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Sage has one of the longest histories of use of any culinary or medicinal herb. Ancient Egyptians used it as a fertility drug (Bown, 1995). In the first century C.E. Greek physician Dioscorides reported that the aqueous decoction of sage stopped bleeding of wounds and cleaned ulcers and sores. He also recommended sage juice in warm water for hoarseness and cough. It was used by herbalists externally to treat sprains, swelling, ulcers, and bleeding. Internally, a tea made from sage leaves has had a long history of use to treat sore throats and coughs; often by gargling. It was also used by herbalists for rheumatism, excessive menstrual bleeding, and to dry up a mother's milk when nursing was stopped. It was particularly noted for strengthening the nervous system, improving memory, and sharpening the senses. Sage was officially listed in the United States Pharmacopoeia from 1840 to 1900.
Sage Tea or infusion of Sage is a valuable agent in the delirium of fevers and in the nervous excitement frequently accompanying brain and nervous diseases. It has a considerable reputation as a remedy, given in small and often-repeated doses. It is highly serviceable as a stimulant tonic in debility of the stomach and nervous system and weakness of digestion generally. It was for this reason that the Chinese valued it, giving it the preference to their own tea. It is considered a useful medicine in typhoid fever and beneficial in biliousness and liver complaints, kidney troubles, haemorrhage from the lungs or stomach, for colds in the head as well as sore throat, quinsy, measles, for pains in the joints, lethargy and palsy. It has been used to check excessive perspiration in phthisis cases, and is useful as an emmenagogue. A cup of the strong infusion will be found good to relieve nervous headache.
The German Commission E approved internal use for mild gastrointestinal upset and excessive sweating as well as for external use in conditions of inflamed mucous membranes of the mouth and throat. An unpublished, preliminary German study with people suffering from excessive perspiration found that either a dry leaf extract or an infusion of the leaf reduced sweating by as much as 50%.
In Germany, sage tea is also applied topically as a rinse or gargled for inflammations. Sage extract, tincture, and essential oil are all used in prepared medicines for mouth and throat and as gastrointestinal remedies in fluid (e.g., juice) and solid dosage forms (Leung and Foster, 1996; Wichtl and Bisset, 1994).
Sage has been used effectively for throat infections, dental abscesses, infected gums and mouth ulcers. The phenolic acids in Sage are particularly potent against Staphylococcus aureus. In vitro, sage oil has been shown to be effective against both Escherichia coli and Salmonella species, and against filamentous fungi and yeasts such as Candida albicans. Sage also has an astringent action due to its relatively high tannin content and can be used in the treatment of infantile diarrhoea.
Its antiseptic action is of value where there is intestinal infection. Rosmarinic acid contributes to the herb's anti-inflammatory activity.