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Sage

The soft, yet sweet savory flavor of sage along with its wonderful health-promoting properties is held in such high esteem that the International Herb Association awarded sage the title of “Herb of the Year” in 2001! Fresh, dried whole or powdered, sage is available throughout the year.

Sage leaves are grayish green in color with a silvery bloom covering. They are lance-shaped and feature prominent veins running throughout. Sage has been held in high regard throughout history both for it culinary and medicinal properties. Its reputation as a panacea is even represented in its scientific name, Salvia officinalis, derived from the Latin word, salvere, which means "to be saved".


Health Benefits

Like rosemary, its sister herb in the mint (Labitae) family, sage contains a variety of volatile oils, flavonoids (including apigenin, diosmetin, and luteolin), and phenolic acids, including the phenolic acid named after rosemary – rosmarinic acid.

Anti-Oxidant/Anti-Inflammatory Actions

Rosmarinic acid can be readily absorbed from the GI tract, and once inside the body, acts to reduce inflammatory responses by altering the concentrations of inflammatory messaging molecules (like leukotriene B4). The rosmarinic acid in sage and rosemary also functions as an antioxidant. The leaves and stems of the sage plant also contain antioxidant enzymes, including SOD (superoxide dismutase) and peroxidase. When combined, these three components of sage – flavonoids, phenolic acids, and oxygen-handling enzymes – give it a unique capacity for stabilizing oxygen-related metabolism and preventing oxygen-based damage to the cells. Increased intake of sage as a seasoning in food is recommended for persons with inflammatory conditions (like rheumatoid arthritis),as well as bronchial asthma, and atherosclerosis. The ability of sage to protect oils from oxidation has also led some companies to experiment with sage as a natural antioxidant additive to cooking oils that can extend shelf life and help avoid rancidity.

Better Brain Function

Want some sage advice? Boost your wisdom quotient by liberally adding sage to your favorite soups, stews and casserole recipes. Research published in the June 2003 issue of Pharmacological Biochemical Behavior confirms what herbalists have long known: sage is an outstanding memory enhancer. In this placebo-controlled, double-blind, crossover study, two trials were conducted using a total of 45 young adult volunteers. Participants were given either placebo or a standardized essential oil extract of sage in doses ranging from 50 to 150 microls. Cognitive tests were then conducted 1, 2, 4, 5, and 6 hours afterwards. In both trials, even the 50 microl dose of sage significantly improved subjects’ immediate recall.

In other research presented at the British Pharmaceutical Conference in Harrogate (September 15-17, 2003), Professor Peter Houghton from King’s College provided data showing that the dried root of Salvia miltiorrhiza, also known as Danshen or Chinese sage, contains active compounds similar to those developed into modern drugs used to treat Alzheimer’s Disease. Sage has been used in the treatment of cerebrovascular disease for over one thousand years. Four compounds isolated from an extract from the root of Chinese sage were found to be acetylcholinesterase (AChE) inhibitors. The memory loss characteristic of Alzheimer’s disease is accompanied by an increase of AChE activity that leads to its depletion from both cholinergic and noncholinergic neurons of the brain. Amyloid beta-protein (A beta), the major component of amyloid plaques which form in the brain in Alzeeimer’s disease, acts on the expression of AChE, and AChE activity is increased around amyloid plaques. By inhibiting this increase in AChE activity, sage provides a useful therapeutic option to the use of pharmaceutical AChE inhibitors. (October 24, 2003)

Description

You’d be a wise sage to add the herb sage to your recipes. Not only does it have a soft, yet sweet savory flavor, but for millennia, it has also been prized for its health-promoting qualities. Its reputation as a panacea is even represented in its scientific name, Salvia officinalis, derived from the Latin word, salvere, which means "to be saved".

Sage leaves are grayish green in color with a silvery bloom covering. They are lance-shaped and feature prominent veins running throughout. Sage is available fresh or dried in either whole, rubbed (lightly ground) or powder form.

History

Sage is native to countries surrounding the Mediterranean Sea and has been consumed in these regions for thousands of years. In medicinal lore, sage has one of the longest histories of use of any medicinal herb.

The Greeks and Romans were said to have highly prized the many healing properties of sage. The Romans treated it as sacred and created a special ceremony for gathering sage. Both civilizations used it as a preservative for meat, a tradition that continued until the beginning of refrigeration. What these cultures knew from experience, that sage could help to reduce spoilage, is now being confirmed by science, which has isolated the herb’s numerous terpene antioxidants.

Sage’s legendary status continued throughout history. Arab physicians in the 10th century believed that it promoted immortality, while 14th century Europeans used it to protect themselves from witchcraft. Sage was in so much demand in China during the 17th century, appreciated for the delicious tea beverage that it makes, that the Chinese are said to have traded three cases of tea leaves (camellia sinensis) to the Dutch for one case of sage leaves.

And the esteem with which sage is regarded has not faded. In 2001, the International Herb Association awarded sage the title of “Herb of the Year”.

How to Select and Store

Whenever possible, choose fresh sage over the dried form of the herb since it is superior in flavor. The leaves of fresh sage should look fresh and be a vibrant green-gray in color. They should be free from darks spots or yellowing.

Even through dried herbs and spices like sage are widely available in supermarkets, you may want to explore the local spice stores in your area. Oftentimes, these stores feature an expansive selection of dried herbs and spices that are of superior quality and freshness compared to those offered in regular markets. Just like with other dried spices, when purchasing dried sage, try to select organically grown sage since this will give you more assurance that it has not been irradiated (among other potential adverse effects, irradiating sage may lead to a significant decrease in its vitamin C and carotenoid content.)

To store fresh sage leaves, carefully wrap them in a damp paper towel and place inside a loosely closed plastic bag. Store in the refrigerator where it should keep fresh for several days. Dried sage should be kept in a tightly sealed glass container in a cool, dark and dry place where it will keep fresh for about six months.

How to Enjoy

For some of our favorite recipes, click Recipes.

Tips for Preparing Sage:

Since the flavor of sage is very delicate, it is best to add the herb near the end of the cooking process so that it will retain its maximum essence.

A Few Quick Serving Ideas:

Mix cooked navy beans with olive oil, sage and garlic and serve on bruschetta.

Use sage as a seasoning for tomato sauce.

Add fresh sage to omelets and frittatas.

Sprinkle some sage on top of your next slice of pizza.

Combine sage leaves, bell peppers, cucumbers and sweet onions with plain yogurt for an easy to prepare, refreshing salad.

When baking chicken or fish in parchment paper, place some fresh sage leaves inside so that the food will absorb the flavors of this wonderful herb.

Safety

Sage is not a commonly allergenic food, is not included in the list of 20 foods that most frequently contain pesticide residues, and is also not known to contain goitrogens, oxalates, or purines.

Nutritional Profile

Introduction to Food Rating System Chart

The following chart shows the nutrients for which this food is either an excellent, very good or good source. Next to the nutrient name you will find the following information: the amount of the nutrient that is included in the noted serving of this food; the %Daily Value (DV) that that amount represents (similar to other information presented in the website, this DV is calculated for 25-50 year old healthy woman); the nutrient density rating; and, the food's World's Healthiest Foods Rating. Underneath the chart is a table that summarizes how the ratings were devised. Read more about our Food and Recipe Rating System.

Sage
2.00 tsp
5.32 calories
Nutrient Amount DV
(%)
Nutrient
Density
World's Healthiest
Foods Rating
World's Healthiest
Foods Rating
Rule
excellent DV>=75% OR Density>=7.6 AND DV>=10%
very good DV>=50% OR Density>=3.4 AND DV>=5%
good DV>=25% OR Density>=1.5 AND DV>=2.5%

In Depth Nutritional Profile for Sage

References

  • al-Sereiti MR, Abu-Amer KM, Sen P. Pharmacology of rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis Linn.) and its therapeutic potentials. Indian J Exp Biol 1999.
  • Calucci L, Pinzino C, Zandomeneghi M et al. Effects of gamma-irradiation on the free radical and antioxidant contents in nine aromatic herbs and spices. J Agric Food Chem 2003 Feb 12; 51(4):927-34.
  • Ensminger AH, Esminger M. K. J. e. al. Food for Health: A Nutrition Encyclopedia. Clovis, California: Pegus Press; 1986.
  • Fortin, Francois, Editorial Director. The Visual Foods Encyclopedia. Macmillan, New York.
  • Grieve M. A Modern Herbal. Dover Publications, New York.
  • Houghton P. Sage, alternative treatment to Alzheimer’s drug. Research presented at the British Pharmaceutical Conference in Harrogate, September 15-17, 2003.
  • Kelm MA, Nair MG, Strasburg GM, DeWitt DL. Antioxidant and cyclooxygenase inhibitory phenolic compounds from Ocimum sanctum Linn. Phytomedicine 2000 Mar;7(1):7-13.
  • Malencic D, Gasic O, Popovic M, Boza P. Screening for antioxidant properties of Salvia reflexa hornem. Phytother Res 2000 Nov;14(7):546-8.
  • Tildesley NT, Kennedy DO, Perry EK, Ballard CG, Savelev S, Wesnes KA, Scholey AB. Salvia lavandulaefolia (Spanish Sage) enhances memory in healthy young volunteers. Pharmacol Biochem Behav. 2003 Jun;75(3):669-74.
  • Wood, Rebecca. The Whole Foods Encyclopedia. New York, NY: Prentice-Hall Press; 1988.

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This page was updated on: 2004-11-20 19:12:35

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