Spotlight on Sage

spotlight on sage


Sage is a plant with healing properties that have been highly revered as far back as the ancient Greeks. In fact, its genus name, Salvia, derived from the Latin word "salvus," translates to "safe" and "free from difficulties." It was prescribed to treat ailments ranging from snake bites to intestinal worms to epilepsy. In fact, it was so revered that the Arabs believed it could give the gift of everlasting life. 

Reverence for this sacred plant is recorded on various continents throughout history. Texts dating back to the year 1000 recommended sage for the treatment of many different ailments. Even in America, early 20th century medical textbooks recommended gargling with sage tea for a sore throat and using as a poultice to reduce swelling.

With the introduction and growth of the pharmaceutical industry, the use of traditional healing herbs in Western medicine has been greatly diminished.  But for the people who understand its sacred healing power, sage continues to be a power house plant.


Sage, a member of the Salvia family, comes in many different varieties. For cooking, we are most familiar with Green or Garden Sage (Salvia officinalis) and for smoke cleansing, most of us are best acquainted with the traditional Native American medicine, White Sage (Salvia apiana). Other common varieties include Clary Sage (Salvia sclarea), often used to encourage the progression of labor during childbirth, Pineapple Sage (Salvia elegans) aptly named for its pineapple scented leaves that taste more like mint, and Desert Sage (Salvia dorrii) native to the Western United States and not to be confused with Sagebrush (Artemesia tridentata), which is often referred to as Desert Sage in smoke bundles.

Phew, that's a lot of sage and only just the tip of the iceburg . . .

Modern Uses

Today, herbalists and others trained in plant medicine, use sage in a variety of traditional ways. Oils, tinctures, teas, infusions, incense and more.

The use of essential oils has become commonplace in today's society. Essential oils are the oils extracted from plants that contain the plant's essence (fragrance and flavor) and are used for aromatherapy, treating skin conditions and even taken internally or infused into foods and beverages.

In aromatherapy applications, sage is known to stimulate and clarify the mind while uplifting the senses and easing negative moods.

The oils that we extract from plants are the same oils that are responsible for the fragrance you smell when plants are burned, so using dried herbs as incense is another form of aromatherapy. But we don't burn plants for their scent alone.

Fire itself is a powerful disruptor. Nothing it touches ever remains the same. This disruptive factor makes it perfect for creating a shift in your day. Carving out space and time to breathe, meditate and practice mindfulness. 


If you google "White Sage," you will no doubt stumble upon a plethora of information regarding sustainability and ethical concerns over this sacred plant. White Sage has been highly regarded for hundreds of years as plant medicine by Native American tribes in the areas where it grows natively, including Southern California and Northern Mexico. Its growing popularity in modern day smoke cleansing practices, most likely due to our obsession with the historical practice of smudging, has led to concerns of overharvesting in its native habitat.

While White Sage is a beautiful plant and deserves some consideration in your smoke cleansing practice, it is far from the only option available to you. And quite possibly not even the best option, especially if you are far removed from the native habitat in which it grows.

At Blessed Ember, the White Sage we offer is responsibly harvested by members of the Cochimi tribe in Northern Mexico. We will only offer White Sage that directly benefits indigenous people or is grown on private land, ensuring the native plants are respected and preserved for all who rely on them. We also offer Garden Sage bundles as an equally powerful but far more sustainable alternative to White Sage.

The Responsible Use of White Sage

Be sure to source from suppliers who know where their White Sage comes from. Beyond that, there is no need to put so much emphasis on a single plant species that it endangers the plant or the people who rely on it. That is opposite the kind of energy that we are striving for through our use of smoke cleansing in the first place.

As an alternative to White Sage, try burning plants that are native to your area (like sagebrush or juniper for me in Western Montana). Or experiment with Garden Sage, Lavender, or Sandalwood sticks.

In Conclusion

Sage is a perfect plant to include in your indoor or outdoor garden. It is a wonderful complement to many dishes, has a wide array of medicinal benefits (hello, eternal life anyone?), and is a vital ingredient in your smoke cleansing practice. Plus, it is available in many sustainable varieties.

In the middle ages, a popular adage, "Cur moriatur homo cui Salvia crescit in horto?" translated to "Why should a man die whilst sage grows in his garden?"

Whether interpreted figuratively or literally, "why" indeed.

If you're striving for next-level vitality, give sage a try.