Sage, also known as Salvia officinalis, originated in the Mediterranean and is grown in many countries throughout the world. The leaves are commonly dried and added to a variety of foods for seasoning, such as meats and dressings. Although sage is mostly used as a culinary herb, it has also been used in alternative medicine to treat a variety of ailments, including sore throat, diabetes, upset stomach, and inflammation. Previous studies have shown that sage possesses the ability to interact with peroxisome proliferator activated receptor — gamma (PPAR-gamma), a molecule in the body that's been shown to decrease inflammation, lower blood sugar and block lipid absorption when activated. Because of this mechanism of action, sage is also thought to help lower cholesterol levels.
Does Sage Lower Cholesterol?
Although studies suggest that sage can lower cholesterol levels, only a few such studies exist. In one study, six healthy volunteers drank a tea for a four-week period that consisted of 4 grams of dried sage added to 300 mL of boiling water. At the end of the study, the researchers discovered that low density lipoproteins (LDL) and total cholesterol levels were lowered by about 12% and 5%, respectively, whereas high density lipoproteins (HDL) were increased by up to 50%. Triglycerides did not appear to be affected in this study.
Another study looked at the consumption of 500 mg of sage powder every eight hours for two months in a small group of people with untreated high cholesterol levels. After two months, it was noted that total cholesterol levels and triglycerides were lowered by almost 16% and 18%, respectively, whereas HDL was increased by up to 10%. Although LDL was slightly decreased in this study, it did not appear to be statistically significant.
Animal studies have also examined the use of sage in lowering cholesterol levels, and are varied in results. But some of these studies also suggest a slight decrease in LDL, triglycerides, and total cholesterol, and a slight increase in HDL cholesterol levels.
The Bottom Line
There aren't many studies that have examined the effectiveness of sage in lowering cholesterol levels, but the results from these studies appear promising. Although no definite link has been established between including sage and lowered cholesterol levels, this low-fat, low-calorie herb can be added to your cholesterol-lowering diet. Sage contains a variety of heart-healthy ingredients that could contribute to its cholesterol-lowering abilities, including phytosterols, flavonoids, terpenoids, carsonic acid and polyphenols.
Cooking with Sage
Sage can have an overpowering taste, so it wouldn't be pleasing to your taste buds if you consumed it alone. However, sage can be used to season a variety of dishes — making it an ideal herb for seasoning your foods instead of using salt or butter. There are many types of foods you can season with sage, including:
- Seasoning some of your favorite lean meats with sage. You can sprinkle fresh or dried sage leaves onto lean poultry or fish before or during cooking to yield a lightly seasoned, tasty meal.
- Adding sage to soups and stews. Sage can add flavor to filling soups containing any low-cholesterol ingredients of your choice. While most recipes call for one-half teaspoon of dried sage for best flavoring, the above studies used a lot more than this per serving (2.5 teaspoons of dried sage = 1 gram) to obtain their cholesterol-lowering effect.
- Adding sage to side dishes. Sage tastes delicious in sides containing vegetables, breads, or dressings. You just need a small amount to give extra flavor to the side.
If you’re still looking for ideas on how to include sage in your heart-healthy diet, try some of these low-fat recipes and tips.
Sa CM, Ramos AA, Azevedo MF, et al. Sage tea drinking improves lipid profile and antioxidant defenses in humans. Int J Mol Sci 2009;10:3937-3950
Kianbakht S, Abasi B, Perham M, et al. Antihyperlipidemic effects of Salvia officinalis leaf extract in patients with hyperlipidemia: a randomized double-blind placebo-controlled clinical trial. Phytother Res 2011;25:1849-1853
Ninomiya K, Matsuda H, Shimoda H, et al. Carnosic acid, a new class of lipid absorption inhibitor from sage. Bioorgan Med Chem Let 2004;14:1943-1946