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Sage oil - an essential oil

Salvia officinalis, or true sage, originated in the Mediterranean basin and was considered to be a herb which could help save people from illness (Salvia, salve and salvation come from the same Latin word, salvere, which means to be well). Apart from being a pungent, flavoursome herb, it was widely used in folk medicine in infusions, gargles and poultices to help fight infection, to clear headaches and to stimulate the brain. The wise women of the middle ages used it to help women in childbirth and also to help normalise menstrual problems during the menopause or induce menstruation if it was late.

An essential oil can be extracted from sage but this can have very serious side effects and should be used with extreme caution if at all. Aromatherapists will almost always use clary sage (Salvia scaria) instead because it shares many of the beneficial properties but contains only very low amounts of thujone, the toxic ingredient of true sage oil. Thujone is toxic to the central nervous system and can induce epilepsy, convulsions, and in large doses, paralysis. Side effects in women can range from cramping of the uterus to excessive menstrual bleeding or haemorrage, even when used in very small amounts.

Sage oil may be safely used as a gargle if well diluted in alcohol and water, and as a muscle rub in men, but it is best left to the professional to prescribe its use, and there are usually safer alternatives.

Warning: Sage oil should be used with extreme caution at all times. It must never used during pregnancy, on children or people prone to epilepsy, and is best avoided altogether where there are suitable alternatives

Aromatherapy An A-Z, by Patricia Davis


Aromatherapy is not a substitute for medical diagnosis or treatment. If you have a health condition, consult your physician. If you are pregnant or breast-feeding, consult your doctor before using any aromatherapy products. Do not take essential oils internally. Keep essential oils and all aromatherapy products out of the reach of children