Lovro Hamer’s Answer on Sage
The first alternative supplement that I would like to write on is sage or Salvia officinalis. This is in response to Lovro Hamer‘s question on why sage benefits your teeth. In the kitchen, sage has a slight peppery flavor, possibly due to the camphor flavor of eucalyptol, one of the major constituents in sage. Sage is great for flavoring fatty meats, poultry or pork stuffing, sausages, and in sauces. It is very popular in Adriatic and Mediterranean cuisine. Common sage is grown in many parts of Europe for the distillation of its essential oil.
Most of the time, herbal medicine is linked to Asian, South American or African cultures. However, sage is a native Mediterranean herb and has been used for millenniums by Romans for warding off evil, snakebites, increasing women’s fertility, etc. Recently, sage was also found to be effective in the management of mild to moderate Alzheimer’s disease by inhibiting acetylcholinesterase, an enzyme that breaks down acetylcholine. This potentially increases neurotransmission and reduces the effects of dementia. The constituents that are the most active in sage are eucalyptol, borneol and thujone. The sage leaf contains tannic acid, oleic acid, ursonic acid, ursolic acid, cornsole, cornsolic acid, fumaric acid, chlorogenic acid, caffeic acid, niacin, nicotinamide, flavones, flavonoid glycosides and estrogenic substances.
Since sage has had many uses, I would like to use this blog to explain the best modern use for sage and how to use these alternative supplements in everyday life.
As a local antiseptic…
As far as I’ve read, the most useful usage of sage would be as a local antiseptic. The main constituents that are the most active in sage are eucalyptol, borneol and thujone. These three compounds have great natural antiseptic properties. However, as with most natural products, there are many more compounds that are unaccounted for and that could cause harm in excess usage.
The first compound that is good for antiseptic properties is eucalyptol. Eucalyptol comes from the essential oil of eucalyptus, but is also found in many aromatic herbs such as camphor, laurel, bay leaves, tea tree, mugwort, sweet basil, wormwood, rosemary, sage and other aromatic plant foliage. It is a main ingredient in most mouthwashes and is also used to control mucus hyper-secretion and asthma through inhibiting inflammatory reactions. Because of its good anti-inflammatory effect, it is also good in controlling sinusitis, reducing headaches and reducing nasal obstruction.
Borneol is used by eastern alternative therapies in moxibustion, a technique in which the person’s acupuncture points are heated to create natural blood and qi flow. Although I can understand physiologically how blood flow increases to the area of the skin when heated, I do not understand the concept of a flow of spiritual energy. So let’s explain why borneol is good for antiseptic properties using my knowledge of medicine. By increasing the blood flow to the area, borneol promotes the body’s natural immune response by vasodilation. Borneol is also a natural insect repellant, but is found in higher concentrations in Artemisia (wormwood), Blumea balsamifera (sambong), and Kaempferia galangal (kencur). Not surprisingly, these plants are also used as natural insect repellant, diuretic and are good for an increased immune response against the common cold.
The third compound, thujone, is also used in herbal medicine to stimulate the immune system. Thujone also affects the central nervous system and the reported side-effects from the essential oil include sleepiness and anxiety. Thus caution is indicated when using sage in conjunction with central nervous system stimulants or depressants. Since thujone’s chemical structure is similar to cannabis, it was labeled in the 1970s as a cannibinoid. However it has been proven not to activate the same receptors that THC activates, but has been found to act on GABA and 5HT3 (nicotinic acetylcholine) receptors, which are responsible for inhibitory reactions in the brain and also anxiety.
Thujone, however, is famous for being an active compound in absinthe, although absinthe is made with another source of thujone, Artemisia (wormwood). Absinthe that is produced under the European Union have limits of maximum of 10 mg of thujone/L if there is more than 25% alcohol, and 35 mg of thujone/L for bitters with less alcohol. Knowing the historical effects of absinthe and alcohol, needless to say, thujone is reported to be toxic to both brain and liver cells and could cause convulsions if used in too high a dose.
Maximum thujone levels for other products in the EU are:
0.5 mg/kg in food not prepared with sage and non alcoholic beverages.
5 mg/kg in alcoholic beverages with 25% alcohol.
10 mg/kg in alcoholic beverages with more than 25% alcohol.
25 mg/kg in food prepared with sage.
35 mg/kg in alcohol labeled as bitters.
Knowing this, the three main compounds found in sage are great for fighting infections in localized areas. This is why sage is one of the main ingredients in a recipe called Four Thieves Vinegar, which I recommend to have in every household. Historically, the Four Thieves Vinegar was used in France by thieves that would rob people who have the plague. The story states that they were caught, but did not have the plague despite being regularly exposed. In return for their freedom, they agreed to share the recipe of their immune system boosting concoction.
To prepare the Four Thieves Vinegar, use equal parts thyme, rosemary, sage, and lavender. Place herbs in a jar and cover with vinegar. Seal the jar and place it in a cool, dark place for six weeks. Strain the mixture into a spray bottle or a clean jar and use it as a disinfectant. All the ingredients have strong antibacterial agents. Add garlic for added strength, or if you’re Chinese or Italian.
For your teeth…
To answer Lovro’s question on why is gargling sage good for your teeth, eucalyptol is used in mouthwash products and is also a natural antibacterial. Borneol will also bring a good immune response. Thujone also has been proven to kill cells in vitro. Thus the mixture of all three constituents would be great in creating a homemade mouthwash. You can also whiten your teeth with sage and salt, where sage and salt act as a natural scrubber. That doesn’t mean that you can’t create the same mouthwash using wormwood, eucalyptus or rosemary, etc…
To create the sage toothpaste, use a mortar and pestle to grind a handful of sage and a handful of sea salt together. Then bake the whole mixture in the oven (on a baking sheet or in a ceramic oven-safe dish). The shape of the mass does not matter; just bake it until it hardens. Grate the hardened mass of sage and salt until it turns into a powder. Store the powder in a short, wide-mouthed (preferably resealable) jar near your bathroom sink and use this powder instead of toothpaste.
However, I would still recommend brushing your teeth with toothpaste, because of the lack of fluoride in the sage-salt mixture. I was also trying to think of a clever name for the toothpaste, but couldn’t think of anything. SageSol Extreme White? Dontalbasolasage?