Salvia sclarea or clary sage comes from the Labiatae Family. It is also commonly known as clary, clary wort, clear eye, common clary, eye-bright (Lis-Balchin, 2006; Petersen, 2014b).
1. Clary Sage Originates in Europe
The plant is native to Southern Europe, and is primarily cultivated in the Mediterranean and central Europe, although it is available in Iran, Greece, Spain, Yugoslavia, Russia, United States, Morrocco, and Turkey (Er, Tugay, Özcan, Ulukus, & Al-Juhaimi, 2013; Kuźma et al., 2009; Lis-Balchin, 2006). European countries produce the oil for medicinal, cosmetic, and food purposes (Kuzma, Rozalska, Rozalski, Walencka, & Wysokinska, 2007; Kuźma et al., 2009).
Clary sage flowers are small and can be blue, white, or pink (Er et al., 2013). The essential oil is obtained through steam distillation of fresh or dried flowering stems of the plant, and these same parts are used for herbal purposes (Lis-Balchin, 2006; Pauli & Schilcher, 2009). The resulting essential oil is yellow, ranging from a pale to an olive color (Kuźma et al., 2009; Lis-Balchin, 2006). The oil is fresh, floral, dry, sweet, herbaceous, weedy, warm, and tea-like (Lis-Balchin, 2006; Rhind, 2012).
2. In Aromatherapy, Clary Sage Has Many Uses, Particularly For Women
Essential oil of clary sage has emmenagogic properties, which means it is therapeutic to the female reproductive system. It helps with irregular menstruation and dysmenorrhea or painful menstruation, and can be used to treat numerous conditions including menopause, premenstrual syndrome, and menstrual spasms and complaints (Cinar, Kirmizibekmez, Akaydin, & Yesilada, 2011; Er et al., 2013; Petersen, 2014a). A mixture of 12% to 20% of clary sage essential oil in a cold-pressed carrier oil or a water-based cream can be applied two times a day in the lower abdomen for several weeks to treat menopause (Buckle, 2006). Making an aromatherapy spritzer by mixing the essential oil in water can help reduce hot flashes (Buckle, 2006).
In a study conducted in 2000 by Kozlowski, 11 menopausal women ranging in age from 47 to 56 years received a 5% solution of clary sage and geranium. The solution was applied on the reflexology points on the feet for the ovaries and uterus, and the women experienced a reduction in intensity of their hot flashes (Buckle, 2003).
It can be used in labor and after delivery to reduce anxiety and fear, ease muscular aches and pain related to labor, help with postnatal depression, and make contractions more effective (Cinar, Kirmizibekmez, Akaydin, & Yesilada, 2011; Er et al., 2013; Petersen, 2014a).
A study by Burns et al. in 2000 used clary sage as one of ten essential oils to help relieve pain, anxiety, or nausea, or to strengthen contractions. A total of 8,058 laboring women were studied over an eight-year period, and 50% of the women found the essential oils to be helpful. The oil most effective in strengthening contractions was clary sage, where 87% of the women found it effective (Buckle, 2003).
Clary sage induces a state of euphoria, has antimicrobial activity, and can function as an antioxidant. It can also be used to treat depression, inflammation, fatigue, stress, varicose veins, asthma, coughs, muscular aches and pains, muscular spasms, and digestive problems. It is known for its effects as a neuro-tonic, sedative, aphrodisiac, aromatic, astringent, deodorant, hypotensive, analgesic, antioxidant, antifungal, and antibacterial (Buckle, 2006; Cinar et al., 2011; Er et al., 2013; Kuźma et al., 2009; Lis-Balchin, 2006; Petersen, 2014b; Rhind, 2012).
Clary sage essential oil has exhibited antimicrobial activity as a result of the synergy of the different constituents present in the oil (Kuźma et al., 2009). Clary sage was found to have antibacterial actions against Eschericia coli, Klebsiella pneumoniae, Bacillus pumilus, Bacillus subtilis, Entercoccus faecalis, Listeria monocytogenes, Staphylococcus aureus, Staphylococcus epdermidis; antifungal action against Fusarium oxysporum f.sp. cicer, Aspergillus niger, Sclerotina cepivorum, Alternaria alternata; and many others (Pauli & Schilcher, 2009).
The essential oil of clary sage can stabilize fat and food containing fat (Er et al., 2013). It is a popular essential oil used in perfumery, providing a warm fragrance, and it is often used in combination with other essential oils, as a middle note or as a base to fix an aroma. It is used in soaps due to its holding power and high-grade fixative qualities (Petersen, 2014b).
3. Herbal Uses for Clary Sage Started With Folk Medicine
Clary sage had wide applications in folk medicine, particularly for pain relief, digestion, kidney problems, uterine and menstrual complaints, menopause, cleansing ulcers, and as a nerve tonic. It was also used to produce flavoring agents, herbal teas, wine, beer, and in perfumery (Cinar et al., 2011; Kuźma et al., 2009; Lis-Balchin, 2006; Petersen, 2014b).
Clary sage is often used as a condiment, food additive, flavor, seasoning, spice, and herbal tea (Er et al., 2013). Clary sage is used as an anti-inflammatory, cytotoxic agent, increase libido, function as an adrenal tonic, tone and regulate the female reproductive system and menstrual flow, an astringent to help fight throat infections, suppress or fight bacterial growth, help with headaches and migraines, relieves nervous irritability, and reduce muscle contractions and spasms (Petersen, 2014b)
4. Clary Sage is Safe To Use, But There Are a Few Precautions
Clary sage is GRAS or generally recognized as safe (Lis-Balchin, 2006). However, pregnant women or women who are breast-feeding should avoid using clary sage essential oil (Petersen, 2014c). However, the only time the essential oil is appropriate for pregnant women is during delivery (Petersen, 2014a).
It is also not advisable to use clary sage on babies and young children, especially not in high concentration (Lis-Balchin, 2006).
Clary sage essential oil can be used at 2 drops, 3 times daily. For throat infections, 2 drops of clary sage essential oil can be added to a gargle. For endocrine, adrenal, menstrual, and reproductive system support, 2 to 5 drops of clary sage essential oil can be added into a bath, taken 3 times a week. For massage, 2 drops can be added into 1 oz of sweet almond oil and massaged onto the abdomen (Petersen, 2014b).
Clary sage essential oil may cause phototoxicity and photosensitivity (Petersen, 2014c). Some cases of dermatitis have been reported in humans (Lis-Balchin, 2006). Clary sage essential oil is contraindicated for those who suffer from estrogen- dependent cancer, endometriosis, epilepsy, and hypotension (Petersen, 2014c). It should also not be used after uterine surgery (Petersen, 2014a).
It is best to consult a healthcare practitioner before using clary sage, either as an essential oil or herb.
Buckle, J. (2003). Clinical Aromatherapy: Essential Oils In Practice (2nd ed.). London, United Kingdom: Churchill Livingstone.
Buckle, J. (2006). Essential oils: management and treatment of gynecological infections and stressors. Sexuality, Reproduction & Menopause, 4(1), 38-41.
Cinar, O. G., Kirmizibekmez, H., Akaydin, G., & Yesilada, E. (2011). Investigation of in vitro opiod receptor binding activities of some Turkish Salvia species. Records of Natural Products, 5(4), 281-289. Retrieved from http://www.acgpubs.org/RNP/2011/Volume%205/Issue%201/36-RNP-1008-306.pdf
Er, M., Tugay, O., Özcan, M. M., Ulukus, D., & Al-Juhaimi, F. (2013). Biochemical properties of some Salvia L. species. Environmental Monitoring and Assessment, 185(6), 5193-5198. doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s10661-012-2935-z
Kuźma, L., Kalemba, D., Różalski, M., Różalska, B., Więckowska-Szakiel, M., Krajewska, U., & Wysokińska, H. (2009). Chemical composition and biological activities of essential oil from Salvia sclarea plants regenerated in vitro. Molecules, 14(4), 1438-1447. doi:10.3390/molecules14041438
Kuzma, L., Rozalska, B., Rozalski, M., Walencka, E., & Wysokinska, H. (2007). Antimicrobial activity of diterpenoids from hairy roots of Salvia sclarea L.: salvipisone as a potential anti-biofilm agent active against antibiotic resistant staphylococci. Phytomedicine: International Journal of Phytotherapy & Phytopharmacology, 14(1), 31-35. Retrieved from http://go.galegroup.com/ps/i.do?id=GALE%7CA257677095&v=2.1&u=lirn12711&it=r&p=ITOF&sw=w&asid=7e880b25d41e7cd1deff85215258a41b
Lis-Balchin, M. (2006). Aromatherapy Science: A Guide for Healthcare Professionals. London, United Kingdom: Pharmaceutical Press.
Pauli, A. & Schilcher, H. (2009). Handbook of Essential Oils: Science, Technology, and Applications. Husnu Can Baser, K. & Buchbauer, G. (Eds.). Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press.
Petersen, D. (2014a). Aroma 501 Aromatherapy Science. Portland, OR: American College of Healthcare Sciences.
Petersen, D. (2014b). Aromatherapy Materia Medica: Essential Oil Monographs. Portland, OR: American College of Healthcare Sciences.
Petersen, D. (2014c). Essential oil safety and methods of administration (Presentation). American College of Healthcare Sciences.
Rhind, J.P. (2012). Essential Oils: A Handbook for Aromatherapy Practice (2nd ed.). London, United Kingdom: Singing Dragon.