Purplish-blue flowers and oblong, green leaves of garden sage

Salvia officinalis

Garden sage

Family: Lamiaceae
Other common names: قصعين مخزني (Arabic), مريمية (Arabic), šalvěj lékařská (Czech), culinary sage (English), sage (English), sauge officinale (French), garten salbei (German), salvia (Italian, Spanish), セージ (Japanese), mashkodewashk (Ojibwe), sálvia (Portuguese), Шалфей лекарственный (Russian), salvia dulce (Spanish)
IUCN Red List status: Least Concern
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The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species is the world’s most comprehensive source of information on the global conservation status of species. In the IUCN Red List this species is placed in the category: Least Concern – does not qualify as Threatened or Near Threatened.

The bright and beautiful garden sage has a long history of medicinal and culinary use.

Not just a core ingredient in Christmas and Thanksgiving meals, garden sage has also been used as a traditional remedy to relieve cold and flu-like symptoms and has a reputation for aiding memory.

Evergreen, bushy shrub with short spikes of purplish-blue flowers. The fruits are held in papery seed pods containing small, round, brown or black seeds. The grey-green, oblong leaves are very aromatic. They are wrinkled on the upper side whilst on the underside, they are covered in many short, soft hairs and almost white in colour.

Read the scientific profile on garden sage

Purplish flower of garden sage
Flower of garden sage © Ori Fragman-Sapir

Cultural

Garden sage is grown as an ornamental plant for its pretty, purple flowers and aromatic leaves.

Food and drink

Garden sage is a popular herb for cooking. It adds a unique, slightly peppery flavour to dishes.

In British and American cooking, garden sage is traditionally added to stuffing which accompanies Christmas, Thanksgiving, and classic Sunday roast dinners.

Health

Fresh leaves from garden sage have been used to make a tea considered to help relieve colds, flus, and sore throats.

Some research suggests that extracts from garden sage alone, and when combined with rosemary (Salvia rosmarinus) and lemon balm (Melissa officinalis), could have positive effects on memory.

  • Garden sage is drought-tolerant, meaning it can handle long, hot summers and lengthy periods of little water.

  • The flowers of Salvia species have pollen-producing stamens that are precisely positioned for pollination. When a bee enters the flower, pollen is deposited onto their back and then transferred to the next flower the bee visits.

  • The scientific name Salvia comes from the Latin word ‘salvare’ meaning to save.

  • There are around 1,000 species in the Salvia genus which are incredibly diverse. Their flowers burst with colour and they have beautifully aromatic leaves.

Native: Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Serbia, Slovenia, Spain, Switzerland
Introduced: Alabama, Algeria, Austria, Azores, Baleares, Bulgaria, California, Canary Islands, Connecticut, Czech Republic, Georgia, Idaho, Kentucky, Korea, Libya, Maine, Michigan, Morocco, New York, Ohio, Ontario, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Portugal, Québec, Rhode Island, Romania, Sardinia, Sicily, Slovakia, South European Russia, Tennessee, Transcaucasia, Tunisia, Turkey-in-Europe, Ukraine, Uruguay, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia
Habitat:

Sunny, dry shrublands and grasslands in free draining soils. Mostly found along the Mediterranean coastline and across hillsides and mountains, up to an altitude of 2900m.

Kew Gardens

A botanic garden in southwest London with the world’s most diverse living plant collection.

Location

Queen’s Garden and Duke's Garden

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Best time to see
Flowers: Jun, Jul, Aug
Foliage: Jan, Feb, Mar, Apr, May, Jun, Jul, Aug, Sep, Oct, Nov, Dec

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A study involving Kew scientists and partners, including The Dilston Physic Garden in Northumberland, investigated the impact some common herbs have on memory.

A combined preparation of garden sage, rosemary (Salvia rosmarinus), and lemon balm (Melissa officinalis) was found to improve memory in healthy people aged under 63.

Further research is currently underway at Kew to explore the chemical components in these and other plants to understand their potential role in delaying or reducing the symptoms of dementia or improving general brain function.

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