Native to Europe and cultivated worldwide, Clary Sage has many chemotypes and each has a
separate scent profile depending on what is harvested and the terroir. This profile details the many sides
of Clary Sage and how it is used.
(Clary Sage flowers – Jeanne Rose garden 2014)
Clary Sage Synopsis
By Jeanne Rose
Common Name/Latin Binomial: Clary Sage, Salvia sclarea
Other Common Name/Naming Information: The word salvia comes from the Latin salvus having to do with medicinal properties and health and sclarea from the Latin clarus or clear meaning the leaves and seeds are used medicinally to clear the eye. [It does NOT mean you can use the EO in the eye; it means if there was a bug or something in the eye, the seed was placed in the corner of the eye and exuded a moist gooey substance called a mucilage that would enable the person to remove the seed as well as whatever it was stuck too.]
Family: Lamiaceae (Labiatae)
Countries of Origins: It is native to Europe and cultivated worldwide. in the past was found in Southern France, Italy, and Syria, but today is cultivated worldwide – mostly within European regions, including Central Europe, as well as England, Morocco, Russia, and the United States.
Harvest Location: Clary Sage absolute originates in France and Clary Sage EO is from Bulgaria.
Endangered or Not: Not at this time
General description of Plant habitat and growth: Biennial or perennial plant growing up to three feet high with large hairy leaves that only grow to half the height of the plant. Coming directly off long, thin stems, the lilac-pink flowers rise above the leaves.
Portion of plant used in distillation, how distilled, extraction methods and yields: Clary Sage must be picked and distilled fresh and with removal of the thick stalk. The flowers and flowering tops are steam distilled. Depending on terroir, climate and weather, the yield is .1-1.0%.
- Color pale yellow green
- Clarity clear
- Viscosity Non-viscous
- Intensity of odor 4
Bergamot & Amber =2; Rose Geranium = 4; Tea Tree= 6; Cinnamon = 8; Wintergreen & Cloves = 9
Odor Description/ Aroma Assessment:Clary Sage has many chemotypes and each has a separate scent profile.I use a simple Vocabulary of Odor© to describe to describe the odor of essential oils. It is easy to learn and very helpful in the study of these products of distillation. I also have an Advanced Vocabulary of Odor© that is more complex but gives you a snapshot of the scent. So it always surprises me when someone can’t seem to use descriptive words to describe an odor and resorts to poetical uses. Poetry is beautiful but it is not helpful in describing an odor. The Perfume Album by Jessee describes Clary Sage thusly, “It taxes vocabulary and imagination to describe adequately the precise character of the clary sage fragrance. It has been likened to that of ambergris and labdanum…”. “The odor is considered reminiscent of Ambergris (a type of whale excreta)”. I find this description very unhelpful. It really doesn’t do this herb or EO justice.
However, since there are so many different Clary Sage odors due to the many chemotypes or the different terroirs and how it is grown; or whether it is harvested and distilled for leaves or for flowers alone; the variety of scent descriptions is enormous. My favorite Clary Sage odor is one that comes from plants distilled mainly from the flowers; it is citrus, strongly fruity and lightly floral with a distinctive herbaceous back note that is quite spicy.
Clary Sage Absolute supplied by Eden Botanicals
General Properties: The herb is calmative, relaxant, and soporific. The EO can be calming, aphrodisiac, tonic, nervine, estrogenic, antidepressant astringent, antispasmodic and even grounding.
Uses of Properties: When used by application in skin care products, Clary Sage is used in skin care for aging skin, regenerating skin, and for reducing wrinkles. It stimulates hair growth when mixed with Jojoba oil and applied to the roots. It may also be useful in certain products for muscular fatigue, cramps, and excessive perspiration. The EO may also be inhaled for menstrual problems, fertility, PMS, menopausal problems, exhaustion, and for reducing epileptic attacks. Only more science and time will tell if these problems can be successfully treated by Clary Sage EO.
For years I primarily used Clary Sage as an inhalant during hot flashes. I alternated with Pink Grapefruit and White Grapefruit.
Application/ Skincare: Clary Sage is used in skin care for aging skin, regenerating skin, and for reducing wrinkles. It stimulates hair growth when mixed with Jojoba oil and applied to the roots. It may be used for excessive perspiration.
A Recipe by Jeanne Rose for the Skin
FINE SKIN CARE OIL Acne/Pimples.
Make a mixture of the following
• 2 drops Clary Sage
• 2 drops Roman Chamomile or Owyhee
• 1 drop Lantana
• 1 drop Cypress
• 14 drops Almond or Olive oil
Apply directly to the Acne or Pimple after cleansing the skin.
Diffuse/Diffusion: Clary Sage EO can be added to most other EO to make a blends depending on your need and what oils you blend together. Diffusion can be used for hot flashes, nervous fatigue, depression, emotional distress, and a good night’s rest. It is grounding, relaxing and mildly intoxicating.
Thirty years ago I decided to spend a summer making Clary Sage perfumes. I tried everyone’s recipes and made over a hundred using Clary Sage and Patchouli as the top note and base note with a variety of different odors in between. Up to that time I had not truly appreciated the scent of Clary Sage but grew to love it especially with Labdanum and Vetivert. So I grew it in the garden. Now I notice that the very special pungent odor of Clary Sage EO that I am used too is gone, replaced by a pale shadow of itself. This less intense odor may be preferred by those who make perfume. I suggest to anyone who enjoys Clary Sage EO to make a point of growing several of the chemotypes (sclareol type and other) sometime to really get to know and understand the odor.
Clary Sage Exam of 13 sorts – see how many I studied
Emotional/Energetic Use: When inhaled Clary Sage is useful to reduce hot flashes, nervous fatigue, depression, emotional distress, PMS, and for a good night’s rest. It is grounding and also mildly intoxicating. There are internet sites that state Clary Sage is “energetically attuned to the structure of the eye, connecting the physical eyes with the Third eye. It expands sensory and psychic powers.”
Key Use: Skin care and female problems related to the reproductive system.
Chemical Components: linalool, linalyl acetate up to 72%, caryophyllene, a-terpineol, geraniol, neryl acetate, sclareol in the sclareol chemotype and germacrene D. There are many chemotypes of Clary Sage and they are rarely identified on the bottles. The farmers who grow Clary Sage for the tobacco crop often have the sclareol type while perfumers want the non-sclareol type.
Specific Gravity at 15°/15° ………. 0.900 to 0.910
Optical Rotation ……………………… -11°22’ to -32°38’
Refractive Index ……………………… 1.4613 to 1.4700
Solubility ………………………… Soluble in some cases in 1 vol. of 80% alcohol, opalescent with more. In most cases, however, soluble in 0.5 vol. of 90% alcohol, clear to turbid with more.
Essential oil glands of Clary Sage
Comparison of Main Components: Abstract from Flavour and Fragrance Journal. June 1991, Volume 6, Issue 2, Pages fmi–fmi, 109–169. The chemical composition of two essential oil types of Salvia sclarea L. during early and late flowering stages was analyzed. A new chemotype with relatively high citral, geranyl acetate and geraniol content was observed in two small populations growing in northern Israel. Comparison of the new chemotype with a Russian type showed a great difference in composition, scent and organoleptic character between the two oils. The highest amount of mono- and sesquiterpene hydrocarbons was detected in the Israeli type, at the early flowering stage. The relative quantity of most components of hybrid oils was intermediate between those of the parent plants.
Blends Best with: Clary Sage blends well with Bergamot, Wild Orange, Cypress, Geranium, Jasmine, Lavender and Sandalwood essential oil and is a perfect combination with Labdanum or Patchouli.
Blending with formula: Here is a simple calming massage oil.
Top note – 20 drops of Pink Grapefruit
Heart note – 10 drops of Clary Sage
Base Note – 5 drops Patchouli
Succuss the formula. Then add a carrier oil of your choice up to ½-1 oz. Succuss again. Use.
HYDROSOL: Clary Sage hydrosol is used for oily skin as an astringent. It can be a facial spray to energize, for PMS and for easing drug withdrawal. I also spray it on sweets as a tasty addition.
PLEASE NOTE: A true hydrosol should be specifically distilled for the hydrosol, not as a co-product or even a by-product of essential oil distillation. The plant’s cellular water has many components most are lost under pressurized short steam runs for essential oil, or by using dried material. We recommend that the producers specifically distill for a product by using plant material that is fresh.
Historical Uses: Poucher mentions that Salvia sclarea “is pre-eminent as a fixator for any perfume and when added to a perfume at ½ to 1% will within a month smooth out and get rid of “any chemical smell” of your perfume”. It is invaluable as a blender and fixative in alcoholic perfumes, and particularly in toilet waters —such as traditional eau-de-cologne.
Interesting Information: It is grown in North Carolina for the flavor and fragrance industry. When it is in bloom it fills the field at harvest time and the odor is very strong. David Peele of Avoca, Inc. laughs when he mentions how people react to the odor, … “People have a concept of what it should smell like,” he said. “We have to laugh when we see them stop on the road and grab a bunch of the flowers. “Then, about a mile down the road, we’ll see the flowers thrown out on the side.”
“The name Salvia is derived from the Latin word for ‘good health’. In Germany the herb was used with elderflowers as an additive to cheap wine to make it taste like Muscatel. Also used to flavor vermouths and liqueurs. In Britain, it was used as a substitute for hops in beer making. In Jamaica, the plant was blended with coconut to ease scorpion stings. The seeds were used in many countries to clear conditions of the eye—hence the name ‘clear-eye’”, Essential Aromatherapy, p.126.
Contraindications: There is no evidence that the sclareol of Clary Sage ‘balances the hormones’ and does not seem to have any negative side effects although there are some sources that recommend it not be used during the first trimester of pregnancy. For some, Clary Sage is mildly intoxicating.
Safety Precautions: Moderation in use is recommended.
Patch Test: If applying a new essential oil to your skin always perform a patch test to the inner arm (after you have diluted the EO in a vegetable carrier oil). —Wash an area of your forearm about the size of a quarter and dry carefully. Apply a diluted drop (1 drop EO + 1 drop carrier) to the area. Then apply a loose Band-Aid and wait 24 hours. If there is no reaction, then go ahead and use the oil in your formulas. —The Aromatherapy Book, Applications & Inhalations, p. 64
Ingestion of Essential Oils: I do not recommend the ingestion or injection of essential oils for any reason.
Arctander, Steffen. Perfume and Flavor Materials of Natural Origin. Arctander. 1960
Coombs, Allen J. Dictionary of Plant Names. Timber Press. 1995
Guenther, Ernest. The Essential Oils. Krieger Publishing. Florida. 1976
Harman, Ann. Harvest to Hydrosol. IAG Botanics. 2015 (supporter of testing hydrosols)
Herbal Studies Course/ Jeanne Rose. San Francisco California, 1992
Jessee, Jill. Perfume Album. Robert E. Krieger Publ. Co. 1951.
Mabberley, D. J. Mabberley’s Plant-Book, 3rd edition, 2014 printing, Cambridge University Press.
Mojay, Gabriel. Aromatherapy for Healing the Spirit. Rochester, Vermont: Healing Arts Press, 1999.
Poucher, W.A. Perfumes and Cosmetics. D. Van Nostrand Company. 1923
Rose, Jeanne. 375 Essential Oils and Hydrosols. Berkeley, California: Frog, Ltd., 1999
Rose, Jeanne. The Aromatherapy Book: Applications & Inhalations. San Francisco, California:
Worwood, Susan & Valerie Ann. Essential Aromatherapy, Novato, California: New World Library, 2003.
Diversity of essential oil glands of clary sage (Salvia sclarea L., Lamiaceae) By C. Schmiderer1, P. Grassi1, J. Novak1, M. Weber2 and C. Franz1
Article first published online: 28 JUN 2008DOI: 10.1111/j.1438-8677.2008.00053.x© 2008 German Botanical Society and The Royal Botanical Society of the Netherlands Plant Biology Volume pages 433–440, July 2008.
The Lamiaceae is rich in aromatic plant species. Most of these species produce and store essential oils in specialized epidermal oil glands, which are responsible for their specific flavor. Two types of glands producing essential oil and possessing different morphological structure can be found in Salvia sclarea: peltate and capitate glands. The content of single oil glands from different positions on the plant (corolla, calyx and leaf) were sampled using an SPME fiber and analyzed by gas chromatography in order to study variability of the essential oil composition. It was found that the composition of terpenoids is quite variable within an individual plant. Capitate oil glands mainly produce three essential oil compounds: the monoterpenes linalool and linalyl acetate, and the diterpene sclareol. Peltate oil glands, however, accumulate noticeable concentrations of sesquiterpenes and an unknown compound (m/z = 354). Furthermore, the oil composition varies within each gland type according to the plant organ. Linalool and linalyl acetate are characteristic substances of flowers, whereas the sesquiterpenes occur in higher proportions in leaves. Even within one gland type on a single leaf, the chemical variability is exceedingly high.
DISCLAIMER: This work is intended for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for accurate diagnosis and treatment by a qualified health care professional. Dosages are often not given, as that is a matter between you and your health care provider. The author is neither a chemist nor a medical doctor. The content herein is the product of research and personal and practical experience. Institute of Aromatic & Herbal Studies – Jeanne Rose©