I first started hearing about clary sage when I was looking for something that could help my awful period cramps.
What I first came across in a quick Google search almost seemed to be too good to be true. There were people claiming it could help with everything from heavy menstrual cycles to leukemia.
So I decided to do some more in depth research and find out what the science actually has to say about this product.
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Here's what I learned about this fascinating essential oil.
My Top 5 Best Clary Sage Oil Brands In 2018
*The companies chosen above are based upon my personal opinion based upon me giving them a try and testing their quality.
Clary Sage Oil: What Is It and Where Did It Come From?
Clary sage is a plant native to the Mediterranean, Central Asian, and North African regions. This plant can grow up to four feet in height, and it has thick stems with long leaves covered in tiny hairs.
When it blossoms, clary sage has clusters of pink, white, and lilac flowers that grow in vertical arrangements.
If you have ever seen sage before, then you will know what the clary sage plant looks like. The two are closely related, but clary sage grows to a much larger size than regular sage. This hardy plant can survive in plenty of dry, hot, and slightly chilly climates.
I was surprised to learn that the plant actually has a long history of being used for medicinal reasons. The earliest recording of using clary sage for medicinal uses dates back to Theophrastus in the 4th century BCE. The ancients used clary sage to manage digestive issues and various aches and pains.
It gets its name from the Latin word for "clear" because the sticky texture of the seeds could be used to filter out foreign objects.
The plant comes from the Salvia genus of plants that gets its name from "salvere," the Latin word for "to feel well and healthy." Most plants within the salvia genus are herbs that can be used for flavoring or medicinal purposes.
Over the years, oils imbued with the fragrance and flavor of this plant have been used for perfumes, soaps, wines, and food.
Clary sage essential oil is made from the flowers of the plant. They are gathered towards the end of blooming, when oil levels are highest, and then steam distillation is used to collect the oil from the plants.
Most modern clary sage oil comes from fields of clary sage grown commercially in the Bertie County area of North Carolina.
The plants are harvested because they contain many beneficial, naturally occurring compounds. When distilled into an oil, the plant has the following components:
9 Great Everyday Uses for Clary Sage Oil
Before I get into a more in depth discussion on the science behind clary sage, I want to explain a little bit about common, popular methods for using for the oil.
In general, clary sage essential oil is used for its ability to balance hormones, reduce muscle contractions, and increase circulation. Almost all of the basic benefits of the oil come from these properties.
The oils ability to boost circulation and manage hormones can have widespread effects throughout the body.
Of course there are plenty of very specific health benefits, which I will get into later, but most people just use the oil for overall health and wellbeing.
Here are a few of the many ways people use clary sage oil.
Aromatherapy: Just breathing in clary sage oil can provide benefits through aromatherapy.
Some people use an essential oil diffuser while others simply smell the essential oil. When used for aromatherapy, clary sage typically helps with stress relief.
Massage: When combined with a few drops of carrier oil, clary sage oil can become an excellent massage lotion.
Massaging it into the skin provides aromatherapeutic benefits, and the skin will also absorb the oil a little more for additional effects. You can use clary sage essential oil to massage a queasy stomach, cramping uterus, or other affected area.
Bath Soak: This method is recommended for those who need a boost in their mood or are dealing with some sort of chronic pain.
Just five drops of clary sage oil in a warm tub of water can greatly help with easing stress and pain.
Compress: If you have a headache and want to lay back with a compress over your forehead or eyes, consider clary sage. Just place one or two drops on a damp washcloth and warm it.
Skin Wash: To get the anti-acne effects of clary sage essential oil, mix it with a non-comedogenic oil like jojoba, argan, or avocado oil in a one to one ratio.
I like to use this oil at night to remove my makeup, and then it rinses off easily with warm water.
Meditation Focus: People who like to practice focus meditation find that the gentle yet clarifying scent of clary sage makes an excellent meditation aid.
During focus meditation, you can use a diffuser or oil burner to surround yourself with the scent. If desired, you can mix it with orange, white fir, or frankincense to create an even more complex scent.
Hair Oil: Those who use clary sage for hair health find it best to apply it in the shower. Plain clary sage works well, but adding a little rosemary or argan oil to it can increase shine even more.
Use your fingertips to massage the oil into your scalp before rinsing it out.
Chest Rub: Whenever you have a cold or flu, a chest rub made with clary sage can help to ease your breathing a little.
People who use clary sage for this purpose find that about four drops mixed in with a carrier oil creates an effective chest rub.
Dietary Supplement: Clary sage oil can be taken straight, though some find it a little strong.
To enjoy the benefits of clary sage without the very strong flavor, some people like to mix it into teas, food, smoothies, or other beverages when they take it as a supplement.
What Are the Benefits of Clary Sage and How Does It Work?
As I looked further and further into clary sage oil, I was surprised to discover that it has a wide range of benefits, and many of these benefits are backed by some impressive science.
Beyond just being used for the cramps that made me first turn to clary sage, the oil can help with issues throughout the body. Here are some key benefits of clary sage essential oil.
Boost Blood Circulation and Lower Blood Pressure
When clary sage oil is inhaled, eaten, or applied to the skin, it opens up the blood vessels. This allows oxygen and nutrient rich blood to circulate more freely throughout the body.
The muscles can function better and the liver can more easily remove toxins from the blood.
Clary sage oil ability to open blood vessels also means that blood pressure lowers because it is no longer being forced through a tight pathway.
A 2013 study from South Korea's Department of Basic Nursing Science tested blood pressure after patients inhaled a variety of essential oils, and they found that clary sage oil was associated with the strongest drop in blood pressure.
This effect may have a wide variety of very important health benefits. High blood pressure is associated with elevated stress levels, increased heart attack risk, higher rates of strokes, and many other dangerous health problems.
Therefore, the ability to lower blood pressure with clary sage may be quite helpful.
Regulate Certain Hormone Levels
Clary sage contains several compounds that are similar to the hormones the body uses to regulate everyday functions.
For example, it contains a lot of sclareol which is structurally similar to the estrogen chemicals used by humans. Instead of raising overall estrogen levels, the sclareol essentially blocks estrogen receptors from using estrogen which causes estrogen levels in the body to decrease.
High levels of estrogen are linked to many issues including uterine and ovarian cancer, so this effect of clary sage is quite helpful.
Clary sage has a similar effect on cortisol, the stress hormone. It's ability to reduce cortisol may be particularly strong among groups like post-menopausal women who are dealing with a lot of stress due to hormone fluctuations.
Soothe Menstrual Pain
This is the benefit of clary sage that got me interested in the essential oil in the first place. People claim that it helps to greatly reduce uterine cramps and PMS symptoms because it regulates the hormones and stops muscle spasms. From personal experience, I have to say this claim is definitely true!
It turns out that a lot of women agree with me. A 2012 study from the Evidence Based Complementary Alternative Medicine journal found that massaging the abdomen with a blend of clary sage and almond oil was more effective than acetaminophen for dealing with cramps.
Just a brief massage can continue to be effective for up to 24 hours.
Get a Good Night's Rest
Though I started out using clary sage for menstrual problems, I noticed that I was sleeping far more soundly after using it.
At first I just thought this was due to reduced cramping, but after a bit of research, I found out that clary sage is also a great remedy for insomnia.
It can be used as both an aromatherapy ingredient or part of a relaxing bath soak if you are dealing with a restless night.
Clary sage seems to primarily help with insomnia by lowering stress, though some theorize that it's ability to improve sleep may also be due to improved blood circulation.
Kill Off Dangerous Microorganisms
Clary sage oil has a natural antibacterial effect. It helps to inhibit the growth of bacteria and other microorganisms that could infect the body.
This effect is most noticeable when applied to toenail fungus, scratches, or other areas where you want to halt bacteria growth.
According to a 2015 study from the Advances in Dermatology and Allergology journal, clary sage oil can even help to fight off dangerous things like staphylococcus aureus, the bacteria that causes staph infections.
Combined with other antibacterial essential oils like tea tree oil, it may be particularly helpful.
Keep Cholesterol at Safe Levels
Cholesterol is a type of fatty substance that the body needs to keep the nerves and hormones functioning at proper levels.
However, excessive amounts of certain cholesterol types can build up in the arteries, causing an increased risk for stroke and heart attacks. Clary sage's ability to reduce cholesterol can end up being quite beneficial.
Clary sage oil helps to reduce cholesterol deposits by stimulating blood flow, so cholesterol cannot build up on the walls of the blood vessels.
It also reduces stress which tends to encourage the body to store higher levels of bad cholesterol.
Halt Cancer Cell Growth
When I first read about this benefit, I was a little skeptical, but after reading up on a bit more, it does seem quite promising.
As a 1999 study from the Leukemia Research Journal explains, the sclareol within clary sage kills leukemia cell lines through apoptosis.
Also called programmed cell death, apoptosis is the natural process through which the body kills damaged cells. When apoptosis fails, damaged and mutated cells can spread throughout the body in a cancerous tumor.
Therefore, it does seem that clary sage may at least be able to inhibit the growth of certain types of cancer.
Prevent Acne and Other Skin Problems
As a natural antibacterial solution, clary sage oil can be very good for reducing skin problems. I first noticed this benefit when I started taking it for PMS because I was no longer getting massive pimples right before my period.
Once I started rubbing a little bit of the oil, I found that my acne outbreaks were even fewer and far between.
In addition to the antibacterial nature of clary sage, it also contains linalyl acetate. This phytochemical is excellent at lowering skin inflammation and helping to regulate oil production on the skin.
When taken orally, many people report that clary sage oil can help to deal with gastrointestinal upset. A small dose of this essential oil may help to increase blood flow throughout the stomach and intestines.
This helps the body to metabolize and digest food without getting bloating, cramps, gas, and other problems.
Clary sage's ability to regulate the production of cortisol is very important because lower cortisol is associated with reduced stress, depression, and anxiety.
As an aromatherapy product, clary sage can help to ease sadness and frustration. Many people report feeling happier, more positive, calmer, and more joyful after using clary sage.
Essential Oil Recipes That Include Clary Sage Oil
Some Side Effects and Precautions for Clary Sage OIl
There are very few side effects associated with clary sage oil. In large doses, it may cause drowsiness, headaches, euphoria, or nausea.
It is not recommended for use alongside alcohol, chloral hydrate, hexobarbitone, or any other medications that cause drowsiness and sleepiness.
Before using clary sage oil, always do a patch test that involves putting a very small amount of oil on your wrist.
This will ensure you are not allergic or sensitive to the oil before starting to use it regularly. When using the oil, start with the lowest possible dose because sudden, strong doses can cause nausea and sleepiness.
Due to it's blood pressure reducing effect, clary sage oil may not be advisable for people who already have low blood pressure.
It is also not safe for infants and young children, and you should not put it in your eyes. Here are a few other things you should know about clary sage oil.
Can You Ingest Clary Sage Oil?
Clary sage essential oil has long been used as a flavoring in liquors, wines, beers, and other items you ingest, so I wasn't surprised to learn that it is perfectly safe to ingest.
According to the Natural Standard Herb and Supplement Guide, it is safe to take between 25 to 50 microliters, or ½ to 1 drops of oil, between one to three times per day.
I would caution you to be a little careful about ingesting random essential oils though. Some companies may add other ingredients to the clary sage oil that can make it unsafe to eat them.
You should only ingest a clary sage essential oil if it is 100 percent clary sage and comes from a reliable and high quality source.
What Does Clary Sage Oil Do in Pregnancy?
Pregnant women should exercise some caution when taking clary sage oil. The oil contains compounds that are naturally uterotonic. This means they can cause the uterus to begin contracting.
Therefore, clary sage oil is not advisable for women during the early or middle stages of pregnancy. Either ingesting it or massaging it into the skin may cause problematic uterine contractions.
However, this same effect can actually be helpful when used later in pregnancy.
Some women who are overdue find that clary sage may help to induce when used as a massage, so they use clary sage to speed up labor.
Keep in mind that some pregnant women get hypersensitive during pregnancy though, so clary sage oil can cause skin irritation.
If pregnant, you should talk to your doctor before using it and discontinue use immediately if you notice any side effects.
Essential Facts and Research About Clary Sage Oil
Clary sage is associated with a lot of health benefits, but it still is not entirely understood. There are over 100 studies that have been done on clary sage, but not all of these studies included humans.
Another issue with the medical research on this essential oil is that many studies look at blends of essential oils instead of looking at only clary sage itself.
As far as the research goes, the main benefits of clary sage oil seem to be for reducing stress, managing pain, and managing hormone related problems.
The main direct evidence for balancing hormones is a 2014 study that tested clary sage oil on menopausal women, but several studies on sclareol, the rare proto-estrogen in clary sage, find that sclareol is helpful at managing estrogen.
The facts and research that support other benefits of the oil seem to be a little less conclusive. For example, the study showing that clary sage oil kills leukemia was only done with in vitro cells.
Even though that study clearly showed clary sage kills cancer, there have been no human trials to see how cancer cells in a human body react to clary sage oil.
Final thoughts about clary sage oil
In the long run, I've found clary sage oil to be extremely useful. In addition to a big reduction in all of my awful PMS and period symptoms, I've also noticed that I'm sleeping better and getting less acne since I started taking it.
For those with other issues like infections, high cholesterol, and digestive issues, clary sage oil also seems like it might be quite helpful.
Though there still is not a ton of research on the subject, so far, the existing research is definitely promising about this widely used essential oil.
Keep in mind that clary sage oil is so effective because it is a very powerful essential oil. It should never be given to infants or young children, and you may want to talk to your doctor before you start using it.
What Company Should I Purchase Clary Sage Oil From?
I hope you enjoyed learning about all of the cool benefits and uses that clary sage essential oil offers. It is definitely one of the most versatile oils because it can be used to create so many different types of blends to solve your everyday problems.
My personal favorite brand that I purchase most of my oils from is doTERRA. I find that they offer the highest quality oils, starter kits, and diffusers. They are especially good if you are brand new to oils because they offer a lot of free resources and education once you become a customer.
I highly recommend giving them a try. You can read more about my story of using their oils here.