CLARY SAGE ESSENTIAL OIL In-Depth
by Dr. Joie Power, PhD.
KNOW YOUR ESSENTIAL OILS:
Note: All information on this page, above and below, is provided for educational interest only. Nothing here is intended to make claims for our product “Clary Sage Essential Oil”. Your experiences with an essential oil may differ from anyone else’s experiences. No information provided here is intended to be used for the diagnosis or treatment of any physical or mental illness. Please pay attention to the safety information provided below in order to ensure that your experiences with this product are good ones.
The beautiful clary sage is an imposing biennial herb that reaches about three feet in height and has hairy, heart-shaped leaves and a stout flower stalk covered in small blue flowers. It’s native to the Mediterranean region and grows wild now in southern France, parts of Italy, Germany, and on the Crimean Peninsula. The wild plants are generally too scattered to harvest for essential oil production and so it’s cultivated in many places around the world, including England, Central and Eastern Europe, the United States and Morocco. Most of the clary sage essential oil now used in aromatherapy comes from Eastern Europe, Russia, France, Germany, and South Africa.
The Artisan Aromatics selection of Clary Sage Essential Oil is distilled from the flowering tops of plants grown in France and we believe it to be one of the best selections available. Cheaper versions of this essential oil can be found but these will probably have been distilled from lower leaves as well as tops and will not have the same quality.
CLARY SAGE FOLKLORE AND HISTORY: The Latin name of clary sage is Salvia sclarea and this name holds clues concerning how the old herbalists viewed this plant. The genus name Salvia is derived from the Latin word “salvere”, which means “to heal”, and many members of this genus have been regarded since ancient times as being powerful allies for maintaining health.
There has been some argument about the Latin origins of the plant’s species name, sclarea. Most writers have said that it comes from the Latin “clarus” which means “clear”. One of the most common folk names for clary sage is, in fact, “clear eye”. This folk name is a reference to a well-known therapeutic property of the seeds which when soaked in water release their mucilage and can then be placed in the eye to encourage the removal of foreign particles. (Note: DO NOT put the essential oil in your eyes – it will damage them).
Clary Sage blossoms and leaves were traditionally used in making wine and beer and this may have been due to the plant’s reputation for increasing the effects of alcohol, as well as to give these drinks a particular flavor. The essential oil has been said to produce unpleasant side-effects for some people when used near the time of alcohol consumption (see below).
CLARY SAGE EXTRACTION: The best Clary Sage Essential Oil is extracted by steam distillation of the flowering tops, which yield a good ester content. Esters are naturally occurring constituents of many essential oils. They have been described as having gentle actions and relaxing properties. True Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) is an example of another essential oil that can have high levels of esters. Cheaper Clary Sage Essential Oil is produced by including lower leaves in the distillation but such oils will not be good for aromatherapy because they will not have the same good ester content. Be careful when purchasing Clary Sage Essential Oil since some companies chose to sell cheaper selections.
PHYSICAL AND AROMATIC PROPERTIES: Clary Sage Essential Oil is fluid with a rather tenacious sweet, herbaceous, floral, nutty aroma. It’s colorless to pale yellowy-green in color. Mid to base notes predominate in the aroma and in terms of fragrance it blends well with juniper, lavender, bergamot, cardamom, fennel, frankincense, geranium, sandalwood, ginger, cedarwood, pine, vetiver, and citrus oils. Some people find the aroma cloying and some people adore it.
If you don’t like the aroma of Clary Sage Essential Oil by itself, you may find that you do love it when it’s blended with some of the choices just mentioned, as this will decrease the heavy, overly-sweet effect that some people get from Clary Sage used alone. Personally, I really like it alone or in blends, although if I’m using it alone I do so in small amounts to avoid feeling overwhelmed by it.
WHAT AROMATHERAPISTS HAVE SAID ABOUT CLARY SAGE ESSENTIAL OIL:
Aromatherapists have made a broad range of claims for Clary Sage Essential Oil and have described it as helpful for people who are experiencing routine complaints of:
- mild muscle pain and spasms
- sad or pessimistic mood
- menstrual cramps
- poor appetite.
Patricia Davis has this to say about Clary Sage Essential Oil (Patricia Davis, Aromatherapy An A-Z,1988):
“The effects of Clary Sage have been described as ‘euphoric’ though not everyone using it experiences such a heightened state. Most will simply become very relaxed, and probably drowsy, so it is unwise to give massage treatment with this oil to any patient who will eventually have to drive home after the consultation.”
She goes on to describe Clary Sage essential oil as having tonic properties that are useful during convalescence, especially after a case of the flu.
CLARY SAGE SUBTLE ACTIONS: The subtle, energetic actions of Clary Sage Essential Oil have been described as:
- centering and grounding
- balancing and integrating.
Aromatherapists who use essential oils based on their claimed energetic effects have suggested that Clary Sage Essential Oil is helpful in cases of:
- women’s physical and emotional problems of many kinds
- women’s transitions
- loss of purpose
- restless, agitated or unfocused mind
- loss of joy in life.
SAFETY ISSUES: Clary Sage Essential Oil is generally considered non-toxic and non-irritating for use with adults. Use of essential oils with children is a specialized practice not covered here and some essential oils that can be used with adults are not safe for use with children under 16 years of age.
Clary Sage Essential Oil has been reported to produce very unpleasant effects if used during or close to the time of alcohol consumption. These effects may include heightening of intoxication, and/or nausea, and/or severe headaches. For this reason, this essential oil should not be used during or for 12 hours before or after the time of alcohol consumption. The same precautions apply to use of Clary Sage Essential Oil in conjunction with the use of pain medication or sedatives.
Some experts have advised that women who are pregnant, especially in the first trimester, should avoid using this essential oil. Do not use Clary Sage Essential Oil when there is a history of problematic pregnancy, premature contractions, miscarriages, or similar problems, except under the guidance of an appropriately trained and licensed health care professional.
As noted above, this essential oil may cause drowsiness and should not be used for several hours before, or during, engagement in activities where drowsiness or falling asleep would be dangerous.
Disclaimer: Information provided in this description is for educational purposes only. It is not intended to be used in/for the treatment, cure, mitigation or diagnosis of any mental or physical disease or illness or as a substitute for consulting with a physician or other appropriately trained and licensed health care professional. Artisan Aromatics is not responsible for any adverse effects resulting from the improper use of any suggestions, products, preparations, or procedures mentioned or from attempts to follow historical reports of a plant’s uses. Please note that essential oils do not necessarily have the same properties as other types of herbal preparations of the same plant and since essential oils are the most highly concentrated type of preparation made from plants, they can have toxicity issues not arising from use of other types of herbal preparations of a given plant. All issues that pertain to your physical or mental health should be discussed with and supervised by a licensed health care professional. Keep all essential oils away from and out of reach of children.
by Dr. Joie Power, PhD.
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*The above article is an excerpt from the May 2019 issue of the Artisan Aromatics Newsletter.
If you liked this article, then you might also enjoy reading our Marjoram Essential Oil In-Depth article.