Sage Plants Sage
Sages (genus Salvia) are the largest genus in the Mint Family (Lamiaceae) with nearly 700 species growing worldwide. Quite a number are garden decoratives, but mercifully, only a few are of wide culinary or medicinal interest. Some have been found to have a salutary effect on memory and may be of some use in treatment of Alzheimers.

More on The Mint Family.


Mint Family
Mint Family



General & History

Sage is a worldwide herb (except Antarctica). Unlike other Lamiaceae, its center of diversity is in Central and South America. Sages are highly aromatic and of great culinary and medicinal interest. Note that "sagebrush" is not sage, it's in the daisy family.


Garden Sage   -   [Common Sage; Salvia officinalis]
Living Garden Sage Plant

Native to the Mediterranean region, this sage is now planted in gardens and by herb growers worldwide, and it is now naturalized in a number of regions. throughout the world. This is the culinary sage sold fresh in North America, while the dried is Greek sage. In cooking it is particularly used with fatty meats and in poultry stuffings. It is one of several sages from which an essential oil is distilled, but not the most important, and it has a medicinal reputation from ancient times. There are also many decorative cultivars that may have leaves colored purple, white and yellow, as well as white, yellow and green variegated varieties, but these generally have less flavor than the plain green.   Details and Cooking.

Greek Sage   -   [Salvia fruticosa]
Dried Greek Sage Leaves

Native to the eastern Mediterranean, southern Italy, the Canary Islands and North Africa, this sage has been in cultivation since prehistoric times. This species accounts for probably over 90% of the dried sage sold in North America. It is also used for extraction of an essential oil, as well as being burned as incense. Wasp galls an inch in diameter are often found growing on this sage. They are called "sage apples" and are peeled and eaten. The wasp causing the galls was not discovered until 2001. The photo specimen was from Egypt and was quite strong despite its desiccated appearance.   Details and Cooking.

Cleveland Sage   -   [Blue Sage, Musk Sage, Maiden Sage (archaic); Salvia clevenandii]
Living Cleveland Sage Plant

Native to the coastal scrub of San Diego County, California and northern Baja California, this is a highly aromatic sage that flowers profusely. It will grow as far north as Los Angeles County in well drained sandy soil, but above LA it is replaced by White Sage. It is much used for sachets and similar aromatic applications but can also be used in place of Garden Sage for culinary purposes except it is so strong the amount used should be cut significantly.

This sage is also a powerful medicinal. I have found a strong tea of Cleveland Sage as effective as the Giant White Sage for drying up a runny nose - blessed relief when I have a cold. Since it grows well here in Los Angeles I keep a plant on hand.

Pineapple Sage   -   [Salvia elegans]
Growing Pinapple Sage Plant

Native to the highlands of Mexico and Guatemala, this sage is often used to make an herbal tea, and the leaves can also be used fresh as an herb. It has also been extensively used in Mexican traditional medicine as a treatment for anxiety.

Giant White Sage   -   [Sacred Sage, Coastal Giant Sage; Salvia apiana]
Live Giant White Sage Plants

Native to the coastal scrub of Southern California and Mexico, this tall (to 5 feet) sage is used as a cleansing incense by American Indians, some Neopagan groups and other spiritual seekers. The leaves look much like those of Garden Sage, just a lot bigger, and can be used in cooking. It is also used medicinally, especially to suppress mucous secretions from the sinuses, throat and lungs. I have used this sage gathered in Ojai California and found a strong tea made from it quite effective. It is not recommended for nursing mothers as it suppresses lactation. Coastal Indian tribes have used the seeds to make porridge.   Details and Cooking

Chia   -   [Tokhm-e Sharbati (Persia - lit Sharbati Seed); Salvia hispanica]
Chia Seeds

Native to Mexico and Guatemala, chia seed was the third most important crop of the Aztecs, after corn and beans and ahead of amaranth. It is highly nutritious and gluten free, with a high protein content, and is very rich in omega-3 fatty acids, antioxidants, and dietary fiber. Today the leading producer is Australia, followed by Mexico, Bolivia, Argentina, Ecuador and Guatemala.

North of the Mexican border the main use of chia seed has been for the green fur on Chia Pets, but it has started to penetrate the Health Food and Ethnic Foods markets. In Persia (Iran) it is now used in Sharbati (cooling soft drinks), alone or in combination with the traditional London Rocket seeds. Chia sprouts are edible and used similarly to alfalfa sprouts. Food manufacturers are now experimenting with replacement of as much as 25% of the egg and oil in cakes with a gel made from chia.   Details and Cooking.

Golden Chia   -   [Chia Sage, Desert Chia; Salvia columbariae] Desert Chia Flowering Plant

Native to California, Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, Sonora, and Baja California, this plant prefers undisturbed dry coastal sage scrub and chaparral. It grows to a little over 18 inches tall, but is usually shorter. This sage was very important to American Indians in the growing region as a highly nutritious food and for medicinal purposes. While less important today, it is still often used as it was in the past.

Tobacco Sage   -   [Salvia dorrii]
Living Tobacco Sage Plants

Native to the southwest of the United States, this sage has long been used by American Indian tribes in the region as a sweat lodge incense and smoked for a mild hallucinogenic effect. It is also used medicinally, especially to suppress mucous secretions from the sinuses, throat and lungs. I haven't tested this so I don't know if it's as effective as the Giant White Sage or Cleveland Sage. It is not recommended for nursing mothers as it suppresses lactation.   Photo by Stan Shebs distributed under license Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported

Diviner's Sage   -   [Herba de Maria; Salvia divinorum]
Living Diviner's Sage Plants

Native to the cloud forests of Oaxaca, Mexico, this sage is used for it's dissociative psychoactive properties. It has long been used by Mazatec shamans to facilitate visionary states. It is fairly mild and is not particularly toxic.

In California and Canada sales to minors are illegal, but a few Red States have banned it entirely. It is also banned in Australia and some European countries. Import and sales are banned in Russia and Spain, but I guess you can grow your own there.   Photo by Phyzome distributed under license Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported

mt_sage* 2006   -
©Andrew Grygus - - Photos on this page © cg1 - Linking to and non-commercial use of this page permitted