Sage leaf contains phenolic acids (rosmarinic acid), triterpenoids acids (ursolic and oleanolic acid), essentials oil (monoterpenes) and catechin-type tannins (salviatannin).
Sage leaf has astringent, bactericidal and anti-inflammatory properties. Ursolic and rosmarinic acids have been shown to possess anti-inflammatory activity in vitro and in vivo. In vivo, extracts from sage leaf dose-dependently inhibited croton oil-induced ear oedema in mice. This effect is related to the content of the ursolic acid which in this test had the potency twice as high as that of indometacin. Oleanolic acid also exhibited anti-inflammatory activity but it was less active. In vitro, sage oil showed bactericidal (tested on Gram-positive and Gram-negative bacteria) and fungicidal properties.
Sage in skincare
There is some potential for irritation with sage extracts, but the risk is relatively low at the amounts used in topical skincare products. Only limited research suggests sage is anti-inflammatory when used topically, believe to be due to ursolic acid components. Unfortunately, one of the natural components responsible for sage’s fragrance is camphor, a known skin irritant.
Sage extract for sunburn
Sunburn. Applying 2% common sage (Salvia officinalis) extract to the skin after UV exposure seems to reduce the development of skin redness. However, more evidence is needed as there is insufficient evidence to support this.
Sage extract for cold sores
Cold sores, when applied as a cream containing sage and rhubarb. Applying a cream containing common sage (Salvia officinalis) and rhubarb (Rheum officinale and Rheum palmatum) to cold sores may be about as effective as acyclovir (Zovirax) cream. Acyclovir cream heals the cold sores in about 6 days; it takes the sage and rhubarb cream about 7 days to heal them. Sage and rhubarb together work faster than sage alone.
Regular sage vs. Clary sage
Clary sage and dalmation sage are quite different both chemically and aromatically. The main constituents are Borneol, camphor, cineole, a-pinene and salvene. The oil is chiefly characterized, however, by its thujone content, which can vary from 22-61% in the Dalmatian product. Italian and American sage oils also have high thujone contents. The main constituents of clary sage oil are linalool and linalyl acetate; there is no thujone content.
Planta Medica, September 2007, pages 1.190-1,191
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Blumenthal M, Goldberg A, Brinckann J. Expanded Commission E Monographs. Sage leaf.
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European Scientific Cooperative on Phytotherapy. Salviae officinalis folium. 2nd ed. New York: Thieme; 2003. ESCOP Monographs; pp. 452–5.