Sage (Salvia) is part of the mint family. There are over 900 types. Some types (Saliva officinalis and Salvia lavandulifolia) are a common ingredient in many cooking recipes and are sometimes used in dietary supplements. Sage has high levels of antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties.
It has a long history as a folk remedy for many conditions but hasn’t been studied extensively for menopause.
People use sage for several menopausal symptoms including night sweats, hot flashes, and mood swings.
About two thirds of women who go through menopause will experience these symptoms as well as tiredness, losing bone density, and gaining weight. Many women turn to the use of botanical remedies for symptom relief. Keep reading to learn what we know about using sage for menopause.
According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), sage hasn’t been researched much or shown to have any definitive health benefits. However, people have used it for treating menopausal symptoms for generations.
One study, reported in “Advances in Therapy,” found that a fresh sage preparation lowered the severity and the number of hot flashes (also called hot flushes) in menopausal women. The research was conducted with 71 menopausal women in Switzerland. They took capsules of fresh sage once a day for eight weeks.
Another clinical study found that taking sage with another botanical ingredient, alfalfa, daily reduced hot flashes and night sweats. The study was conducted in 30 menopausal women in Italy.
Sage is often taken as a tea. It‘s also available in capsule form and as an essential oil. Sage essential oil can be dangerous when ingested so it’s important to read the directions on the bottle and follow them exactly. Twelve drops or more is considered a toxic dose. Only sage capsules have been studied for menopausal symptoms. One study used a specific type of sage extract. There is not enough research to know if other sage products work as well or what the best dose might be. Different sage products often recommend different doses.
Because there are so many different types of sage, it’s important to research the type you take.
Some sage varieties contain a chemical compound called thujone. When taken in too-large quantities or for an extended period of time thujone may negatively affect the nervous system. This can cause symptoms such as:
- restlessness or nervousness
- kidney damage
- rapid heart beat
If you take sage supplements, be sure to only use products that say they are “thujone-free” on the label
Other safety concerns associated with sage include:
- Spanish sage (Salvia lavandulifolia) and other types of sage may mimic the effects of estrogen, making them potentially unsafe for women with hormone-dependent cancers.
- Sage may lower blood sugar, interfering with medications you take for diabetes
- Sage may have a sedative effect on some people
It’s important to let your doctor know if you are taking a sage supplement, including tea, especially if you have or are on medication for high or low blood pressure, any type of cancer, or diabetes.
A doctor, pharmacist, or nurse can be great resources to ask your questions.
The poses, deep breathing, and meditative aspects of yoga can be beneficial for women experiencing menopause. The mechanism by which yoga positively effects menopause symptoms isn’t fully understood, but, it has been shown to improve hot flashes and night sweats. It may also reduce anxiety and increase positive feelings.
Like acupuncture and reflexology, acupressure concentrates on specific points along the body’s meridians. An acupressurist uses their hands and fingers to do this, instead of needles. Stimulating these points with exacting pressure may help to balance fluctuating hormonal levels, reducing certain menopausal symptoms. A study, reported in the “Iranian Journal of Nursing and Midwifery Research,” found that acupressure was more effective than placebo at reducing hot flashes, night sweats, and anxiety, particularly when combined with conventional medical care.
There are a number of ways that your doctor can help treat menopause symptoms. One of these is hormone replacement therapy (HRT). Talk to your doctor about any concerns you may have about hormone replacement. Your age and the amount of time that has passed since you started menopause make a difference in the safety of HRT.
The Women’s Health Initiative (WHI) concluded in 2012 that HRT may be safe and most effective for younger women who are in early menopause. WHI’s recommendation is based on two studies they completed with 27,347 post-menopausal women.
Other conventional treatments for menopausal symptoms include medications, such as:
Herbal supplements are typically extracted from the leaves, stems, seeds, or flowers of plants. Then they’re manufactured into teas, capsules, and other forms. Many of the plants used to make herbal supplements for menopausal symptoms have naturally-occurring compounds called phytoestrogens. Phytoestrogens can have some effects in the body similar to estrogen, the female hormone which declines during menopause.
Herbal remedies are regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as dietary supplements, not as medications. This means that they’re not as researched or as regulated as traditional medications and there may be less oversight or assurance of the quality and ingredients in them. Herbal supplement manufacturers are also not required to get FDA approval prior to selling their products. This puts a higher level of responsibility onto consumers to fully understand the potential benefits and risks of the herbal supplements they choose.
Some very preliminary evidence suggests that sage might help improve symptoms of menopause such as night sweats or hot flashes. Sage is available as a tea and in oral supplement form. Only the supplement form of sage has shown to be helpful for menopausal symptoms. Due to the limited research, the best dose to take is not clear.
It’s important to discuss your health regiments with a doctor since sage can have interactions with other medicines. Let healthcare providers know about any herbal supplements you take.