The Secret To Fighting Inflammation Is Hiding In Your Pantry
It’s late summer, the light is amber gold, and every green thing pulses with life. I keep the Kale & Caramel cookbook herbal chart close at hand, deciphering the healing properties and flavor profiles of every herb and flower I meet. As summer transitions to fall, I lean into richer flavors and herbs that carry deep healing properties—and sage, with its deceptively powerful anti-inflammatory benefits, comes into focus.
Whether in fresh leaves or dried, oil or extract, sage's pungent aroma and phytochemical makeup are as powerful in culinary uses as they are in anti-inflammatory applications1. From the Latin salvare—"to save"—sage has been used for centuries to strengthen the respiratory system, ease congestion, and support overall well-being. While the mere mention of sage may conjure visions of Thanksgiving stuffing and pseudo-shamanic space-clearing rituals, the herb’s applications are wide-ranging. Let’s look at sage in the kitchen, in its aromatherapeutic applications, and in its full glory as an anti-inflammatory healer.
Sage in the kitchen.
Sage is from the mint family and is related to other common herbs like rosemary and thyme. That said, its flavor has a unique depth and softness that lends itself to pairing with nuts, cheeses, root vegetables, winter squash, and alliums. It’s no wonder we look to sage for holiday celebrations. Try pairing sage with savory-sweet combos, like apples and oatmeal, potatoes and pumpkin, goat cheese, honey, and persimmon.
Whether its aroma is expressed through stovetop heat, a steeped tea, or a ritual burn, the scent of sage is purifying and stimulating. The proof is in the sniffing: Let a few deep breaths of sage’s earthy fragrance ground, calm, and stabilize—preparing you for transitions in seasons and life.
Sage as healer.
Like its plant relative rosemary, sage contains rosmarinic acid, a phytochemical that has both antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. The Journal of Traditional and Complementary Medicine1 writes that sage is a "natural source of flavonoids and polyphenolic compounds…possessing strong antioxidant, radical-scavenging, and antibacterial activities."
Sage can help revive dull tissues, alleviate congestion, and support respiratory function—while also working as a powerful antioxidant, antiviral, glucose lowering, and tumor-inhibiting agent2. Its anti-inflammatory powers are even said to improve memory2. Aqueous extracts, like a simple sage tea, are the perfect place to start. Drink it daily to reap the powerful benefits of sage throughout the season.
Anti-Inflammatory Sage Tea
- 3 tablespoons fresh or dried sage leaves, packed
- 2 cups boiling water
- Place leaves in a disposable tea bag or sachet, and steep in boiling water for 10 to 15 minutes.
- Remove sachet and discard leaves.
- Sip liberally; breathe deeply.
Want more anti-inflammatory foods? This nutritionist-designed dinner will help fight inflammation AND heal your gut.
Lily Diamond is an editor and wellness writer raised on Maui. She graduated from Yale University with a bachelor's in literature and theatre studies. Her first cookbook, Kale & Caramel: Recipes for Body, Heart, and Table, was named by The New York Times as one of the best cookbooks of Spring 2017, and The Independent called it one of the top vegetarian cookbooks of 2017. Diamond is also an activist, harnessing the power of digital media to democratize wellness and empower women through storytelling, technology, and revolutionary acts of self-care. She now resides in California, where she does her best to forage whenever she can (it gets dicey in L.A., but can’t stop an island girl from trying).