AskDefine | Define Salvia

Dictionary Definition

salvia n : any of various plants of the genus Salvia; a cosmopolitan herb [syn: sage]

User Contributed Dictionary



From salvia.




  1. A genus of plants in the mint family, including sage.



  1. sage (herb)



  1. sage



  1. sage

Extensive Definition

Salvia is a genus of plants in the mint family, Lamiaceae. It is one of three genera commonly referred to as sage. When used without modifiers, sage generally refers to common sage (Salvia officinalis); however, it can be used with modifiers to refer to any member of the genus. This genus includes approximately 700 to 900 species of shrubs, herbaceous perennials, and annuals with almost world-wide distribution. The center of diversity and origin appears to be Central and South Western Asia. Different species of sage are grown as herbs and as ornamental plants. The ornamental species are commonly referred to by their scientific name Salvia.
The closely related genera Perovskia and Phlomis are also known as sage. Some species of the unrelated genus Artemisia are also referred to as sages, a shortened version of sagebrush. Smudge bundles are made with various grey-leaved species of Artemisia and are misrepresented as "whitesage" smudges. The true whitesage is Salvia apiana.


Salvia species include annual, biennial, or perennial herbs, and a few woody based sub-shrubs. The stems are typically angled like other members in Lamiaceae. The flowers are produced in spikes, racemes, or panicles, and generally produce a showy display with flower colors ranging from blue to red with white and yellow less common. The calyx is normally tubular or bell shaped, with out bearded throats, and divided into 2 parts or lips, the upper lip entire or 3-toothed, the lower 2-cleft. The corollas are often claw shaped and are 2-lipped with the upper lip entire or notched and the lower spreading. The lower lip typically has 3 lobes with the middle lobe longest. The stamens are reduced to two short structures with anthers 2-celled, the upper cell fertile, and the lower imperfect. The flower styles are 2-cleft. The fruits are smooth nutlets and many species have a mucilaginous coating.
Salvia species are used as food plants by the larvae of some Lepidoptera (butterfly and moth) species including (but not limited to) the bucculatricid leaf-miner Bucculatrix taeniola which feeds exclusively on the genus and the Coleophora case-bearers C. aegyptiacae, C. salviella (both feed exclusively on S. aegyptiaca), C. ornatipennella and C. virgatella (both recorded on S. pratensis).

Selected species

Cultivation and uses


The sage species used as herbs come from the Mediterranean and Asia Minor. Sage has also been grown in central Europe since the Middle Ages.
The name Salvia derives from the Latin salvere, which means "to heal". Indeed this herb is highly regarded for its healing qualities. An ancient proverb states, "Why should a man die who has sage in his garden?". The ancient Greeks used it to treat consumption, ulcers and snake bites.
The Ancient Romans considered sage to be a sacred herb and followed an elaborate ceremony when harvesting it. A sage gatherer would use a special knife (not made of iron as it reacts with the sage), have to have clean clothes and clean feet and a sacrifice of food would have to be made before he could begin. The Romans would use it for toothpaste; they also believed it to be good for the brain, senses and memory.
The Chinese also were quite partial to this herb. 17th century Dutch merchants found that they would trade one chest of sage leaves for three of their teas
Sages are also used by several Native American cultures.

Medicinal uses

Several types of Salvia are used medicinally:
  • aromatic varieties (usually strongly scented leaves, also used as herbs)
  • non-aromatic varieties (not considered medicinal, but many still have a scent)
  • Chia sages
  • S. divinorum (Diviner's sage) contains a diterpenoid used for spiritual and recreational purposes.
  • Research has shown that Salvia officinalis improves cognitive function in Alzheimer's disease patients over a period of several months.
The aromatic sages strengthen the lungs and can be used in teas or tinctures to prevent coughs. Less aromatic species of Salvia are run-of-the-mill mint-family anti-inflammatories, which means that they can be used for pretty much any infection or inflammation, and will give at least some relief.
Common sage (Salvia officinalis) drunk as a cold tea will stop sweating, while the same tea drunk hot will produce sweating. Cold and hot teas will also either stop or enhance milk production. The essential oil is used in aromatherapy and medicine.
White sage (Salvia apiana) is a very strong general anti-inflammatory, used as tea or tincture. The tincture has a very nice scent and can be used as a perfume. This species is the famous whitesage of smudge sticks.
Pineapple sage (Salvia elegans, old: S. rutilans) is a tender perennial with pineapple-scented leaves. Medicinally, this is perhaps closest to the scented geraniums, a sweet-smelling Pelargonium species.
Red sage (Salvia miltiorrhiza) is used medicinally in Traditional Chinese medicine.
Chia sages. The seeds of these species are used as bulk laxatives, much like the seeds of Psyllium (Plantago spp.) or linseed. Chia has been important in the diet of desert Indians. It is still used for its mucilaginous qualities by Mexican natives.
Diviner's sage (Salvia divinorum) also called Yerba de la Pastora or sometimes just Salvia, is a plant that differs from all the other sages. It is a Mexican visionary herb and there is some evidence it is a true cultivar. It is known to have strong psychoactive (specifically psychedelic) properties.

References and external links

  • A Book of Salvias: Sages for Every Garden by Betsy Clebsch, Timber Press, 1997, ISBN 0-88192-369-9. An excellent reference on salvias. Also, an updated (2004 edition) is available.
  • ITIS 32680 2002-09-06
  • Akhondzadeh S, Noroozian M, Mohammadi M. R. 2003, Salvia Officinalis extract in the treatment of mild to moderate Alzheimer’s disease: A double blind and placebo-controlled trial. British Journal of Pharmacology, Vol. 140, p22P-22P, 1/2p
commons Salvia


Salvia in Guarani: Sálvia
Salvia in Breton: Saoj
Salvia in Catalan: Salvia
Salvia in Danish: Salvie
Salvia in German: Salbei
Salvia in Spanish: Salvia
Salvia in Esperanto: Salvio
Salvia in Persian: خزنه
Salvia in French: Sauge
Salvia in Upper Sorbian: Dobra želbija
Salvia in Italian: Salvia
Salvia in Hebrew: מרווה
Salvia in Lithuanian: Šalavijas
Salvia in Dutch: Salie (geslacht)
Salvia in Japanese: アキギリ属
Salvia in Norwegian: Salvier
Salvia in Polish: Szałwia
Salvia in Portuguese: Salvia
Salvia in Romanian: Salvia
Salvia in Quechua: Sipita
Salvia in Russian: Шалфей
Salvia in Simple English: Salvia
Salvia in Swedish: Salvior
Salvia in Turkish: Ada çayı
Salvia in Ukrainian: Шавлія
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