The Many Uses for Sage (salvia officinalis)

If you're into Thanksgiving stuffing, you probably enjoy adding a bit of sage flavor to your holiday table.  Sage is one of the most popular but misunderstood herbs around.  It can have an overpowering flavor if you use too much of it, but in moderation it can improve the savor of a wide variety of ingredients.

It can bring out the mild sweetness (and creamy texture) of eggs, wake up mild cheese blends and bring an earthy robustness to breads.  Here are some other dishes where sage can help make flavor medleys sing:

  • Roast chicken
  • Steamed carrots
  • Turkey
  • Lamb chops
  • Hummus
  • Fried potatoes
  • Yams
  • Liver (Don't wince, liver is delicious.)
  • Meaty, full bodied fish like tuna and salmon

You can deliver the kick of sage to your recipes in a number of ways, too: 

  • Make a sage flavored butter to slather rolls or add to your mashed potatoes, carrots or roast turkey.
  • Infuse sage in vinegar, oil or honey.  Sage honey is a perfect pairing of sweet and slightly tangy flavors. You'll love it on corn bread biscuits.
  • Toss pasta with sage oil or add a little to your potatoes au gratin.
  • Opt for something a little more exotic with Saltimbocca. This Italian favorite is made with veal (or chicken), prosciutto and whole sage leaves. Here's my favorite recipe: Herbed Chicken Saltimbocca

There are lots of other uses for sage too:

  • A Pharmacological Biochemical Behavior study found that consuming low levels of sage oil resulted in better memory retention on cognitive tests. So, a little sage tea may help you remember what you studied last night -- and the night before.
  • Sage has antibacterial and astringent properties.  It's one of the core ingredient used in herbal medicine. For instance, an infusion of sage makes a soothing gargle for gum and throat ailments.
  • Sage makes a surprisingly appealing tea that contains estrogens, which can help reduce the duration of hot flashes and night sweats: Sage Tea Recipe
  • Essential oil of sage and sage (aromatherapy) candles are effective in reducing the severity of hot flashes as well.

Over the next couple of days, I'll post some fun and interesting ways to use sage this fall and winter.  First up is an antibacterial sage gargle that will help your inflamed throat feel better and heal faster:

Sage Gargle Recipe

If you have a sore throat or bleeding or sore gums, gargling with a sage infusion will help reduce the irritation. As a side benefit, a quick gargle will clear your stuffy nose without relying on chemical drops.


  • *6 large fresh sage leaves (picked late morning after the dew has evaporated) 
  • 1 cup boiling water
  • 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
  • 1 to two teaspoons honey
  • 1/2 teaspoon grated, fresh ginger (optional)


Steep sage leaves and ginger in boiling water for 10 minutes.  Strain.  Add honey and vinegar. Stir. Cool to a moderately warm (not hot) gargling temperature.

Gargle every 2 hours or up to 4 times a day.

(Note:  Pregnant women should not use sage remedies, although using sage in cooking is still considered safe at this writing. (2012) 

*You can substitute 2 teaspoons dry sage leaves

Cautions for Using Sage in Herbal Preparations: It is contraindicated if you are currently taking diabetes, anticonvulsant or sedative medications. For more specifics about drug interactions involving sage, the WebMD Sage page (yes, there is one) has useful information you'll want to review: Sage Interactions

Photo Credits

Photo 1- Salvia_officinalis_-_Köhler–s_Medizinal-Pflanzen-126.jpg
By Franz Eugen Köhler, Köhler's Medizinal-Pflanzen (List of Koehler Images) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Photo - 2 Sage_-_Salvia_officinalis.jpg By Takkk (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 ( or GFDL (], via Wikimedia Commons

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