Salvia Officinalis

Author: Aurora Baracchi
Date: 07/02/2013



Common name: Salvia

Scientific name: Salvia officinalis

Family: Labiatae

Description and features

Sage is an aromatic herb indigenous rocky places in the Mediterranean and submontane area. The plant, normally bushy, can grow up to one meter. The stem is white and woolly; the leaves are elliptical, green and with a characteristic aroma. The flowers are large and violet and they are grouped in long spikes .

It has many healing properties recognized in homeopathy: the form of infusion to facilitate expectoration in bronchitis, as a mouthwash for gingivitis, or as essential oil is a good antiseptic. It should also be noted the slowdown function of excess sweating.

Chemical costituents

It can be extracted from the leaves up to 3% essential oil (which is considered most responsible for the pharmacological action) which contains several biologically active components among which include:

  • rosmarinic acid, carvacrol and the lutein with powerful antioxidant effect
  • cirsiol with the soothing action on the central nervous system
  • ursolic acid with anti-inflammatory properties
  • terpineol and linalool with the action of anticholinesterase

Remind you that the sage is also made up of toxic agents whose action is best treated in the section on toxicity and side effects.

  • camphor is hepato neurotoxic (in high doses)
  • thujone is a convulsant. This substance is presented in amounts higher depending on the place of growth and therefore the composition of the soil. It is therefore not recommended intake in patients that make use of anticonvulsants and sedatives for possible interactions.

Clinical medicine

It is duty to linger, given the recent importance in the field of drug coated on linalool and terpineol, to better understand how they can be exploited in traditional medicine. These two molecules are, in fact, able to inhibit the cholinesterase enzyme that degrades acetylcholine. The latter is an important neurotransmitter in the central and peripheral nervous system and it is synthesized in the liver.

What happens in Alzheimer's disease , as well as an abnormal deposition of beta-amyloid protein aggregates on neurons that triggers an inflammatory process that in turn triggers a response of the immune system, is a drastic reduction in the synthesis of acetylcholine due to the degradation, especially in the cortical and hippocampal areas. It is in these areas, in fact, that there is a greater presence of cholinergic neurons. Therefore neurons, unable to transmit nerve impulses, undergo death, followed by a progressive atrophy of the nerve tissue with cognitive deficits, which become important with the advance of the disease.

These active principles contained in the sage would, therefore, be able to block the activity of the enzyme responsible for inactivation of the neurotransmitter, once the transmission is finished: it acts exactly as the drugs of synthesis still used. This is because it is not possible to give directly acetylcholine, which is unstable.

The role of natural products in the discovery of new drug candidates for the treatement of neurodegenerative disorders like Alzheimer's disease 2011, Mar

From Traditional European Medicine to Discovery of New Drug Candidates for the Treatment of Dementia and Alzheimer's Disease: Acetylcholinesterase Inhibitors 2012, Dec

A confirmation of this action is given by studies that have used different herbal medicinal products for the treatment of behavioral and psychological symptoms. These five herbs include lemon balm and sage officinalis, yi-gan san, ginkgo biloba and ba wei huang wan. The formulation showed good therapeutic efficacy, but the results should be compared with those of conventional drugs. In any case highlighted values were statistically significant especially with regard to the sage: the affinity at muscarinic and nicotinic receptors of the cerebral cortex means that there is a modulation of the cholinergic system with improvement of cognitive functions especially in Alzheimer's disease.

The use of herbal medicine in Alzheimer's disease 2006, Dec

Recent studies carried out on rats suggest sage’s extract oil suitable for the management of type II diabetes . In streptozotocin-induced rats the administration of a compound of six plants including the sage has blocked the level of glucose in the blood, previously increased by about three times by the drug. At the end of the thirty days at the follow-up results have highlighted a situation slightly improved compared to controls (untreated diabetic rats). The hypoglycemic effect is exercised by the action of reduction of hepatic glucose production through inhibition of gluconeogenic enzymes.

Chronic administration of six herbs inhibit the progression of hyperglycemia and decreases serum lipids and aspartate amino trasferase activity in diabetic rats 2012, Dec

Do not miss the critics: the toxicity of thujone, compound that seems more involved in the action anti-diabetic and present in large quantities' in the sage, is not to be underestimated, due to the heavy side effects that is capable of inducing . Furthermore, the doses administered to rats exceed the quantity acceptable by the body (0.1 mg per Kg of body weight).

The choice of thujone as a drug for diabetes 2011, Dec

The extract of salvia officinalis has shown, moreover, a powerful antiangiogenic activity .The formation of new capillaries is behind the development of tissue masses who need blood supply to proliferate. In this case we have encountered significant results also in the prevention of the migration of endothelial cells and not only in the block of the process already started.

In vitro and ex vivo antiangiogenic activity of Salvia officinalis 2010, Oct

The discrete quantity of estrogens means that the sage is able to adjust the menopausal hot flushes and sweating.

First time proof of sage's tolerability and efficacy in menopausal women with hot flushes 2011, Jun

The oral administration of essential oil extracted from the same mixed with that from other types of sage as the lavandulaefolia has contributed to the improvement of mood and mnemonic performance to onehundred forty-five healthy volunteers who were tested.

Differential effects of the aromas of Salvia species on memory and mood 2010, Jul

We can cite, finally, a potent anti-HIV activity in vitro e in vivo . The aqueous extract from dried leaves of peppermint, melissa officinalis, sage target virions of HIV . In detail, it is able to block the ability of virions to enter into the target cells, increasing the density of the envelope. In fact, they are not able to hit viruses devoid of this structure as the adenovirus 5. This action is exercited during the replication of viruses mature within other target cells. The mechanism consists in the incorporation of the virus in the replication of a modified beta-lactamase. All extracts are effective in lowering the viral concentration at levels not cytotoxic even if, in reality, are then detectable little different strategies of action. Researchers have demonstrated this action by the following mechanism: they did incubate a strain of HIV with the aqueous extract for one night. Following continued with washing and cultured for four days. By the rate of vitality standard MTT they showed a reduction of the activity of the virus.

Aqueous extracts from peppermint, sage and lemon balm leaves display potent anti-HIV-1 activity by increasing the virion density 2008, Mar

Toxicity and side effects

Not to be underestimated are the toxic effects of possible intoxication by excessive intake. It is not uncommon that there is an abuse in house preparations of herbal teas in addition to mint or limonaria. Is important also to report acute intoxication due to the use of the essential oil, whose high concentration can be very dangerous if not strictly controlled.

In 2002 the European Union has prepared a document which defined the limits to the concentration of thujone in foods: 25 mg / kg. This substance is a ketone present in moderate amounts as well as in the sage also in absentium. Its toxicity is related to the fact that in the brain is able to block the receptors of gamma amino butyric acid (GABA). The reduction in GABAergic encourages the development of seizures, with altered neuronal discharges. For this reason, as already mentioned, is not recommended intake of sage from patients that make use of anticonvulsants for possible interactions at the synaptic level. Is important to report other symptoms of poisoning (most common especially the acute) including nausea, vomiting, headaches. Is 'was also documented increased toxicity in infants and children exposed to alternative therapies.

Monoterpene α-thujone exerts a differential inhibitory action on GABA receptors implicated in phasic and tonic GABAergic inhibition 2013, Jan 31

Toxicity of Salvia officinalis in a newborn and a child: an alarming report 2011, Oct

Do not forget, finally, the toxicity of camphor it contains. It is harmful only if ingested in large quantities because it is absorbed from the gastrointestinal tract and it is metabolized in the liver, causing irreversible damage to hepatocytes. The first symptoms of poisoning are, growing in severity, nausea, vomiting, sweating, excessive anxiety, palpitations, hallucinations, and collapse.

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