Clary sage

Clary Sage

Salvia sclarea


Application cutanée, massage


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Clary sage (Salvia sclarea) is a biennial herbaceous perennial plant of the Lamiaceae family, native to Europe and Western Asia. 


In the wild, it never grows to more than one–metre in height. Its leaves are hairy on both sides; the top of its quadrangular and branched stems are covered with glandular hairs from which the essential oil is extracted. The purple bell-shaped flowers are highly melliferous.

Sage, the queen of medicinal plants, may be hard (sclarea comes from the Greek sklaros, meaning "stiff"), but it is first and foremost salutary (salvia comes from the Latin salvare, meaning "to save"). According to mythology, it grew in abundance in the field where Zeus, the future master of the universe, was breast-fed by Amalthea the goat. It was though to protect against death and to help women give birth. In the Middle Ages, the magician became a saint. Indeed, it was said that, when Joseph and Mary were fleeing Herod's fierce soldiers with the Divine Child, a sage bush hid them from their pursuers. When mixed with wine, sage improved appetite. It played an important role in the pharmacopoeia and was used to prepare "eau d'arquebuse". In the 17th century, tea was introduced into Europe by the Dutch following an exchange against sage, deemed much superior by the Chinese. Our grandmothers made sage decoctions to treat gout, food poisoning and... bad moods.

Cultivation and production 

Sage is cultivated in Provence, though its once large production has been progressively marginalised by major 


clary sage possesses a fruity, amber and musky odour.

Extraction and yield 

Sage leaves are harvested at the end of June and dried slowly in the shade. The essential oil is obtained by steam distillation of the leaves and flowering tops, with a maximum yield of 0.18%, i.e. one hundred and eighty grams of essential oil from one hundred kilograms of plant.

Chemical formula 

The main active constituents of essential oil of Salvia sclarea, that contains some two hundred and fifty, are monoterpenols (linalool), diterpenols (sclareol), terpene esters (linalyl acetate) and coumarins.

Main indications 

Essential oil of clary sage is oestrogen-like and has the same effect as natural oestrogens. It relieves premenstrual stress, helps regulate irregular cycles and combats pre-menopause and menopause-related disorders (hot flushes, night sweats and mood swings). It is a good skin and hair sebum regulator; it also curbs excessive perspiration.

Related species

Common sage (Salvia officinalis).


Excerpts from the book « Aromatherapia – Tout sur les huiles essentielles », by Isabelle Pacchioni. Aroma Thera Editions.