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Clary Sage Oil A Complete Guide to Its Benefits and Uses

Clary Sage Oil: A Complete Guide to Its Benefits and Uses

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This Mediterranean herb is being researched for its potential health benefits. You can apply clary sage oil from its leaves and buds on your skin or use it for calming aromatherapy.

What is Clary Sage?

Clary sage, scientifically known as Salvia sclarea, is a remarkable herb that has been cherished for centuries for its numerous therapeutic and aromatic properties. This aromatic plant, native to the Mediterranean Basin, is not just a fragrant garden addition but also a source of a versatile essential oil with a wide range of uses.

It’s easy to grow clary sage in hot climates and is often grown for tea flavoring. It’s also known as “clear eye” and “eye bright” because it was traditionally used for eye health. Nowadays, it’s being studied for various other health advantages.

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll explore the origins, characteristics, and multifaceted benefits of clary sage.

A Glimpse into Origins

Clary sage has a rich history dating back to ancient times. It was highly valued by the Greeks and Romans for its medicinal properties, earning it a place in traditional herbal medicine. The name “clary” is believed to have originated from the Latin word “clarus,” meaning clear, possibly due to its historical use in treating eye conditions.

What does “clary” mean?

The word “clary” in “clary sage” is believed to have originated from the Latin word “clarus,” which means “clear.” This name may have been given to the plant because of its historical use in traditional herbal medicine to treat eye conditions and clear the eyes. Clary sage was known for its potential benefits in improving vision and eye health, hence the association with clarity and clear sight.

Botanical Profile

  • Appearance: Clary sage is a perennial herb that can grow up to three feet in height. It boasts striking, heart-shaped leaves with fine, fuzzy hairs and vibrant purple or blue flowers that bloom in tall spikes. The leaves and flowers of clary sage are known for their aromatic scent.

What is a perennial herb?

A perennial herb is a type of plant that lives for more than two years and typically continues to grow and reproduce throughout its life cycle. Unlike annuals, which complete their life cycle in one year, and biennials, which do so in two years, perennials have the capacity to survive and thrive for multiple growing seasons.

Perennial herbs often have a more extensive root system that allows them to persist through changing seasons and harsh environmental conditions. They can go dormant during adverse conditions, such as winter, and then regrow when the conditions become favorable again in the following growing season. This characteristic makes them a valuable choice for gardeners and herbalists because they provide a continuous source of herbs year after year without the need for replanting. Some well-known examples of perennial herbs include mint, oregano, rosemary, and thyme.

  • Essential Oil Extraction: The essential oil is extracted through steam distillation of the flowering tops and leaves. This process captures the potent and beneficial compounds found in the plant.

The Aromatic Symphony

Clary sage essential oil is celebrated for its complex, sweet, and herbal fragrance. Its aroma is often described as earthy, with subtle fruity and nutty notes. This unique scent makes it a favorite in perfumery and aromatherapy.

Clary Sage Oil A Complete Guide to Its Benefits and Uses
Clary sage, scientifically known as Salvia sclarea

Uses of clary sage

Here are some uses of clary sage:

  • Aromatic Herb: Clary sage is primarily cultivated for its fragrant leaves and flowers. The leaves are large, hairy, and heart-shaped, while the flowers are usually blue-purple but can also be white or pink. The plant emits a pleasant, sweet, and herbaceous scent.
  • Essential Oil: Clary sage essential oil is extracted from the leaves and flowering tops of the plant. It is commonly used in aromatherapy and for its potential therapeutic benefits. The essential oil is known for its calming and soothing properties and is often used to alleviate stress, anxiety, and menstrual discomfort.
  • Medicinal Uses: In traditional medicine, clary sage has been used to treat various ailments, such as digestive issues, respiratory problems, and menstrual cramps. Some people use it as a natural remedy for headaches and to promote relaxation.
  • Aromatherapy: Clary sage essential oil is a popular choice in aromatherapy due to its uplifting and stress-reducing effects. It is often used in diffusers or added to massage oils or bath products.
  • Culinary Uses: While clary sage is not as commonly used in cooking as common sage (Salvia officinalis), its leaves can be used as a flavoring agent in some dishes. It has a milder flavor compared to common sage.

What is Common Sage?

Common sage, scientifically known as Salvia officinalis, is a perennial herbaceous plant commonly cultivated for its aromatic leaves, which are used for culinary, medicinal, and ornamental purposes. It belongs to the mint family (Lamiaceae) and is native to the Mediterranean region but is now grown in various parts of the world.

The leaves of common sage are characterized by their gray-green color, fuzzy texture, and strong, earthy aroma. They are commonly used as a flavoring herb in cooking, particularly in Mediterranean and European cuisines, to add a savory, slightly peppery, and herbal flavor to dishes. Sage is often used in dishes like stuffing, roast meats, sausages, and soups.

In addition to its culinary uses, sage has a history of medicinal and therapeutic applications. It has been traditionally used for its potential health benefits, which include anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and antimicrobial properties. Sage leaves can be brewed into herbal teas or used in various forms of alternative medicine.

  • Perfumery: Clary sage’s pleasant aroma makes it a valuable ingredient in perfumery. It is used as a middle note in many fragrances, adding depth and complexity to the scent.
  • Cosmetic Products: Clary sage is also used in cosmetics and skincare products for its potential benefits for the skin. It is sometimes included in creams, lotions, and serums designed to balance oily skin and reduce inflammation.
  • Herbal Tea: Clary sage leaves can be used to make herbal tea, although it’s less common than other herbal teas. It may have mild sedative properties and can be consumed to help with relaxation and sleep.
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Uses of clary sage
Uses of clary sage

The Many Benefits of Clary Sage Essential Oil

Clary sage essential oil offers a myriad of potential benefits across various aspects of health and well-being. Here are some of its most notable uses:

Stress Reduction

Aromatherapy harnesses the power of scents to soothe the mind and alleviate feelings of anxiety. Your sense of smell has a direct connection to the part of your brain responsible for emotions. This is why certain fragrances can trigger memories and evoke both positive and negative emotions.

When clary sage essential oil is incorporated into aromatherapy, it can play a significant role in reducing stress and promoting a sense of well-being. A scientific study conducted on women undergoing a stressful medical examination demonstrated that inhaling clary sage essential oil led to feelings of relaxation and contributed to a decrease in blood pressure. This suggests that clary sage essential oil can be a valuable tool in managing stress and promoting emotional balance.

Antibacterial Benefits

Clary sage oil, when appropriately diluted, exhibits potential antibacterial properties that can be advantageous in certain situations. Researchers believe it may serve as an effective treatment on its own or in conjunction with conventional approaches for wound care.

In a laboratory investigation, the essential oil demonstrated its ability to assist in the healing of severe dermatological infections caused by various strains of Staphylococcus bacteria. This study involved samples taken from the infected areas of 61 individuals, all of whom had challenging wounds that were not responding well to antibiotics. These wounds were the result of burns, diabetes, or surgical procedures. The use of diluted clary sage oil showed effectiveness against multiple bacterial strains, suggesting its potential as a valuable addition to wound management strategies.

What is Staphylococcus bacteria?

Staphylococcus bacteria, often referred to as staph bacteria, are a group of Gram-positive bacteria that can cause various infections in humans and animals. These bacteria are spherical in shape and typically occur in clusters, resembling grapes under a microscope. Staphylococcus bacteria are widespread and can be found on the skin and mucous membranes of many people without causing any harm. However, under certain conditions, they can become opportunistic pathogens and cause infections.

Natural Antidepressant

Clary sage has undergone testing in both animal and human studies to assess its possible role as a natural antidepressant. In research conducted on rats, clary sage oil showed promise in alleviating depression by acting as an anti-stress agent.

In a separate small-scale study involving menopausal women, inhaling clary oil was found to reduce cortisol levels, the stress hormone, and induce an antidepressant-like effect. These findings suggest that the oil may hold potential as a natural remedy for managing depression and reducing stress in both animal and human contexts.

What is an antidepressant-like effect?

An “antidepressant-like effect” refers to a set of behavioral or physiological changes induced by a substance, treatment, or intervention that resembles the effects of conventional antidepressant medications. In other words, when a substance or therapy produces an antidepressant-like effect, it means it has the potential to alleviate symptoms of depression or improve mood, similar to the way prescription antidepressant drugs work.

This term is often used in the context of scientific research and studies involving animals or humans to assess the effectiveness of potential treatments for depression. Researchers use various behavioral and physiological measures to evaluate these effects, such as changes in mood, activity levels, response to stress, and biochemical markers associated with depression.

Relief from Menopause Symptoms

Clary sage oil contains a component called sclareol, which can mimic the effects of estrogen in the body. Because of this, clary sage may offer effectiveness in alleviating certain symptoms associated with menopause. Some studies propose that applying diluted clary oil to the soles of the feet can help diminish hot flashes, providing potential relief during this transitional phase in a woman’s life.

What is sclareol?

Sclareol is a natural organic compound found in various plants, including clary sage (Salvia sclarea), from which it gets its name. It is a diterpene alcohol and is often obtained through the steam distillation of clary sage leaves and buds, yielding clary sage essential oil. Sclareol is one of the chemical constituents present in this essential oil.

One of the noteworthy properties of sclareol is its ability to mimic the effects of estrogen in the body. This estrogenic activity has led to interest in sclareol’s potential therapeutic uses, particularly in the context of women’s health. Because it can act like estrogen, it has been studied for its possible benefits in alleviating symptoms associated with menopause and menstrual discomfort.

Relieving Menstrual Cramps

In a small-scale study involving 48 women who suffered from painful menstruation and cramps, promising results were observed. Some of the participants were provided with a cream that included clary sage oil along with other essential oils for daily application on their lower abdominal area, in between menstrual cycles. Remarkably, the women who used this cream reported a significant reduction in menstrual cramps compared to those in the control group. This suggests that the oil, when applied topically, may be an effective remedy for alleviating menstrual discomfort and cramping.

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The Many Benefits of Clary Sage Essential Oil
The Many Benefits of Clary Sage Essential Oil

Potential Side Effects of Clary Sage Essential Oil

Before using any essential oil, including clary sage, it’s important to consult with your healthcare provider. They should be informed about any other medications or herbal treatments you are currently using to ensure safety and compatibility.

Notably, clary sage oil may not be suitable for individuals with low blood pressure. It’s essential to exercise caution and seek professional advice when considering the use of essential oils, as individual reactions can vary, and some people may experience adverse effects or sensitivities. Always prioritize your health and well-being by consulting a healthcare expert before incorporating essential oils into your wellness routine.

Application of Clary Sage Essential Oil

It’s important to handle the oil with care and avoid direct contact with sensitive areas like your eyes, nostrils, or mouth unless under the guidance of a healthcare professional.

Here are various ways you can use clary sage essential oil:

  • Inhale the Scent: For a quick mood boost, breathe in the soothing scent directly from the bottle, which you can typically find at local health stores or online.
  • Room Spray: Mix the oil with water and use it as a room spray. Shake the bottle well before each use. You can also lightly spray this mixture on your bedding or couch cushions to infuse your space with the fragrance.
  • Patch Test: Before applying clary oil to your skin, perform a patch test to check for sensitivity. Apply a small amount to a small area of your skin and monitor for any adverse reactions.
  • Massage Oil: To apply the oil to your skin, dilute it by adding three to five drops to an ounce of carrier oil (e.g., coconut, jojoba, or almond oil). This mixture can be used for massages. For a stronger fragrance, you can apply a small amount directly to pulse points, such as wrists, temples, behind the knees, and behind the ears.

What is jojoba?

Jojoba (pronounced ho-HO-ba) is a shrub native to the arid regions of southwestern North America, primarily found in parts of the United States and Mexico. The scientific name of the jojoba plant is Simmondsia chinensis, although it is sometimes referred to as Simmondsia californica. Jojoba is known for its unique characteristics and the valuable oil extracted from its seeds.

  • Potpourri and Sachets: Enhance the fragrance of potpourri by sprinkling clary oil on it. Alternatively, create small linen packets filled with crushed clary sage leaves and buds to make drawer sachets, imparting a pleasant aroma to your clothes and linens.
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Always use essential oils cautiously, and if you have any concerns or specific health conditions, consult with a healthcare professional before using them.

Application of Clary Sage Essential Oil


Clary sage is a botanical treasure with a long history of use in traditional medicine and aromatherapy. Its versatile essential oil offers a range of potential benefits, from stress reduction and natural antidepressant effects to menstrual and menopausal symptom relief. However, it’s essential to use clary sage oil with caution and consult with a healthcare professional when in doubt. Whether you’re seeking emotional balance or relief from physical discomfort, clary sage may be a valuable addition to your wellness toolkit, providing a fragrant path to well-being.


1. What is clary sage?

  • Clary sage, scientifically known as Salvia sclarea, is a herbaceous plant that belongs to the mint family. It is characterized by its tall, fragrant spikes of purple or blue flowers and is native to the Mediterranean region.
A Complete Guide to Its Benefits and Uses
Clary sage

2. Where does clary sage originate from?

  • Clary sage is native to the Mediterranean Basin, where it has been cultivated and used for various purposes for centuries.

3. What is clary sage essential oil?

  • Clary sage essential oil is a highly concentrated extract obtained from the leaves and buds of the clary sage plant. It is rich in aromatic compounds that contribute to its distinctive scent and potential therapeutic properties.

4. How is clary sage essential oil extracted?

  • Clary sage essential oil is typically extracted using a process called steam distillation. Steam is passed through the plant material to release the essential oil, which is then collected and separated from the water vapor.

5. What are the potential uses of clary sage essential oil?

  • Clary sage essential oil is renowned for its versatility. It can be used in aromatherapy to promote relaxation and reduce stress, applied topically for skincare purposes, and even consumed in small, diluted quantities for various potential health benefits.

6. Can clary sage be grown at home?

  • Yes, clary sage is relatively easy to grow in regions with warm climates. It can thrive in well-drained soil and requires adequate sunlight. This makes it a suitable herb for home gardening.
 A Complete Guide to Its Benefits and Uses
Clary sage can be grown at home

7. What are the traditional medicinal uses of clary sage?

  • Clary sage has a rich history of traditional use, particularly for eye health. It was often used to make eye drops and was referred to as “clear eye” or “eye bright.” Additionally, it has been used as a flavoring in teas and beverages.

8. Are there any potential side effects or allergies associated with clary sage?

  • While clary sage essential oil is generally considered safe, some individuals may experience skin irritation or allergic reactions when applied topically. It is advisable to perform a patch test before widespread use.

9. How can clary sage oil be used in aromatherapy?

  • Clary sage oil is commonly used in aromatherapy to induce a sense of relaxation and well-being. Inhalation of its scent can help reduce stress and anxiety, making it a popular choice for diffusers and massage oils.

10. Is clary sage safe to use during pregnancy or while breastfeeding?

  • Pregnant and breastfeeding individuals should exercise caution when using clary sage oil. It is recommended to consult with a healthcare professional before incorporating it into their routine due to its potential hormonal effects.

11. Does clary sage oil have any interactions with medications?

  • To ensure safety, individuals taking medications should consult with a healthcare provider before using clary sage oil, as there could be potential interactions.

12. Can clary sage oil help with menstrual discomfort?

  • It is sometimes used to alleviate menstrual cramps and discomfort. It is believed to have muscle-relaxant properties, although its effectiveness may vary from person to person.

13. Are there any precautions to consider when using clary sage oil?

  • When applying clary sage oil topically, it is advisable to dilute it with a carrier oil to prevent skin irritation. Those with sensitive skin should be especially cautious.

14. What other essential oils can be combined with clary sage for aromatherapy?

  • Clary sage blends well with other essential oils such as lavender, bergamot, chamomile, and frankincense. These combinations can enhance its calming and stress-relieving effects.

15. Is there scientific evidence supporting the claimed benefits of clary sage oil?

  • While there is some scientific research indicating potential benefits of clary sage oil, further studies are needed to establish its efficacy for specific health concerns. As of now, it is considered a promising natural remedy, but its full range of effects is still being explored.
Author Linh Vu
Linh Vu

“Herbs are the friend of the physician and the pride of cooks.” ~ Charlemagne.