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Overview Of White Sage, Its Characteristics And Applications

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For centuries, Native Americans have cultivated White Sage, a member of the four sacred plants including: tobacco, red cedar, and sweet grass, and traditionally used it medicinally. The name Salvia is derived from the Latin salvus (safe) or, in terms of health, salvus (well-being). In addition to White Sage being applied as a tea remedy for small common problems, for instance, digestive and circulation disturbances, bronchitis, cough, asthma, angina, mouth and throat inflammations, it can also be used as a treatment for larger issues, namely, depression, excessive sweating, skin diseases, and many other diseases. Apart from Salvia apiana being used in tea, it is also used for the benefits of its essential oils on a bodily scale (nervous system, heart and blood circulation, respiratory system, digestive system, and metabolic and endocrine diseases).

The essential oil of sage contains about 20% camphor, meaning it aids by acting as a counter irritant and is therefore used topically to relieve pain and swelling along with many other benefits. The versatility of its pharmacological properties is not only speculation and tradition, it has also undergone much testing to be “verified”. Salvia apiana was compared to twelve other herbal remedies in the inhibition of certain bacterium such as Staphylococcus aureus, Bacillus subtilis, Klebsiella pneumoniae, and Candida brassicae. Where certain plants only inhibited the growth of one or two of the four organism, Salvia apiana was the only plant in this study to completely inhibit the growth of all four test organisms. Its due to the presence of certain components, in particular, rosmarinic acid and carnosolic acid with their antioxidant properties, and ursolic acid with its cell growth regulation properties, that allow White Sage to be so well known for its healing abilities.

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Along with its curative qualities, the spiritual properties of Salvia apiana were adopted as a method to actively cleanse and purify the mind, body and spirit before praying. Not only this but it is also used for protection purposes and is known to aid in getting rid of any negative energy. White sage can be used in smudging (the act of burning white sage), which is said to release negative ions (which are thought to be “good” in order to cancel out the “bad” positive ions in the air, this act is commonly used to purify ceremonial grounds, spaces or even personal items. Dating back to ancient civilizations, white sage has been believed to be a purifying and extremely protective plant, because of this, smudging is used to absolve and shelter an individual of the negative energies they have accumulated during the day, whether it be from other individuals or an environment. White sage is also commonly used as a way to relax because it is rich in compounds that activate certain receptors in the brain responsible for elevating mood levels, reducing stress, and even alleviating pain. Additionally, the religious act of smudging also adds to the health benefits of Salvia apiana, a study was conducted in 2007 which concluded that burning sage for an hour decreased the level of aerial bacteria by 94%. These effects were preserved for up to 24 hours afterward.

White Sage is also very well known for its specific smell. Because of this distinct smell, the leaves of Salvia apiana are crushed and mixed with water to create products like hair shampoo, dye, and straightener and perfume. Though not as commonly used as garden sage for cooking, white sage can also be used as a culinary herb. Because of its aromatic properties, it can be used as flavoring in cooking to foods like lamb, stews, and breads as well as grinding the seeds into a flour.

Taxonomic affiliation

Salvia apiana, a name rooting from the Latin words like “salvere, “meaning “to be saved”, commonly known as white sage, bee sage, and sacred sage, is a frosted green shrub, with blue and purple flowering buds which belongs to the family Lamiaceae (mints) and the phylum Tracheophyta (vascular plants) in the plantae kingdom. It was/ is a well-loved, well-used herb for many ailments before the dawn of “modern medicine”, it goes back to civilizations such as Babylonians and Egyptians. Salvia apiana reproduces sexually as an angiosperm, which means it reproduces by flowering and forming seeds and fruits and belongs to the dicotyledon group (containing two seed leaves called cotelydons).

Life cycle

White sage is a tender perennial shrub meaning it stays active for a number of years compared to annual plants. Fall is the best time for planting white sage because the amount of rain received during this time of year allows the plant to get the little water it needs to establish itself in an environment. Since the plant demands full sun, the transferring of young plants into a pot during winter months is necessary. Be sure to keep it in a warm location with a grow light to provide it all the light it needs. Once a white sage plant has been in place for a year or two, it’s likely going to find all of the water it needs on its own, meaning the plant reaches full maturity around this time allowing for proper harvest.


White sage does extremely well in very dry conditions and being indigenous to the warm, dry conditions of northern Baja in Mexico and Southern California, it is clear to conclude that means it would be extremely difficult to grow Salvia apiana in environments which temperature drop below 20 degrees consistently. Salvia apiana is a desert plant growing in coastal areas as well, allowing it to adapt to low nutrient soils as an adult, with this it can be said that it is a plant that doesn’t need fertilizing.

Propagation for crops

White sage can be propagated in two ways: from seed, or by cuttings, seed being the most common considering how easy it is. Seeds are to be harvested from mature plants and potted closer to the surface for better access to lots of light and watered only when the soil becomes dry. White sage seeds are notoriously bad at germinating. It’s not uncommon to have a germination rate of 20-30%. Because of this, you will need to plant far more seeds than you expect to eventually plant out. After the plant has grown a few leaves it is to be repotted into a larger container and only water as needed. From this point the plant should grow fairly quickly. The process of propagating from a cutting is much longer and involves the cutting of an already mature root of white sage.


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