Clary sage (Salvia Sclarea) is an aromatic herb in the mint family that is known for its relaxing and antidepressant effects. Studies show it may also be effective in relieving symptoms of menopause.
Essential oils extracted from the leaves and buds of the clary sage plant have long been used in aromatherapy for their soothing and calming effects. Clinical studies evaluating the efficacy of this plant on stress reduction have yielded promising results.
Clary sage helps relieve stress naturally. In a study of 34 female patients undergoing an urodynamic assessment (a medical test that assesses how the bladder and urethra are performing), clary sage oil inhalation was found to be useful in inducing relaxation. Its effects were compared to lavender and almond oil.
Systolic blood pressure, diastolic blood pressure, pulse rate, respiratory rate and salivary cortisol levels (elevated levels of cortisol are a marker for stress) were measured before and after inhalation of these scents for 60 minutes (1).
Clary sage may be a natural antidepressant. It is widely known that decreased brain serotonin function and elevated cortisol secretion contribute to depression. In a recent study, researchers evaluated if clary sage supplementation had an effect on these levels.
Twenty-two menopausal women participated in the study and were divided into normal and depression tendency groups. After inhalation of clary sage oil, cortisol levels were significantly decreased while serotonin concentration was significantly increased.
The change rate of cortisol was greater in depression tendency groups compared with normal groups (2).
In another study, researchers evaluated clary sage’s antidepressant effects in rats in comparison to lavender, chamomile and rosemary. The rats were treated with essential oils by intraperitoneal injection or inhalation and were subjected to a forced swim test.
Among the essential oils tested, clary oil had the strongest antidepressant action (3).
Clary sage helps treat symptoms of menopause. During menopause, women experience a variety of health-related symptoms, which are believed to be due to a decrease in estrogen. One of the most common symptoms is hot flashes — sudden feelings of warmth, which are usually most intense over the face, neck and chest (4).
According to one study on essential oils, a dilution of clary sage and geranium applied to feet alleviated the intensity of hot flashes. The hot flashes resumed two nights after stopping use.
Clary sage may help treat menstrual pain. Sixty-seven female college students who rated their menstrual cramps to be greater than six on a pain scale of ten took part in a recent study. The participants were randomized into three groups: an experimental group (topical application of two drops of lavender, one drop of clary sage and one drop of rose in almond oil), a placebo and a control group.
Menstrual cramps were significantly lowered in the experimental group than in the other two groups (5).
While combination therapy was found effective, there are currently no studies using clary sage in isolation for the relief of menstrual cramp pain.
Clary sage has antibacterial properties. Growing evidence shows this herb’s efficacy in treating some strains of bacteria. As bacterial antibiotic resistance becomes an increasing problem in the field of medicine, this herb may prove to be a future alternative or adjuvant therapy to treating infections.
The goal of a recent study was to determine the antibacterial activity of clary sage oil against Staphylococcus clinical strains which were isolated from patients with wound infections.
The results of the in vitro study showed that application of the oil was effective against Staphylococcus aureus, S. epidermidis and S. xylosus.
Researchers suggest that because of its natural antimicrobial properties, clary sage oil may be applied to treat wounds and skin infections (6).
In another study published in a 2015 issue of Botanical Studies, clary sage oil showed obvious antibacterial activity against all bacterial strains tested, namely Escherichia coli (E. coli).
More experiments need to be done to fully understand the antimicrobial mechanism of clary sage essential oil.
Clary sage may have mild neuroprotective properties. Clary sage has been shown to have neuroprotective effects; however, these effects are not as potent as other species in the same family in protecting neuronal cells from DNA damage (7).
Clary sage has anticancer properties. One of the bioactives present in clary sage, identified as Sclareol, has been shown to exhibit growth inhibition and cytotoxic activity against a variety of human cancer cell lines.
The researchers of one study confirmed that the activity of Sclareol could reduce tumor growth in vivo against breast cancer (8).
The results of a study published in Pharmacological Research, showed reduced growth rate of human colon cancer tumors developed in mice, without any significant side effects (9).
In human leukemia cell lines, Sclareol dose dependently killed cells, through the process of apoptosis. Apoptosis is a form of programmed cell death that eliminates potentially cancerous and virus-infected cells, and maintains balance in the body.
Clary sage appears to be safe. There have not been any reported adverse effects with use.
Adding clary sage essential oil to an aromatherapy diffuser can be used to help relax and alleviate stress.
It can also be applied to skin when mixed with coconut oil (or other carrier oil). Do not apply it directly to skin.
To help relieve menstrual cramps, studies show that two drops of lavender, one drop of clary sage and one drop of rose in 5 cc of almond oil can be helpful.
Perform a patch test to a small area of skin before applying the oil to larger areas of skin to rule out an allergic reaction.
Further studies are needed before recommending an optimal oral dose.
Essential oils extracted from the leaves and buds of the clary sage plant have long been used in aromatherapy for their calming and relaxing effects. Growing clinical studies show that inhalation of clary sage may play a role in naturally relieving stress and depression.
When applied topically, this aromatic herb may also help relieve painful menstrual cramps and hot flashes in menopausal women.
Sclareol is one of the bioactives identified in clary sage, and preliminary studies show it exhibits growth inhibition and cytotoxic activity against a variety of human cancer cell lines.