Clary sage belongs to the family Lamiaceae (Labiatae). It originally comes from Syria, but has been growing in Britain since the sixteenth century. It is an elegant plant with hairy leaves, growing to approximately 3 feet (0.9 meters) in height. It is grown in several countries now, and is cultivated on a commercial basis in Spain and France.
It has been used medicinally since the Middle Ages for many ailments, in particular eye disease – ‘clary’ may be derived from ‘clear eye’.
Clary sage is safer to use than garden (common) sage and is therefore the plant of choice for aromatherapy. Common sage oil has a high level of toxicity and is unsuitable for therapeutic use.
Both leaves and flowers are used to obtain the essential oil of clary sage, the oil being extracted by the process of steam distillation. The oil has a distinctively herbal smell, light and quite sweet – almost flowery – with an edge that gives it a hint of bitterness. It is pale yellow in color. Clary-sage oil is used by perfumers in France as a fixative for many per¬ fumes and it is also used in the production of some foods and drinks.
Clary-sage oil can be used to treat a variety of problems. It has a sedating effect, calming tension and creating a feeling of greater well being, while at the same time lifting the mood. It will be of use to anyone who feels weak and debilitated after illness, cheering flattened spirits and provoking feelings of optimism, and it is recommended for use in vaporizers or diff users anywhere creative people are working as its effects are considered to be quite inspirational. Some people report that they have had particularly vivid dreams after using the oil. Used in large quantities, however, clary sage can cause drowsiness. Alcohol should be avoided if using the oil because the combination of the two can produce a strongly narcotic effect.
Clary sage is useful in the treatment of menstrual cramping – gentle abdominal massage or the application of warm compresses is recommended – and massage or bathing with clary sage can be of benefit to women who are feeling particularly low after childbirth, suffering from premenstrual tension or going through the menopause. Its antispasmodic properties can be helpful to both the digestive and the respiratory system, and when used for the treatment of stress it has the added advantage of being anti-hypertensive.
When used in inhalation, clary sage is beneficial to those suffering from colds or bronchitis; it is anti-inflammatory, antiseptic and helps in the healing process. The oil has astringent, toning, bactericidal and antiseptic properties that make it good for treating greasy skin.
Suitable methods of use
Warning: Avoid during pregnancy. Use in moderation. Avoid consuming alcohol if using clary sage. Avoid driving immediately after treatment. Not to be confused with common sage – Salvia officinalis – which is unsafe to use.