Sage is an herb native to the Mediterranean. It belongs to the same family as oregano, lavender, rosemary, thyme, and basil.

Herbs and spices can have extremely high antioxidant capacities and pack extra flavor into a meal. This means that people can use herbs to cut back on sodium intake, as less salt is used to flavor a meal.

The sage plant has gray-green edible leaves and flowers that can range in color from blue and purple to white or pink. There are more than 900 species of sage around the world.

Sage has a long history of medicinal use for ailments ranging from mental disorders to gastrointestinal discomfort. Research has supported some of its medical applications.

This Medical News Today Knowledge Center feature is part of a collection of articles on the health benefits of popular foods. It provides a nutritional profile of sage, an in-depth look at its possible health benefits, ways to incorporate more sage into the diet, and any potential health risks of consuming sage.

Sage essential oil will not be included in this article, as it is not recommended for consumption.

Fast facts on sage

  • Sage is part of the mint family, alongside oregano, lavender, rosemary, thyme, and basil.
  • Over recent years, studies demonstrating the health benefits of sage have grown in number.
  • Sage appears to contain a range of anti-inflammatory and antioxidant compounds.
  • There are more than 900 species of sage.

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Sage is highly nutritious and flavorsome.

Sage has several proven health benefits.

Sage can help protect the body's cells from damage caused by free radicals due to its high antioxidant capacity.

Free radicals often cause cells to die and can lead to impaired immunity and chronic disease. Other potential benefits include:

1) Alzheimer's treatment

A recent review of studies showed that species of sage could positively impact cognitive skills and protect against neurological disorders.

The study author maintains that:

"In vitro, animal and preliminary human studies have supported the evidence of Salvia plants to enhance cognitive skills and guard against neurodegenerative disorders."

Other studies have shown that sage can also improve memory in young, healthy adults.

More research is required, as most studies have been carried out on two species of sage, Salvia officinalis (S. officinalis) and S. lavandulaefolia.

2) Lowering blood glucose and cholesterol

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Sage can reduce the amount of glucose in the blood.

One study saw 40 people with diabetes and high cholesterol take sage leaf extract for 3 months.

At the end of the trial, the participants had lower fasting glucose, lower average glucose levels over a 3-month period, and lower total cholesterol, triglyceride, and levels of harmful cholesterol. However, the participants had increased levels of HDL or "good" cholesterol.

The researchers concluded:

"[Sage] leaves may be safe and have anti-hyperglycemic and lipid-profile-improving effects in hyperlipidemic type 2 diabetic patients."

Another double-blind clinical trial was carried out on 80 individuals with poorly controlled type 2 diabetes. The trial also found that sage caused a positive effect on blood sugar levels. After 2 hours of fasting, blood sugar levels in individuals given sage were significantly decreased when compared with the control group.

This study concluded that sage might show benefit for people with diabetes to reduce glucose levels 2 hours after fasting.

3) Controlling inflammation

Although more evidence is needed to confirm this benefit, certain compounds in sage appear to have an anti-inflammatory action. One study investigated the effects of a range of these compounds on the inflammatory response in gingival fibroblasts. These are a common type of cell found in the connective tissue of the gums.

Some of the compounds in sage helped to reduce this type of inflammation.

More recent studies have supported the use of sage in dentistry for its anti-inflammatory properties.

Many other herbs and spices similar to sage also appear to have anti-inflammatory, antifungal, and antimicrobial effects.

Sage contains a wealth of nutrients and vitamins. However, since it is normally consumed in such small amounts, sage does not provide significant amounts of calories, carbohydrate, protein, or fiber.

One teaspoonful of ground sage still contains several powerful nutrients, including:

  • 2 calories
  • 3 milligrams (mg) of magnesium
  • 1 mg of phosphorus
  • 7 mg of potassium
  • 2 micrograms (mcg) of folate
  • 24 mcg of beta-carotene
  • 41 international units (IU) of vitamin A
  • 12 mcg of vitamin K

Sage also contains numerous anti-inflammatory and antioxidant compounds that might be beneficial to health. These compounds include:

  • 1,8-cineole
  • camphor
  • borneol
  • bornyl acetate
  • camphene

While further study is needed to confirm the actions of these compounds, many have already demonstrated positive effects on the body and its systems.

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Sage can be used to flavor a meal or consumed in a range of delicious ways.

Sage can be eaten whole or ground. Adding sage to a dish is a great way to enhance flavor without adding extra calories or salt.

The herb often pairs well with poultry and pork.

Sage is often used as a fragrance in soaps and cosmetics due to its pleasant aroma. Sage extracts and herbal sage supplements are also available.

Try some of these healthy and delicious recipes developed by Registered Dietitians using sage:

Natural sage is safe for most people and causes little to no known side effects. The effectiveness and side effects from sage supplements will vary by brand and production process. Sage essential oil should not be consumed. It is possible to be allergic to sage.

Considering the overall eating pattern, rather than focussing on individual foods, is vital in disease prevention and achieving good health.