What’s the first thing you think of when I mention the herb “sage”? Perhaps it’s Thanksgiving dinner or stuffing, or maybe even roasted potatoes. Chances are that most people don’t think of potent natural medicine for pain and inflammation, but perhaps recent research will change all that.

That’s because, according to research published in the British Journal of Pharmacology, the herbs sage and rosemary contain potent anti-pain and anti-inflammatory compounds. Known as carnosol and carnosic acid, the scientists made a novel discovery that these compounds are potent anti-inflammatories that can help reduce pain. The researchers concluded that “our research paves the way for a rational use of (sage)…in the continuous expanding context of nutraceuticals.”

While sage has traditionally been used for pain, it is better known for its memory- and brain-boosting properties, which research has also proven.

In one study published in the medical journal Current Medicinal Chemistry, researchers found that sage’s ability to prevent the breakdown of a critical brain messenger hormone may make the herb helpful in the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease. Sage has been found to be so powerful in its ability to treat Alzheimer’s disease that the German Ministry of Health is currently considering adding sage as a treatment for Alzheimer’s disease to its Commission E Monographs—a compilation of the safety and effectiveness of herbs. While there are various species of sage, the one most commonly found to be beneficial for Alzheimer’s disease is Salvia lavandulifolia.

You might be tempted to think that reducing pain and inflammation as well as boosting memory and helping in the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease was sufficient enough reason to love this herb, but there is more: hormone balancing. The herb may also help menstruating women who are suffering from excessive bleeding, nursing women who experience excessive lactation, as well as menopausal women who are suffering from hot flashes and other menopausal symptoms.

Sage, particularly in its essential oil form known as clary sage, has a lengthy history of use in the balancing of hormones. For hormone balancing, diffuse a few drops in an aromatherapy diffuser or add a few drops to a handkerchief and breathe in the aroma periodically throughout the day. Continue to do this daily for at least a month or two for best results.

Sage is also available in tea form, dried or fresh herb, tincture, capsules or essential oils for those looking to take advantage of its anti-pain, anti-inflammatory and brain-boosting effects. Follow the package instructions for the product you choose. In addition to taking the herb internally (as directed) you may also wish to dilute a few drops of sage essential oil in a teaspoon of carrier oil like sweet almond, apricot kernel, or olive oil and rub onto painful areas of your body a few times daily. Always do a skin test to ensure you are not allergic to sage oil prior to use. Apply it diluted in the same ratio as mentioned above, to the inside of your wrist and wait for 48 hours.

Remember that sage is potent medicine and should be treated with respect. If you are taking any medication consult your doctor or pharmacist to ensure that the drugs do not interact with sage.

By Dr. Michelle Schoffro Cook, PhD, DNM