The clary sage plant has a lengthy history as a medicinal herb. It’s a perennial in the genus Salvi, and its scientific name is salvia sclarea. It’s considered to be one of the top essential oils for hormones, especially in women.
Many claims have been made as to its benefits when dealing with cramps, heavy menstrual cycles, hot flashes and hormonal imbalances. It’s also known for its ability to increase circulation, support the digestive system, improve eye health and fight leukemia.
Clary sage is one of the most healthful essential oils, with anticonvulsive, antidepressant, antifungal, anti-infectious, antiseptic, antispasmodic, astringent and anti-inflammatory properties. It’s also a nerve tonic and sedative with soothing and warming components.
What Is Clary Sage?
Clary sage gets its name from the Latin word “clarus,” which means “clear.” It’s a perennial herb that grows from May to September, and it’s native to the northern Mediterranean, along with some areas in North Africa and Central Asia.
The plant reaches 4–5 feet in height, and it has thick square stems that are covered in hairs. The colorful flowers, ranging from lilac to mauve, bloom in bunches.
The chief components of clary sage essential oil are sclareol, alpha terpineol, geraniol, linalyl acetate, linalool, caryophyllene, neryl acetate and germacrene-D; it has high concentrations of esters at about 72 percent.
1. Relieves Menstrual Discomfort
Clary sage works to regulate the menstrual cycle by balancing hormone levels naturally and stimulating the opening of an obstructed system. It has the power to treat symptoms of PMS as well, including bloating, cramps, mood swings and food cravings.
This essential oil is also antispasmodic, meaning it treats spasms and related issues such as muscle cramps, headaches and stomachaches. It does this by relaxing the nerve impulses that we can’t control.
An interesting study done at the Oxford Brooks University in the United Kingdom analyzed the influence that aromatherapy has on women in labor. The study took place over a period of eight years and involved 8,058 women.
The evidence from this study suggests that aromatherapy can be effective in reducing maternal anxiety, fear and pain during labor. Of the 10 essential oils that were used during childbirth, clary sage oil and chamomile oil were the most effective in alleviating pain.
Another 2012 study measured the effects of aromatherapy as a painkiller during the menstrual cycle of high school girls. There was an aromatherapy massage group and an acetaminophen (pain killer and fever reducer) group. The aromatherapy massage was performed on subjects in the treatment group, with the abdomen being massaged once using clary sage, marjoram, cinnamon, ginger and geranium oils in a base of almond oil.
The level of menstrual pain was assessed 24 hours later. The results found that the reduction of menstrual pain was significantly higher in the aromatherapy group than in the acetaminophen group.
2. Supports Hormonal Balance
Clary sage affects the hormones of the body because it contains natural phytoestrogens, which are referred to as “dietary estrogens” that are derived from plants and not within the endocrine system. These phytoestrogens give clary sage the ability to cause estrogenic effects. It regulates estrogen levels and ensures the long-term health of the uterus — reducing the chances of uterine and ovarian cancer.
A lot of health issues today, even things like infertility, polycystic ovary syndrome and estrogen-based cancers, are caused from excess estrogen in the body — in part because of our consumption of high-estrogen foods. Because clary sage helps balance out those estrogen levels, it’s an incredibly effective essential oil.
A 2014 study published in the Journal of Phytotherapy Research found that inhalation of clary sage oil had the ability to reduce cortisol levels by 36 percent and improved thyroid hormone levels. The study was done on 22 post-menopausal women in their 50s, some of whom were diagnosed with depression.
At the end of the trial, the researchers stated that “clary sage oil had a statistically significant effect on lowering cortisol and had an anti-depressant effect improving mood.”
3. Relieves Insomnia
People suffering from insomnia may find relief with clary sage oil. It is a natural sedative and will give you the calm and peaceful feeling that is necessary in order to fall asleep. When you can’t sleep, you usually awaken feeling unrefreshed, which takes a toll on your ability to function during the day. Insomnia affects not only your energy level and mood, but also your health, work performance and quality of life.
Two major causes of insomnia are stress and hormonal changes. An all-natural essential oil can improve insomnia without drugs by alleviating feelings of stress and anxiety, and by balancing hormone levels.
A 2017 study published in Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine showed that applying a massage oil including lavender oil, grapefruit extract, neroli oil and clary sage to the skin worked to improve sleep quality in nurses with rotating night shifts.
4. Increases Circulation
Clary sage opens the blood vessels and allows for increased blood circulation; it also naturally lowers blood pressure by relaxing the brain and arteries. This boosts the performance of the metabolic system by increasing the amount of oxygen that gets into the muscles and supporting organ function.
A study done at the Department of Basic Nursing Science in the Republic of Korea measured clary sage oil’s ability to lower blood pressure in women with urinary incontinence or involuntary urination. Thirty-four women participated in the study, and they were given either clary sage oil, lavender oil or almond oil (for the control group); then they were measured after inhalation of these odors for 60 minutes.
The results indicated that the clary oil group experienced a significant decrease in systolic blood pressure compared with the control and lavender oil groups, a significant decrease in diastolic blood pressure compared with the lavender oil group, and a significant decrease in respiratory rate compared with the control group.
The data suggest that clary oil inhalation may be useful in inducing relaxation in females with urinary incontinence, especially as they undergo assessments.
5. Improves Cardiovascular Health
The antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties of clary sage oil are cardio-protective and may help lower cholesterol naturally. The oil also decreases emotional stress and improves circulation — two very important factors for reducing cholesterol and supporting your cardiovascular system.
One double-blind, randomized, controlled trial involving 34 female patients showed that clary sage significantly decreased systolic blood pressure compared to the placebo and lavender oil groups, and decreased diastolic blood pressure and respiratory rate significantly as well. The participants simply inhaled clary safe essential oil and their blood pressure levels were measured 60 minutes after inhalation.
6. Works as Stress Reliever
Clary sage serves as an antidepressant and as one of the best natural remedies for anxiety; it boosts confidence and mental strength while alleviating feelings of anxiety and failure. It also has euphoric properties, leaving you with a feeling of joy and ease.
A 2010 study conducted in South Korea found that clary sage oil could be developed as a therapeutic agent for patients with depression. For the study, antidepressant properties were measured in rats with a forced swimming test; clary oil had the strongest anti-stressor effect.
7. Fights Leukemia
A promising study conducted at the Department of Immunology, Hellenic Anticancer Institute in Athens, Greece, examined the role that sclareol, a chemical compound found in clary sage oil, plays in fighting leukemia. The results showed that sclareol is able to kill cell lines through the process of apoptosis.
Apoptosis is the process of programmed cell death; research involving the role of apoptosis has increased substantially since the early 1990s. An insufficient amount of apoptosis results in uncontrolled cell proliferation, such as cancer.
8. Kills Bacteria and Infections
Clary sage curbs the growth and spread of bacterial and fungal infections; it can also stop the dangerous behavior of bacteria entering our body through water or food. These antibacterial properties protect the colon, intestines, urinary tract and excretory system.
This powerful oil is also antiseptic, so wounds will not become infected with germs when you apply this essential oil to them. This beneficial property will protect wounds and heal cuts, and it will help your body to heal quickly.
A 2015 study published in Postepy Dermatol Alergol journal found that clary sage oil may be applied to help treat wounds and skin infections because of its antimicrobial properties. The results indicated that the essential oil has strong antistaphylococcal activity against clinical strains isolated from wound infections — the oil was active against strains, including Staphylococcus aureus, S. epidermidis and S. xylosus.
9. Promotes Skin Health
There is an important ester in clary sage oil called linalyl acetate, which is a naturally occurring phytochemical found in many flowers and spice plants. This ester reduces skin inflammation and works as a natural remedy for rashes; it also regulates the production of oil on the skin.
Clary sage oil works similarly to jojoba oil in this regard, so combining the two makes for a perfect skin moisturizer that will keep the skin even throughout the day.
10. Aids Digestion
The digestive system is the foundation of good health. This amazing system includes a combination of nerves, hormones, bacteria, blood and organs that work together to complete the intricate task of digesting the foods and liquids that we consume every day.
Although evidence on this benefit is limited, clary sage oil has been used to boost the secretion of gastric juices and bile, which speeds up and eases the digestive process. By relieving symptoms of indigestion, it minimizes cramping, bloating and abdominal discomfort.
This powerful essential oil may also work to prevent stomach disorders and helps the body to absorb the much-needed vitamins and minerals that are consumed throughout the day. It has been used to regulate bowel movements, relieve constipation, and help heals ulcer symptoms and wounds in the stomach.
How to Find
You can find clary sage essential oil at any health food store that sells oils. Remember when making a purchase, you want to be sure that you are getting 100 percent clary sage oil and there aren’t any filler or byproducts that are added. Look for a label that says it’s from the genus salvia sclarea, and choose a reputable company.
Once you get your bottle home, start making your own mixtures to create the most beneficial combinations.
- For stress relief and aromatherapy, diffuse or inhale 2–3 drops of clary sage essential oil.
- To improve mood and joint pain, add 3–5 drops of clary sage oil to warm bath water. Try combining the essential oil with epsom salt and baking soda to make your own healing bath salts.
- For eye care, add 2–3 drops of clary sage oil to a clean and warm wash cloth; press cloth over both eyes for 10 minutes.
- For cramp and pain relief, create a massage oil by diluting 5 drops of clary sage oil with 5 drops of a carrier oil (like jojoba or coconut oil) and apply it to needed areas.
- For skin care, create a mix of clary sage oil and a carrier oil (like coconut or jojoba) at a 1:1 ratio. Apply the mixture directly to your face, neck and body.
- For internal use, ONLY very high-quality oil brands should be used. Add a drop of the oil to water or take as dietary supplement; mix the oil with honey or a smoothie, or make clary sage tea (which you can also purchase in tea bags).
- To ease digestion, massage the abdomen with equal parts clary sage oil and a carrier oil, or use a hot compress with 3–5 drops of the essential oil soaked into it.
- To enhance healing prayer or meditation, mix 6 drops of clary sage oil with 2 drops of frankincense, white fir or orange oils. Add the mixture to a diffuser or oil burner.
- To naturally relieve asthma symptoms, mix 4 drops of this oil with lavender oil and massage the blend on the chest or back.
- For hair health, massage equal parts clary sage oil and rosemary oil into your scalp while showering.
Use clary sage oil with caution during pregnancy, especially during the first trimester or when using it in the abdomen. It can cause uterine contractions that may be dangerous. It also shouldn’t be used on infants or toddlers.
There have been claims that clary sage oil brightens eyes, improves vision and protects loss of vision due to premature or normal aging; however, there is not enough research to suggest that essential oils be used in the eyes just yet. It may not be safe and should be discussed with your ophthalmologist first.
Avoid using this essential oil during or after alcohol use. Reports indicate that this may lead to vivid dreams and trouble sleeping. When using the oil topically, make sure to test yourself for skin sensitivity. Apply it to a small area first to make sure you won’t have a negative reaction.
Chloral hydrate and hexobarbitone interact with clary sage oil. They cause sleepiness and drowsiness, and clary sage seems to increase the effects of these hypnotic and sedative medications. These interactions seem to increase the effects of the two pharmaceutical drugs.
- Clary sage is essential oil is extracted from the perennial herb salvia sclarea. It has become known as one of the beneficial essential oils for women’s hormonal health.
- This powerful essential oil has been shown to relieve menstrual discomfort, support hormonal balance, relieve insomnia, increase circulation, improve heart health, relieve stress, aid digestion, promote skin health, fight infections and fight leukemia.
- Clary sage oil can be used aromatically, topically and internally. Be sure to use 100 percent pure essential oil from a reputable company. It can be inhaled directly from the bottle, diffused, applied to the skin or mixed into smoothies.