. It may also help maintain brain function, a healthy metabolism and may even help prevent cancer.
Some species of sage contain thujone, which can affect the nervous system. Keep in mind, 12 drops or more of sage essential oil is considered a toxic dose. And about three to six cups of sage tea may be consumed daily before you reach a toxic level.
Remember if you take medications, certain foods can alter drug-metabolizing systems in the body. You always want to avoid drug interactions so that you will be healthy and your medication will be effective.
Finally, you might want to enjoy this delicious and easy sage recipe. It’s vegan comfort food!
One Pot Creamy Pumpkin Sage Pasta
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 4 cloves garlic minced
- 1 large shallot diced
- 3 tbsp chopped fresh sage
- 1/8 tsp ground black pepper
- 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
- 1/2 cup diced cherry tomatoes (or use 1/4 cup canned diced tomatoes)
- 1/2 cup dry white wine
- 1 and 1/4 cups low-sodium vegetable broth
- 1 and 1/2 cups plain, unsweetened non-dairy milk
- 3/4 cup unsweetened pumpkin puree
- 1 tsp salt plus more to taste (reduce if using a salty broth)
- 8 oz. dry pasta
- 1/2 cup chopped toasted walnuts
- chopped fresh chives (optional, for serving)
Enjoy your healthy life!
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