As the FDA increases censorship of natural ingredients, it becomes vital for the health-conscious consumer to have a practical knowledge of common natural ingredients. As an aromatherapist and herbalist with over 7 years experience (and maker of alternative skin goods) I’m excited to present a blog series devoted to profiling common and useful natural (and questionable synthetic) ingredients. In this way, we may all be empowered to make informed decisions about what goes on and inside our bodies.
Sage essential oil is powerfully therapeutic, but requires a little understanding to use it correctly. There is a lot of conflicting information regarding this oil, making it even more imperative that we all be informed.
How It’s Made
Sage Essential oil is steam distilled. This means that a huge vat is packed full of leaves and steamed. This steam is then cooled quickly and condensed back into a liquid form. The essential oil (EO) is then collected from the top of this liquid. Steam distillation preserves the plant’s healing properties and extracts the oil with nothing but heat and water. Cheap essential oils are extracted with harsh solvents which inevitably get into your skin. Always be sure to buy from companies that only use 100% steam distilled or cold pressed (for citrus) essential oils. Unfortunately, some companies still sell adulterated essential oils. If something smells off with an EO or product, don’t use it! Sage EO is generally clear with a slight yellow tinge. You’ll notice many companies will state the Thujone content of Sage essential oil (anywhere from 20-70%). We’ll get to that subject in a moment, but for common use this number is of little importance when standard precautions are taken.
The Sage Controversy
Sage is one of a handful of essential oils with a high Thujone content. Thujone is a component that, when isolated, is quite toxic. This is due to its ability to easily penetrate the blood-brain barrier, giving it a potentially neurotoxic effect. Exposure to Thujone has triggered seizures in epileptics and can cause liver damage. Other essential oils that contain high doses of Thujone are Mugwort, Thuja, Wormwood and Yarrow.
That said, of all the Thujone-rich oils, Sage is the most common and the safest. Herein lies the controversy: Nobody is sure exactly why, but the specific structure of Thujone in Sage EO is somehow less toxic than one would expect (as opposed to Thujone as an isolated compound). All to often science isolates specific plant compounds, ignoring the synergy of the whole. Sage should still be used with caution, but it certainly shouldn’t be feared. Topical usage rates of 15 drops up to 3 times a day are considered safe for adults.
Basic Precautions for Essential Oils
Sage essential oil is not to be used on epileptics, pregnant women or children under 10. Although it is considered the safest of all the high-thujone oils, it is best to not take any chances with sensitive individuals. This is why it is important to always check with your health care provider before using any product, especially if you are pregnant. Some people are very sensitive to specific essential oils. Always do a skin test to check for an allergic reaction if you have never used an oil before. Always dilute essential oils before application. Essential oils should NEVER be taken internally without the guidance of a qualified aromatherapist. Always store essential oils out of reach of children and pets.
Now that we have the scary stuff out of the way, I can tell you how amazing this oil is. Thanks to it’s highly absorbent nature (classifying it as potentially neurotoxic) this oil has been used to treat two of the most untouchable problems: scars and cellulite. That’s right, this oil is not only highly regenerative but it also dissolves fat, particularly stubborn fat. I have used this oil to treat my acne scars since just after high school, and today it’s nearly impossible to tell that I suffered from severe acne not-so-long-ago. From personal experience, it does appear to have an effect on cellulite particularly when used with other treatments. Cellulite is a rather complex condition that appears to have much to do with lymphatic function, so I wouldn’t expect a miracle with sage EO alone.
Sage EO has also been used to balance emotions (estrogen-mimicking), provide mental clarity and ease anxiety. Sage is wonderfully grounding, slightly sweet and blends well with many oils, particularly citrus and lavender. Sage is also incredibly antibacterial, anti-fungal and antiviral. It is particularly effective against Staph.
Building on our knowledge of natural ingredients, today I’ll share with you a recipe for a detox/fat-fighting body oil. Fat is where we store a lot of our toxins, so this oil is beneficial even if you aren’t looking to shed some weight. Remember that this oil is inappropriate for epileptics, pregnant women and children. Of course results are not guaranteed, but I can promise that your skin and senses will thank you!
Have you ever used sage essential oil? What do you think of it? Does the thujone controversy make you wary of this oil and products containing it?
Follow along with the Know Your Ingredients blog series for even more profiles of all natural ingredients.