Ask The Pharmacist: The health benefits of white sage and how to use it

Suzy Cohen

White sage is known botanically as salvia apiana and can be purchased in a bundle and you can also drink it as a tea. This plant has impressive medicinal properties and is used in many wellness rituals.

File: White Sage is native to the Southwest these need dry conditions to thrive and can be fairly difficult to become established.

I think some people mistakenly assume you can get high off it, but you can’t. I also want to emphasize this is a medicinal herb for everyone, and it’s not just for new agers and its benefits were put on Earth for all to utilize. 

Sage is just like every other herbal remedy you’ve heard of. You can take herbs as a dietary supplement (think ginger, echinacea or dandelion) … you can drink tea from the plant (think chamomile or coffee), or you can apply an herb as a compress (think of calendula). You can distill plants and inhale their essential oils, think of lavender or peppermint. It’s all medicine. I’m just giving you a new way to extract the medicine from a plant, by burning it, and this practice is referred to as smudging.

Here are five benefits of white sage: 

White sage is named for the large pale heavily scented leaves valued by tribes within its range.

Treats sinus infections

You can inhale the aroma given off a burning white sage bundle for a few minutes, or you can drink it as a tea. However you do it, it’s the compound called “eucalyptol” also known as 1,8-cineole that when inhaled, reduces painful sinus inflammation. It may kill the associated pathogens too! That’s pretty amazing considering the side effects of prescribed antibiotics and antihistamines. 

Calms a sore throat

 Sage leaf tea is a proven strategy for alleviating a sore throat, at least according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture Plant Guide. Sage tea as you know will reduce mucous secretions of the sinuses, throat, and lungs.

Relieves menstrual pain

White sage tea might provide relief from menstrual period cramps and possibly some symptoms of menopause like sweating and hot flashes. This benefit occurs because sage contains phytoestrogens, which are plant-derived estrogens.

White sage is a strong player in fighting infection. A gargle made from the tea chases off throat infections, is a good wound wash and helps reduce inflammation that often goes along with infection, according to Las Cruces herbalist Deborah Brandt.

Provides cleansing energy

Sage is kind of like an eraser, it will help remove the day’s burdens and ease emotional suffering. It may help with mild anxiety or depression. Smudging is the quickest way because when you inhale, the compounds go straight to your bloodstream and brain. Just FYI, the practice of burning herbs (aka smudging) is a non-religious one. You’re just burning plant leaves rather than swallowing the supplement. If you’d like, you can certainly pray while you burn the medicine.

Cleans the air

Burning the embers of sage (aka smudging) in a room is helpful if someone is sick. My tip is designed to clean a room where someone has been coughing or sneezing from pneumonia, or influenza for example … and you desire to clear the air space of these germs so you don’t catch it too.

File: White sage

If you work in nursing homes, clinics or hospitals, you might want to go home and smudge yourself to help deter infection from pathogens that hitched a ride on your clothes. Research has found that burning sage for an hour reduced the levels of bacteria in the air by 94 percent, and this benefit lasted for 24 hours.

If you don’t want to burn it, drinking sage tea is an option. You can make your own white sage tea or buy a commercially prepared form at health food stores and online.

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Suzy Cohen is a registered pharmacist. The information presented here is not intended to treat, cure or diagnose any condition. Visit