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Uses for White Sage

By Kathryn Keep ; Updated September 21, 2017

Salvia apiana, commonly known as white sage, is a perennial herb that has been revered by Native Americans of the Southwest for hundreds of years. The white sage plant prefers sandy soil and warm temperatures, but with the appropriate care, it can be grown in northern areas. While it is not endangered, white sage is sometimes subjected to over harvesting. White sage is aromatic without smelling flowery. Its large leaves make it easy to burn for ceremonial purposes.


White sage tea made from the leaves is said to help fevers, sore throats and ulcers, and may help dry up phlegm and mucus. Steep a few dried leaves in boiling water and drink or gargle for a sore throat. Pregnant and nursing mothers should generally avoid drinking tea made from white sage leaves, except to help dry up milk after weaning. The roots of the white sage plant were sometimes used after childbirth to speed healing.


Smudging is a symbolic act of purification using the smoke of a burning herb on a person, place or object. Out of 750 known species of sage, white sage is considered best for smudging because of its large, easy-to-bundle leaves and white smoke. Dried and bundled white sage is frequently sold as wands (also called smudge sticks) for this purpose.


White sage is commonly used with fowl or other protein foods for a unique, savory flavor. Sage is generally dried prior to use in cooking to intensify the flavor and allow for storage. Native Americans crushed the seeds to create a flour. Some would simply chew the fresh leaves.


White sage works as a deodorant and is a nice addition in some homemade soaps. Native American women used sage in their shampoo and other hair treatments. Sage was also used in sweat lodges (the Native American version of the sauna and steam room) to open the sinuses and purify the body physically and spiritually.


About the Author


Kathryn Keep is an eco consultant and full time mother. She is a graduate student studying ecology. Her favorite topics are environmental issues, alternative health, home decorating, green building and general sustainable living.