Clary Sage (Salvia sclarea) essential oil is steam-distilled from the leaves and buds from the plant, often sourced from India, Bulgaria and France. Clary Sage is a biennial or perennial herb that is fast growing. The plant begins as a rosette, and, by its second year, produces strong, hairy stems that reach an average height of three feet. The large, downy green leaves are paired and show a hint of purple. The herb produces lush spikes of lilac or blue flowers that bloom from spring to mid-summer and attract bees and other pollinators.
The Aroma is Due to Chemistry
Clary Sage has a complex aroma due to its chemistry. Linalol contributes to its floral and herbaceous notes reminiscent of Lavender (which also contains a high content of this chemical). Linalyl acetate provides a sweeter fruitiness similar to Bergamot (which, again, has much of this chemical). It therefore blends beautifully with both of these oils. A blend of all three is excellent for relaxation. Other essential oils that Clary Sage goes well with are Cedarwood, Chamomiles, Geranium, Jasmine, Neroli, Orange, Sandalwood and Ylang-ylang.
History of Clary Sage
In the past, a Clary Sage seed was used for eye irritation. The seed was placed in the sore eye which would then secrete mucilage (a sticky goo that many plants produce) and thus carry out any irritants, like dust or sand. This practice of clearing the eye gave rise to the herb’s name – from the Latin ‘clarus’, for ‘clear’. Clary sage is still used today to brighten the eyes, improve vision, and slow down the ocular aging process. In the Middle Ages, Clary Sage was used for its benefits to the skin and has continued to be popular for its topical benefits. In Asian medicine, Clary Sage oil is thought to circulate and strengthen Qi – the body’s life force. In Jamaica, the herb was once used to soothe ulcers, while a decoction of the leaves boiled in coconut oil was thought to cure scorpion stings. Traditional healers and Aromatherapists also use it to treat bronchitis, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, haemorrhoids, circulatory problems, digestive distress, muscle aches, kidney disorders, and hair loss, and as an aphrodisiac.
The chemical make-up of Clary Sage leads this essential oil to have anti-spasmodic action, relaxing smooth muscle. It can be used in respiratory blends to ease asthma and other issues causing spasms in the chest. Clary Sage is added to tummy blends for both digestive spasms and menstrual pain. It can be used in massage blends to ease muscular spasms. Several studies have been done which provide evidence that Clary Sage is useful for menopausal symptoms, including hot flushes and anxiety.
Warning When Using Clary Sage
Please note that sclareol, a chemical found in Clary Sage, may show oestrogen-like action, and so this oil should be avoided if menstrual flow is particularly heavy, during pregnancy and if breast-feeding, and if breast cancer is a risk. Due to its blood pressure lowering properties, it should not be used by those who already experience low blood pressure.