Sage is not recommended for breast cancer


Sage refers to the leaves of the plant Salvia officinalis, a member of the mint family. Sage has been found to have antiseptic, antimicrobial, astringent, antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antifungal, antiviral, hypoglycemic, antiatherogenic and antimutagenic properties. Sage contains numerous biologically active compounds, including caffeic acid, camphor, carnosol, carnosic acid, cineol, epirosmanol, galdosol, genistein, isorosmanol, limonene, luteolin, rosmanol, rosmarinic acid, thujone, and ursolic acid.

Sage has been found to have anti-diabetic effects, reducing levels of serum glucose, triglycerides, and total cholesterol, and increasing plasma insulin in diabetic rats but not in normal rats. Sage has been shown to improve memory retention in both Alzheimer's patients and college-age subjects, however long-term heavy use can cause seizures or other neurological symptoms due to sage's thujone content.

Cancer-related effects of consuming sage

Carnosol and carnosic acid, both found in sage, have been shown to arrest human colon cancer cell development at different phases of the cell cycle. Carnosol also has been shown to inhibit carcinogenesis of human prostate cancer cells. Beta-ursolic acid, another sage compound, has been shown to inhibit lung colonization of mouse melanoma cells. Luteolin has been found to induce apoptosis (programmed cell death) in triple negative (ER-/PR-/HER2-) breast cancer cells.

Sage is used in several folk medicine traditions for its hormonal effects. Sage is sometimes recommended for menopausal problems, especially hot flashes and night sweats. Sage is also recommended by some health practitioners to relieve milk oversupply and breast engorgement during weaning and is believed to reduce milk supply by acting directly on hormone receptors. On the other hand, sage is sometimes used to promote lactation. One 2015 study reported that rats' given sage extract experienced increases in the number and diameter of mammary gland ducts compared to untreated rats. Sage's reputed ability to influence lactation has not been thoroughly investigated (this action is not normally associated with phytoestrogens). Until this lactation-related effect has been explained, we recommend avoiding all but modest amounts of sage and would advise against regular consumption of sage tea.

Sage is also thought to stimulate the uterus, and is sometimes used during childbirth and to expel the placenta. Therefore, sage should be avoided by women who are pregnant, trying to become pregnant, or nursing.

Additional comments

Red sage (Salvia officinalis var. rubia) refers to the leaves of a variety of common sage and has essentially the same properties as sage. Red sage root (also known as salvia root or dan shen) refers to the root and rhizome of Salvia miltiorrhiza, another plant in the Labiatae family. It is used as in Chinese medicine to treat irregular menstruation, cardiovascular problems, and inflammation, and as a tranquilizer, among other uses.

Sage essential oil (sage oil) is used as a food preservative (for example in liver pÔtÚs), however it is greatly diluted during food processing. Sage essential oil is too concentrated to be safely swallowed undiluted and can be considered a poison. Sage should be avoided by those who suffer from epilepsy or other seizure disorders. Drinking sage tea could potentially increase liver damage from some prescription medications and should be avoided by those with liver disease. Sage-drug interactions may occur when taken with drugs designed to treat conditions on which sage appears to act, some psychotropic drugs and painkillers, and other drugs (e.g., oxytocin, nalbuphine, bromocriptine mesylate, ethionamide). Clearly, caution is advised when combining significant amounts of sage or regular sage tea drinking with prescription medications. Sage should be avoided during chemotherapy.

Below are links to recent studies concerning this food. For a more complete list of studies, please click on sage.

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Selected breast cancer studies

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