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Sage belongs to the family Labiatae/Lamiaceae and is native to the Middle East and Mediterranean regions, but it is now grown in Europe and North America. It is commonly used in cooking.
Sage has also been used in traditional medicine. In fact, the German Commission E for drug and medical devices has accepted the medical use of sage for inflammation and dyspepsia (indigestion). (1)
The bioactive compounds in sage include alkaloids, carbohydrates, fatty acids, saponins, terpenes/terpenoids, catechins, quercetin, and rosmarinic acid. (1)
Health Benefits of Sage
Through its many bioactive compounds, sage has many uses for health as demonstrated in many traditional medicine systems. The following are some of its top benefits backed by current evidence.
1. Improves diabetes
Sage is a very potent antioxidant that can protect the body against free radicals generated due to high blood sugar levels. (2) In addition, sage extracts have insulin-like activity and can lower blood sugar levels, as shown by animal studies. (2)
Sage tea has a metformin-like effect; metformin is a popular antidiabetic drug for type 2 diabetes that lowers glucose in the liver and improves the action of insulin. (2)
In one study, consuming sage as a tablet with 150 mg extract three times a day reduced blood sugar levels 2 hours after meals and improved lipid levels in patients with diabetes. However, it did not affect fasting blood sugar levels. (3)
Sage tea has been reported to have similar results. (2)
2. Helps lower cholesterol levels
In a study, it was observed that consumption of 500 mg sage extract capsule thrice a day was effective in reducing triglyceride, total cholesterol, and LDL (bad cholesterol) levels and improved the levels of HDL (good cholesterol). The extract also showed antioxidant capacity. (4)
3. Improves menopausal symptoms
Menopause is a period of great adjustment as the female body undergoes physiological changes. Some of the symptoms due to hormonal changes that women experience are hot flashes, insomnia, night sweats, dizziness, headaches, and palpitations. (2)
Sage is traditionally used to treat night sweats and hot flashes, among other symptoms of menopause. (2)
In one study, intake of 100 mg sage extract tablets, three 3 times/day, improved hot flushes, palpitation, muscle and joint pain, depression, and nervousness and significantly decreased anxiety in postmenopausal women. (5)
4. Improves memory and brain health
In a study, consumption of 600 mg sage extract for 29 days improved memory and the ability to do tasks well in people suffering from Alzheimer’s disease. These improvements were observed both short term and long term. (6)
It is suggested that sage can also be helpful in the progression of dementia over time. (2)
5. Reduces pain
Sage exhibits some pain-relieving capacity and can reduce abdominal spasms experienced during episodes of diarrhea or colic. (2)
6. Fights obesity
The cholesterol-lowering and blood glucose-lowering activities of sage are well known and have already been discussed in this article. Additionally, sage can prevent fat from accumulating in the body by improving fat metabolism. (1)
Sage increases the production of enzymes that digest fats, and the carnosic acid in sage stops the rise of triglyceride levels and prevents an increase in weight. (2)
7. Protects oral health
Sage has potential antibacterial activity against many strains of bacteria, as demonstrated in test-tube studies. (2) Extracts of sage have been shown to have a protective effect against bacteria that cause dental caries. (2)
In one study, sage mouthwash used in school-going children reduced the colony of Streptococcus mutans, which causes dental plaque. (7)
8. Might aid skin healing
The anti-inflammatory property of sage makes it a potential agent in healing skin wounds and infections.
In animal studies, topical application of sage extract resulted in quicker wound closure and reformation of skin. (8)
In addition, the antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, and astringent properties of sage can curb skin inflammation, such as in dermatitis. (9)
9. May treat some stomach issues
In some Middle Eastern countries, sage is used to treat digestive issues including stomach aches. (10)
Due to its strong anti-inflammatory potential, animal studies have successfully used sage to treat diarrhea and ulcerative colitis. It healed tissues and reduced inflammatory response in the colon. (11)
10. May fight cancer
Sage’s polyphenol compounds also prevent the formation of cancer cells. Drinking sage tea has been known to inhibit the formation of cancer cells in the colon. They have a growth-inhibiting effect on breast cancer cells. (1)
The extracts of sage can also prevent UV-induced mutation of certain bacteria. (1)
How to Consume
Sage extracts are available as capsules and tablets. It is advised to follow the recommended dosage on the package. Fresh or dried sage can be made into tea or added to soups and gravies.
Precautions to Consider
So far, no studies have reported side effects from using sage. However, extracts of sage in the form of oils from leaves (more than 15 g of leaves) can cause vomiting, salivation, erratic heartbeat, vertigo, hot flashes, and allergic reactions. (2)
Pregnant women and children are advised to avoid the use of sage and its extracts.
Most-Asked Questions About Sage
Can I chew raw sage leaves?
Raw sage may have a strong flavor that is unpalatable. However, if you can stand it, sage leaves can be chewed, which can be beneficial in releasing the oils that have antibacterial effects to improve oral health.
Can sage boost immunity?
Since sage shows some protective effects against bacteria (such as those that cause dental caries), it can keep disease-causing bacteria away from the body to keep immunity up.
Sage is an herb that is much loved for the flavor it can impart to meats and other dishes. In addition, sage has beneficial polyphenols that can benefit human health in many ways – from exerting antibacterial effects useful in preventing the formation of dental caries to providing analgesic effects that can treat abdominal pain in diarrhea.
Sage also exerts some anticancer activity, and its painkiller property can help relieve the pain felt by patients during chemotherapy. While using and consuming sage are largely safe, overconsumption and its use by pregnant women and children must be avoided.