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"Libraries: The medicine chest of the soul."
Library at Thebes, inscription over the door
There are three common sage essential oils used in aromatherapy; these are clary sage, common sage and Spanish sage.

Historical Uses of the Sage Oils

Clary Sage (salvia sclarea) was a popular herb in the Middle Ages; it was used as a general nerve tonic, for digestive disorders, kidney disease and uterine and menstrual complaints amongst others.  Its name is derived from 'clarus' which means 'clear'; it was used to clear mucous from the eyes.

Common Sage (salvia officinalis) takes its name from the Latin root 'salvare' meaning 'to heal' or 'to save'.  It was considered a sacred herb by the Romans who used it both medicinally and in cooking.  It was used in the Middle Ages by the “wise women” of the village (who were later burnt at the stake for the practice of “witchcraft”) to help with child birth, menstruation and menopausal difficulties.  Common sage has also been used in many countries in folk medicine.

Spanish Sage (salvia lavendulaefolia) is considered to be a 'cure-all' in Spain.  It was believed to protect against infections such as the Plague and was conducive to longevity.  It was also used to treat menstrual problems, digestive problems, infertility and rheumatism.  In traditional herbal medicine, Spanish sage was used as an anti-infectious remedy.  Its Latin name means 'the sage with lavender-like leaves' but it should not be confused with lavender.

The Difference Between The Sage Essential Oils

Clary sage is a biennial or perennial herb that grows at high altitude; the higher the altitude the more effective the essential oil.  It is native to Southern Europe but is now found worldwide.  It has a high chemical component of esters and is generally considered to be non-sensitizing and non-toxic.  However, some advise that it should not be used in pregnancy or after drinking alcohol (it may heighten drunkenness). 

Common sage is a perennial herb which has deep blue or violet flowers;  it is also native to the Mediterranean region.  Having a high percentage of ketones in its chemical make-up, Common sage essential oil is considered to be more toxic than clary sage essential oil.  Common sage is advised against use in pregnancy, as it is an abortifacient, and should not be used on babies and children and in cases of epilepsy.

Spanish sage is an evergreen shrub, very similar to common sage in appearance and to spike lavender in fragrance;  the hotter the climate, the more aromatic a plant.  It is native to the Spanish mountains but can also be found in south-west France.  Spanish sage is mainly comprised of the chemical component of alcohols but also contains a percentage of ketones; avoid Spanish sage essential oil in pregnancy as it stimulates the uterus muscles.

Uses of Sage Oil in Aromatherapy

Clary sage essential oil is antiseptic, digestive, sedative, a deodorant and an aphrodisiac.  In addition for being well known for its euphoric and 'feel good' actions, it is also useful for menopausal symptoms, nervous fatigue, scanty periods, varicose veins, is anti-aging and helps ease post-natal depression.

Common sage essential oil is analgesic, anti-viral, bactericidal, antiseptic, a diuretic, decongestant and abortive in its actions.  It can be used for angina, menopausal symptoms, irregular periods, conceptual difficulties, anxiety, rheumatism, thrush, herpes and nervous debility.  Common sage is also a source of natural anti-oxidants.

The actions of Spanish sage essential oil are as an anti-depressant, anti-inflammatory, analgesic, balancing, immune- boosting and hormonally balancing.  It can be used to treat skin infections, stress, gum infections, hair loss, fluid retention, amenorrhea and dysmenorrhoea, headaches, muscular aches and pains, asthma and arthritis. It also has the properties of  an astringent, digestive, nerve tonic and deodorant. 


Caddy, Rosemary 1997 Essential Oils in Color Amberwood Publishing Ltd: Kent, UK
Lawless, Julia 1995 The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Essential Oils London:Element

This article was written by Sharon Falsetto and appeared in its original format on Suite101 as The Sage Essential Oils

It is expressively prohibited to copy or use this article in any way unless written permission is given by the author Sharon Falsetto.  If it is discovered that copyright laws have not been complied with, legal action will be pursued by the author Sharon Falsetto.

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