Native to the Mediterranean, Sage is a small herb plant. It has average-length leaves and is an unimposing green-gray color. Its flowers are neither beautiful nor eye-catchingly ugly. Sage stems are not remarkably tall or impressively spread. In fact, if you didn’t know better, you’d think to walk right by without a second glance.
To the untrained eye, this unassuming, commonplace little sage herb is just another plant on the decadently green Mediterranean coastline. To those in the know, sage is a powerhouse of medicinal goodness and essential nutrients. From the sage leaf to its sage oil everything about this mighty plant is nutritious and delicious.
Sage Herb Benefits
Rich in a variety of super antioxidants, sage prevents the effects of aging, and helps repair skin damage from within the body caused by rogue free radicals. Its antimicrobial properties soothe raging acne and quiet overzealous sebaceous glands.
It is loaded with the elusive vitamin K which is necessary for blood’s ability to clot as well as for building healthy bones and in preventing osteoporosis. It helps relieve indigestion and even cures cold sores. Possibly most importantly, sage can lend a slightly peppery, not-quite-bitter, savory-sweet quality to foods when used just right.
Sage Leaf is Mean and Green, But So is Sage Oil
There is, however, a property of sage that is even less publicized than its vitamin K content. Essential oils are volatile aromatic oils extracted from plants (usually from the leaves but also sometimes from the peel of fruit or tree bark) most commonly for use in perfumes, cosmetics or flavor enhancers.
These essential oils give plants, herbs, and fruits their characteristic fragrances, i.e. the essence of the plant. For the most part, these oils are essential in name and not nutrition. Few are necessary for general health and some, such as bitter almond oil, are noxious enough to kill. Sage oil, however, has been shown to have some remarkable natural properties.
A study published in June 2003 by researchers at Northumbria University, UK, proved that which ancient herbalists had known for centuries: sage can be used to improve people’s memories. In a double-blind placebo study of 45 young adult volunteers, participants were given sage essential oil extract in doses ranging from 50-150 microls, and given cognitive tests (word recall) at 1 hour intervals for 6 hours after ingesting sage. Even participants on the lowest 50 microl dose displayed massively improved immediate recall, thus proving sage’s worth as a memory enhancer.
Following this research, tests are currently underway to determine if a regular intake of sage can also improve memory and information processing in people with Alzheimer’s disease, for which a massive breakthrough in treatments would be a great boon to many.
For thousands of years, sage has been used to treat cerebro-vascular diseases. Drawing on ancient wisdom, modern studies are analyzing the chemicals present in sage and comparing them with those lost from the brain of a person suffering from Alzheimer’s. In the brain of an Alzheimer’s patient there is an increase in levels of the enzyme acetylcholinesterase. This prevents neurons (nerve cells) in the memory section of the brain from functioning properly. Sage essential oil contains this enzyme and its consumption is now thought to help those with Alzheimer’s function more normally. It also offers an alternative therapy to chemically-produced enzymes.
That unassuming little herb you walked past? Go back. Bruise a silvery-green leaf a little between your fingers to release the fragrance. Breathe in the gentle but pungent herby aroma, and realize how amazing our natural world really is.