In the mint family, we all know sage as a mild tasting herb that originated from the Mediterranean. Historically, the sage herb has one of the longest medicinal histories of any herb known to man. In fact, it was named herb of the year in 2001 by the International Herb Association.
Both the Greeks and the Romans used sage not only for their sacred ceremonies, but to preserve meats. And in fact, it was used for this very purpose until the onset of refrigeration. In modern times it was discovered that the terpene compounds in sage were responsible for preserving meats.
I am sure that many of you may grow sage herbs in your gardens. But did you know that sage is a potent medicinal herb that can support the following:
- Memory enhancement
- Reduces inflammation
- Reduces hot flashes
- Glucose and triglyceride balance
Recently, I have written articles concerning brain health. It is imperative that we follow the regimen described in my articles to maintain healthy brain function and cognitive performance. However, it is fascinating that an every day herb like sage used repeatedly in our kitchen may have a profound affect on supporting mood and memory. Many of us, especially baby boomers, are looking for ways to support cognitive function naturally.
Dementia and Alzheimer’s disease are characterized by a rapid loss of neurons in areas of the brain responsible for learning and memory. Hippocampal neurogenesis is considered necessary in order to maintain certain cognitive abilities. Can sage help?
The sage herb contains a flavonoid known as apigenin, which may stimulate the formation of neurons in specific areas of the adult brain. According to a study published in PubMed: “…Apigenin and related compounds stimulate adult neurogenesis in vivo and in vitro, by promoting neuronal differentiation. Apigenin promotes learning and memory performance in the Morris water task. The application claims the use of apigenin and related compounds for stimulating adult neurogenesis and for the treatment of neurological diseases, disorders and injuries, by stimulating the generation of neuronal cells in the adult brain.” Apigenin and related compounds stimulate adult neurogenesis. Mars, Inc., the Salk Institute for Biological Studies: WO2008147483.
In a study published in the Journal of Clinical Pharmacy and Therapeutics, subjects from 65-80 years of age were given 60 drops daily of either liquid sage extract or a placebo. After 4 months, the group taking sage achieved much higher cognitive improvements than the placebo group.
Other research presented in the June 2003 issue of Pharmacological Biochemical Behavior, in two double blind studies took 45 young adults and administered either a placebo or an extract of essential oil of sage in various amounts. Again, the sage control group showed substantial improvement in immediate recall, even using lower doses.
Chinese Red Sage: Dan Shen
In traditional Chinese medicine, the use of Dan Shen, referred to as Salvia Miltiorrhiza or Chinese red sage has been used for thousands of years. As there are many varieties of sage herbs, Dan Shen is very different from the white sage used for cooking. It has been used to support the heart, for angina and chest pain and increasing circulation. Compounds contained in Dan Shen are similar to those that have been used in Alzheimer’s drugs.
Dan Shen has been used for a thousand years in the treatment of cerebrovascular disease. It can also be protective in diabetes with such conditions as diabetic retinopathy. Sage herbs can also help to regenerate a damaged liver. For more information, contact your local licensed acupuncturist/Chinese herbalist about formulas that contain Dan Shen. However, Dan Shen does have anti-clotting properties so anyone on blood thinners, such as Warfarin, should check with their doctor before using.
Sage Protects the Cells
The glories of sage and sage medicinal herbs don’t stop here. Containing a phenolic acid called rosmarinic acid that is easily absorbed, it acts as an anti-inflammatory, reducing inflammatory molecules such as leukotriene B4.
Contained in the leaves and stem of the sage plant, rosmarinic acid functions as an antioxidant high in SOD (super oxide dismutase). SOD is necessary to protect the inside of our cells from free radical damage.
In a study in 2013 published in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology, scientists found that sage provides many anti-inflammatory properties including a decrease in pro-inflammatory interleukin-6 (IL 6), it inhibits release of tumor necrosis factor (TNF-a) and increases the anti-inflammatory cytokine interleukin-10 (IL 10). It is amazing that a common herb like sage has such potent medicinal properties able to reduce inflammation!
Hot Flash Relief
Could it be possible that sage herbs could have a reducing effect on hot flashes? A study with menopausal women experiencing at least 5 hot flashes per day were given 1 tablet of fresh sage daily for two months. Here is the amazing outcome ladies: mild hot flashes decreased by 46% and very severe hot flashes decreased 100%.
A randomized study in Iran with type 2 Diabetics administered 500 mg capsules of sage, three times a day. Medicinal sage herbs lowered fasting glucose by 32.2% and lowered hemoglobin A1C by 22.7%. A German showed that when diabetic subjects drank sage tea on an empty stomach it reduced their blood sugar levels.
How to Use Sage in Your Garden
Fresh Sage Leaves: If you want to save fresh sage in your garden, wrap fresh sage leaves and place in a wet paper towel. Make sure they are free from dark spots. Store in the refrigerator in a loose plastic bag for 2 days.
How to Dry Sage Leaves
- The best time to cut sage leaves is just before they flower.
- Cut large branches from full grown plants.
- Rinse in cold water and dry with a fresh towel.
- Remove leaves from the bottom of the stems.
- Tie 3-4 branches together and hang upside down in a recyclable brown bag, making sure that no leaves are crushed or touching the sides of the bag. There needs to be lots of room in the bag for air to circulate. Hang them in a warm room that has plenty of air flow.
- Leave the sage stems in the brown bag for 2 weeks. After 2 weeks, open the bag and check for mold. Remove the dried leaves from the stems. Although you can crush the leaves, who leaves maintain their flavor best.
- Use glass containers for storage and place in a cool, dark place.
- Dried sage can be placed in a mortal and pestle to grind.
Make a Cup of Sage Tea and Enjoy the Properties of Sage Medicinal Herbs
Sage is a very versatile medicinal herb with many qualities. Taking 2 tablespoons of fresh or fried leaves, pour a cup of boiling water and pour over the sage. Let it steep, covered for 15 minutes and strain. Or you can make your cup of tea using liquid sage extract. Enjoy a cup of sage tea every day and give your body and brain a boost.