Red Sage

By Rillke (Own work) [GFDL ( or CC-BY-SA-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Salvia officinalis var. rubra-Red Sage

Family: Labiateae or Lamiaceae

Other names: Garden Sage, 

Habitat: Native to Mediterranean region, cultivated worldwide. Dry banks and stony places, usually in limestone areas and often where there is very little soil.

hazardsmallThe plant can be toxic when used in excess or when taken for extended periods symptoms include: restlessness, vomiting, vertigo, tremors, seizures. Contraindicated during pregnancy. Avoid if predisposed to convulsions.

Red Sage has a very long history of effective use as a medicinal herb 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. The leaves applied to an aching tooth will often relieve the pain. The whole herb is antihydrotic, antiseptic, antispasmodic, astringent, carminative, cholagogue, galactofuge, stimulant, tonic and vasodilator. Red 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. Many herbalists believe that the purple-leafed forms of this species are more potent medicinally. This remedy should not be prescribed to pregnant women or to people who have epileptic fits. The plant is toxic in excess or when taken for extended periods – though the toxic dose is very large. Externally, it is used to treat insect bites, skin, throat, mouth and gum infections and vaginal discharge.  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. In larger doses, however, it can cause epileptic fits, giddiness etc. The essential oil is used in aromatherapy. Its keyword is ‘Tonic‘. The German Commission E Monographs, a therapeutic guide to herbal medicine, approve Salvia officinalis; Red Sage for loss of appetite, inflammation of the mouth, excessive perspiration.

By H. Zell (Own work) [GFDL ( or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Description of Red Sage:

Salvia officinalis, Red Sage 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.

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.
Needs full sun. It prefers dry or moist soil and can tolerate drought.

Cultivation of Red Sage:

Red sage requires a very well-drained light sandy soil in a sunny position. Prefers a calcareous soil. Dislikes heavy or acid soils. Succeeds in dry soils, tolerating drought once it is established. Sage can be killed by excessive winter wet and winter-planted bushes often die. A very ornamental plant,  red sage is commonly grown in the herb garden for culinary and medicinal purposes. There are some named varieties. ‘Albiflora’ is said to be the best culinary sage. ‘Purpurea’ has tougher leaves than the type and makes a better tooth cleaner. Plants need to be trimmed in late spring in order to keep them compact. They tend to degenerate after a few years and are best replaced after about 4 years. The leaves emit a unique pungent aroma when pressed. A good companion for many plants, including rosemary, cabbages and carrots, the growing plant is said to repel insects. 

Companion Plant:

It is inhibited by wormwood growing nearby and dislikes growing with basil, rue or the cucumber and squash family.

Propagation of Red Sage:

Sage Plant is best grown from seed – sow March/April in a greenhouse. 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. Cuttings of half-ripe wood, 5 – 10cm with a heel, June to August in a frame. Easy. Cuttings of mature wood, 7 – 10cm with a heel, November/December in a cold frame. 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.

Collection: The leaves should be gathered shortly before or just at the beginning of flowering in dry sunny weather in May or June. Dry in the shade or not above 35 degrees C. The leaves are best harvested before the plant comes into flower and are dried for later use.

Culinary uses of Red Sage:

Edible Parts: Leaves.
Edible Uses: Condiment,  Tea.

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

red_sage,Salvia_officinalisMedicinal uses of Red Sage:

Actions: Carminative, anti-spasmodic, anti-microbial, astringent,anti-inflammatory.

Part Used: Leaves.

Indications: Red Sage is the classic remedy for inflammations of the mouth, throat and tonsils, its volatile oils soothing the mucous membranes. It may be used internally and as a mouth wash for inflamed and bleeding gums(gingivitis), inflamed tongue (glossitis) or generalized mouth inflammation (stomatitis). It is an excellent remedy in mouth ulcers (apthae). As a gargle it will aid in the treatment of laryngitis,pharyngitistonsillitis and quinsy. It is a valuable carminative used in dyspepsia. It reduces sweating when taken internally and may be used to reduce the production of breast milk and is useful in the Menopause. As a compress it promotes the healing of wounds. Red Sage stimulates the muscles of the uterus and so should be avoided during pregnancy.

Priest & Priest tell us that it is a “carminative, stimulating astringent – especially suitable for weak, pale, atonic patients. Cold preparations check excessive perspiration from circulatory debility.” They give the following specific indications: gastric debility and flatulence, night sweats, sore ulcerated throat.

CAUTION: Avoid during pregnancy.

Preparation and dosage: Infusion: pour a cup of boiling water onto 1-2 teaspoonfuls of the leaves and let infuse for 10 minutes. This should be drunk three times a day.

Mouthwash: put 2 teaspoonfuls of the leaves in half a litre( one pint) of water, bring to the boil and let stand, covered, for 15 minutes.Gargle deeply with the hot tea for 5-10 minutes several times a day.

Tincture:take 2-4 ml of the tincture three times a day.

Combinations: As a gargle for throat conditions it combines well with Tormentil and Balm of Gilead. In dyspepsia it can be combined with Meadowsweet and Chamomile.

Other uses of Red Sage:

Compost,  Essential,  Repellent,  Strewing,  Teeth.

The leaves make excellent tooth cleaners, simply rub the top side of the leaf over the teeth and gums. The purple-leafed form of sage has tougher leaves and is better for cleaning the teeth. The leaves have antiseptic properties and can heal diseased gums. An essential oil from the leaves is used in perfumery, hair shampoos (it is good for dark hair) and as a food flavouring. It is a very effective ‘fixer’ in perfumes, and is also used to flavour toothpastes and is added to bio-activating cosmetics. The plant (the flowers?) is an alternative ingredient of ‘QR’ herbal compost activator. 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. The growing or dried plant is said to repel insects, it is especially useful when grown amongst cabbages and carrots. It was formerly used as a strewing herb and has been burnt in rooms to fumigate them. A good dense ground cover plant for sunny positions, though it needs weeding for the first year or two. They are best spaced about 60cm apart each way.

red sage fairyEsoteric uses of Red Sage:

Used for self purification and dealing with grief and loss. Carried to improve mental ability and bring wisdom. Used in healing sachets & incense. Promotes spiritual, mental, emotional & physical health and longevity. Removes negative energy. Place near a personal object of a person who is ailing when performing healing spells or rituals. Write a wish on a sage leaf and place it under your pillow for 3 nights — if you dream of your wish, it will come true; if not, bury the leaf in the ground so that no bad will come to you.

The Chemistry:


* Volatile oil, containing [[alpha]] and[[beta]]-thujone as the major components, with cineole, borneol, camphor, 2-methyl-3-methylene-5-heptene and others

* Diterpene bitters; picrosalvin (= carnosol), carnosolic acid and others

* Flavonoids; salvigenin, genkwanin, 6-methoxygendwanin, hispidulin, luteolina

* Phenolic acids; rosmarinic, caffeic, labiatic etc.

* Salviatannin, a condensed catechin.