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Salvia officinalis - L.                
Common Name Sage
Family Lamiaceae or Labiatae
Known Hazards The plant can be toxic when used in excess or when taken for extended periods[238] symptoms include: restlessness, vomiting, vertigo, tremors, seizures. Contraindicated during pregnancy. Avoid if predisposed to convulsions [301].
Habitats Dry banks and stony places[100], usually in limestone areas and often where there is very little soil[4].
Range S. Europe.
Edibility Rating  
Medicinal Rating  
Fully Hardy Well drained soil Moist Soil Full sun


Physical Characteristics       
 icon of manicon of shrub
Salvia officinalis is an evergreen Shrub growing to 0.6 m (2ft) by 0.6 m (2ft in).
It is hardy to zone 5 and is not frost tender. It is in leaf 12-Jan It is in flower from Jun to August, and the seeds ripen from Aug to September. The flowers are hermaphrodite (have both male and female organs) and are pollinated by Bees.

USDA hardiness zone : Coming soon

Suitable for: light (sandy) and medium (loamy) soils and prefers well-drained soil. Suitable pH: neutral and basic (alkaline) soils and can grow in very alkaline soils.
It cannot grow in the shade. It prefers dry or moist soil and can tolerate drought.

Salvia officinalis Sage

Salvia officinalis Sage
Woodland Garden Sunny Edge; Dappled Shade; Ground Cover; Cultivated Beds;
Edible Uses                                         
Edible Parts: Leaves.
Edible Uses: Condiment;  Tea.

Leaves and flowers - raw or cooked[2, 14, 27, 46, 52]. A very common herb, the strongly aromatic leaves are used as a flavouring in cooked foods[183]. They are an aid to digestion and so are often used with heavy, oily foods[244]. They impart a sausage-like flavour to savoury dishes. The young leaves and flowers can be eaten raw, boiled, pickled or used in sandwiches[183]. The flowers can also be sprinkled on salads to add colour and fragrance[183]. A herb tea is made from the fresh or dried leaves[183], it is said to improve the digestion[13, 21]. An essential oil obtained from the plant is used commercially to flavour ice cream, sweets, baked goods etc[61, 183].
Medicinal Uses

Plants For A Future can not take any responsibility for any adverse effects from the use of plants. Always seek advice from a professional before using a plant medicinally.

Antidiarrhoeal;  Antihydrotic;  Antiseptic;  Antispasmodic;  Appetizer;  Aromatherapy;  Astringent;  Carminative;  Cholagogue;  Galactofuge;  Stimulant;  
Tonic;  Vasodilator.

Sage has a very long history of effective medicinal use and is an important domestic herbal remedy for disorders of the digestive system. Its antiseptic qualities make it an effective gargle for the mouth where it can heal sore throats, ulcers etc[K]. The leaves applied to an aching tooth will often relieve the pain[4, K]. The whole herb is antihydrotic, antiseptic, antispasmodic, astringent, carminative, cholagogue, galactofuge, stimulant, tonic and vasodilator[4, 9, 13, 21, 165, 238]. Sage is also used internally in the treatment of excessive lactation, night sweats, excessive salivation (as in Parkinson's disease), profuse perspiration (as in TB), anxiety, depression, female sterility and menopausal problems[238]. Many herbalists believe that the purple-leafed forms of this species are more potent medicinally[238]. This remedy should not be prescribed to pregnant women or to people who have epileptic fits[238]. The plant is toxic in excess or when taken for extended periods[238] - though the toxic dose is very large. Externally, it is used to treat insect bites, skin, throat, mouth and gum infections and vaginal discharge[238]. The leaves are best harvested before the plant comes into flower and are dried for later use[4]. The essential oil from the plant is used in small doses to remove heavy collections of mucous from the respiratory organs and mixed in embrocations for treating rheumatism[4]. In larger doses, however, it can cause epileptic fits, giddiness etc[4]. The essential oil is used in aromatherapy. Its keyword is 'Tonic'[210]. The German Commission E Monographs, a therapeutic guide to herbal medicine, approve Salvia officinalis Sage for loss of appetite, inflammation of the mouth, excessive perspiration (see [302] for critics of commission E).
Other Uses
Compost;  Essential;  Repellent;  Strewing;  Teeth.

The leaves make excellent tooth cleaners[14, 21], simply rub the top side of the leaf over the teeth and gums[K]. The purple-leafed form of sage has tougher leaves and is better for cleaning the teeth[K]. The leaves have antiseptic properties and can heal diseased gums[201]. An essential oil from the leaves is used in perfumery, hair shampoos (it is good for dark hair) and as a food flavouring[14, 57, 61]. It is a very effective 'fixer' in perfumes[7], and is also used to flavour toothpastes and is added to bio-activating cosmetics[238]. The plant (the flowers?) is an alternative ingredient of 'QR' herbal compost activator[32]. This is a dried and powdered mixture of several herbs that can be added to a compost heap in order to speed up bacterial activity and thus shorten the time needed to make the compost[K]. The growing or dried plant is said to repel insects, it is especially useful when grown amongst cabbages and carrots[14, 18, 20, 201]. It was formerly used as a strewing herb[201] and has been burnt in rooms to fumigate them[244]. A good dense ground cover plant for sunny positions, though it needs weeding for the first year or two[197]. They are best spaced about 60cm apart each way[208].
Cultivation details                                         
Requires a very well-drained light sandy soil in a sunny position[200]. Prefers a calcareous soil[4, 14]. Dislikes heavy or acid soils[1, 16]. Succeeds in dry soils, tolerating drought once it is established[190]. Sage can be killed by excessive winter wet[200] and winter-planted bushes often die[208]. A very ornamental plant[1], sage is commonly grown in the herb garden for culinary and medicinal purposes. There are some named varieties[182, 183]. 'Albiflora' is said to be the best culinary sage[11]. 'Purpurea' has tougher leaves than the type and makes a better tooth cleaner[K]. Plants need to be trimmed in late spring in order to keep them compact[200]. They tend to degenerate after a few years and are best replaced after about 4 years[4]. The leaves emit a unique pungent aroma when pressed[245]. A good companion for many plants, including rosemary, cabbages and carrots[14, 18, 20, 54], the growing plant is said to repel insects. It is inhibited by wormwood growing nearby and dislikes growing with basil, rue or the cucumber and squash family[14, 18, 20, 54].
Seed - sow March/April in a greenhouse[1]. Germination usually takes place within 2 weeks. Prick out the seedlings into individual pots when they are large enough to handle and plant them out in early summer. In areas where the plant is towards the limits of its hardiness, it is best to grow the plants on in a greenhouse for their first winter and plant them out in late spring of the following year. Cuttings of heeled shoots, taken off the stem in May and planted out directly into the garden grow away well[182]. Cuttings of half-ripe wood, 5 - 10cm with a heel, June to August in a frame[78]. Easy. Cuttings of mature wood, 7 - 10cm with a heel, November/December in a cold frame[78]. Layering in spring or autumn. Mound soil up into the plants, the branches will root into this soil and they can be removed and planted out 6 - 12 months later.
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Expert comment                                         
Botanical References                                         
Links / References                                         

  [K] Ken Fern Notes from observations, tasting etc at Plants For A Future and on field trips.

[1]F. Chittendon. RHS Dictionary of Plants plus Supplement. 1956
Comprehensive listing of species and how to grow them. Somewhat outdated, it has been replaces in 1992 by a new dictionary (see [200]).
[2]Hedrick. U. P. Sturtevant's Edible Plants of the World.
Lots of entries, quite a lot of information in most entries and references.
[4]Grieve. A Modern Herbal.
Not so modern (1930's?) but lots of information, mainly temperate plants.
[7]Chiej. R. Encyclopaedia of Medicinal Plants.
Covers plants growing in Europe. Also gives other interesting information on the plants. Good photographs.
[9]Launert. E. Edible and Medicinal Plants.
Covers plants in Europe. a drawing of each plant, quite a bit of interesting information.
[11]Bean. W. Trees and Shrubs Hardy in Great Britain. Vol 1 - 4 and Supplement.
A classic with a wealth of information on the plants, but poor on pictures.
[13]Triska. Dr. Hamlyn Encyclopaedia of Plants.
Very interesting reading, giving some details of plant uses and quite a lot of folk-lore.
[14]Holtom. J. and Hylton. W. Complete Guide to Herbs.
A good herbal.
[16]Simons. New Vegetable Growers Handbook.
A good guide to growing vegetables in temperate areas, not entirely organic.
[18]Philbrick H. and Gregg R. B. Companion Plants.
Details of beneficial and antagonistic relationships between neighbouring plants.
[20]Riotte. L. Companion Planting for Successful Gardening.
Fairly good.
[21]Lust. J. The Herb Book.
Lots of information tightly crammed into a fairly small book.
[27]Vilmorin. A. The Vegetable Garden.
A reprint of a nineteenth century classic, giving details of vegetable varieties. Not really that informative though.
[32]Bruce. M. E. Commonsense Compost Making.
Excellent little booklet dealing with how to make compost by using herbs to activate the heap. Gives full details of the herbs that are used.
[46]Uphof. J. C. Th. Dictionary of Economic Plants.
An excellent and very comprehensive guide but it only gives very short descriptions of the uses without any details of how to utilize the plants. Not for the casual reader.
[52]Larkcom. J. Salads all the Year Round.
A good and comprehensive guide to temperate salad plants, with full organic details of cultivation.
[54]Hatfield. A. W. How to Enjoy your Weeds.
Interesting reading.
[57]Schery. R. W. Plants for Man.
Fairly readable but not very comprehensive. Deals with plants from around the world.
[61]Usher. G. A Dictionary of Plants Used by Man.
Forget the sexist title, this is one of the best books on the subject. Lists a very extensive range of useful plants from around the world with very brief details of the uses. Not for the casual reader.
[78]Sheat. W. G. Propagation of Trees, Shrubs and Conifers.
A bit dated but a good book on propagation techniques with specific details for a wide range of plants.
[100]Polunin. O. Flowers of Europe - A Field Guide.
An excellent and well illustrated pocket guide for those with very large pockets. Also gives some details on plant uses.
[165]Mills. S. Y. The Dictionary of Modern Herbalism.
An excellent small herbal.
[182]Thomas. G. S. Ornamental Shrubs, Climbers and Bamboos.
Contains a wide range of plants with a brief description, mainly of their ornamental value but also usually of cultivation details and varieties.
[183]Facciola. S. Cornucopia - A Source Book of Edible Plants.
Excellent. Contains a very wide range of conventional and unconventional food plants (including tropical) and where they can be obtained (mainly N. American nurseries but also research institutes and a lot of other nurseries from around the world.
[190]Chatto. B. The Dry Garden.
A good list of drought resistant plants with details on how to grow them.
[197]Royal Horticultural Society. Ground Cover Plants.
A handy little booklet from the R.H.S.
[200]Huxley. A. The New RHS Dictionary of Gardening. 1992.
Excellent and very comprehensive, though it contains a number of silly mistakes. Readable yet also very detailed.
[201]Allardice.P. A - Z of Companion Planting.
A well produced and very readable book.
[208]Thomas. G. S. Plants for Ground Cover
An excellent detailled book on the subject, very comprehensive.
[210]Westwood. C. Aromatherapy - A guide for home use.
An excellent little pocket guide. Very concise.
[238]Bown. D. Encyclopaedia of Herbs and their Uses.
A very well presented and informative book on herbs from around the globe. Plenty in it for both the casual reader and the serious student. Just one main quibble is the silly way of having two separate entries for each plant.
[244]Phillips. R. & Foy. N. Herbs
Deals with all types of herbs including medicinal, culinary, scented and dye plants. Excellent photographs with quite good information on each plant.
[245]Genders. R. Scented Flora of the World.
An excellent, comprehensive book on scented plants giving a few other plant uses and brief cultivation details. There are no illustrations.
[301]Karalliedde. L. and Gawarammana. I. Traditional Herbal Medicines
A guide to the safer use of herbal medicines.
[302]From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia Commission E

Readers comment                                         
Elizabeth H.
Stefanie Rehn Wed Feb 6 2008
The German name (D) is "Echter Salbei"
Elizabeth H.
Mon Aug 11 2008
How do you use salvia officinalis to kill mouth ulcers? beth.
Elizabeth H.
Chris Pollard Thu Jul 23 2009
I'm trying to grow a Sage plant in a large pot with a Hoya and a lavender but it seems to be very sorry for itself and I'm wondering if it is incompatible with either of these plants?
Elizabeth H.
Fongul Tue Oct 20 2009
I'm growing Sage outside still and it's almost September. The flowers haven't even completely wilted and it's almost -20c some nights.
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Subject : Salvia officinalis  

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