Characteristics of White Sage

White sage is an evergreen perennial shrub native to southwestern United States and northwestern Mexico. Reaching over 3 feet tall, the plant is also known as bee sage or sacred sage and has long been used for medicinal and spiritual purposes.

Characteristics of White Sage

White sage or Salvia apiana consists mainly of basal leaves that are covered in dense, fine hairs that give it the appearance of being white. Its flowers are small and white with striking lavender streaks and spots and the inflorescences are spike-like clusters. The fruit that forms on the plant are small, shiny brown nutlets.

Growing White Sage

White sage is relatively easy to grow, but only in its native climate. It needs dry, well-drained soil and full sun. It thrives in temperatures up to 110 degrees, where it absorbs the energy from the sun to make aromatic oils that help to keep its leaves alive and supple. Because of its native climate, it is drought-resistant and requires very little water to thrive. It flowers between May and August.

White sage varies from other sage varieties due to its growing conditions and its flavor. Unlike other varieties, white sage is not as commonly used in cooking as the typical garden varieties like tri-color, purple and golden sages.

Uses for White Sage

White sage has long been associated with longevity and strength, with healing and fortifying properties being recognized worldwide. Along with aiding in digestion, sage has been used as an astringent, antiseptic, antibiotic and antispasmodic.

Native Americans used white sage for many purposes:

  • Seeds were ground into a flour and used in cooking
  • Leaves were used as a seasoning for cooking
  • Leaves were mixed with water and used as a hair shampoo, dye and straightener
  • Leaves were eaten and smoked as a remedy for colds

Additionally, white sage has been used as a tea for medicinal purposes to decrease swelling, salivation and mucous secretions in the lungs, throat and sinuses. When served cold, it is used as a stomach tonic, and warm, it is helpful to treat a sore throat. Sage tea is also used in many cultures as a treatment for fever, while other cultures use a sage bath or tea rubdown to reduce fever.

Considered sacred by many Native Americans, white sage is also used as an incense believed to cleanse a space of both negative energies and evil spirits. For this purpose, the leaves are bundled in a wand or stick and burnt as part of a purification ceremony.

With so many uses, white sage is a great herb to grow in your garden. You must live in the appropriate climate, though, to have any success at growing white sage. If you live in a cooler or wetter climate, look into the other varieties of edible sage that are available that may better meet your growing needs and conditions.