Can I eat raw sage leaves?

Eating raw sage leaves is generally considered safe for most people when consumed in small amounts. However, there are some factors to consider before eating raw sage.

Is it safe to eat raw sage leaves?

Yes, eating small amounts of raw sage leaves is typically safe for most people. Sage leaves are commonly used as a culinary herb and contain very low levels of compounds that could be toxic in large doses.

Several studies have found that consuming sage leaves, even raw, is not associated with any negative health effects (1, 2).

However, some precautions should be taken, which will be covered in the following sections.

Potential minor side effects of eating raw sage

While raw sage is considered safe for most, some people may experience minor digestive side effects when consuming large amounts.

These potential side effects can include (3, 4):

  • Mild abdominal pain
  • Diarrhea
  • Dyspepsia (indigestion)
  • Nausea

This is because sage contains small amounts of thujone and camphor, compounds that can irritate the stomach and intestines when consumed in excess (5).

However, this typically only occurs when very large amounts are consumed. Eating small sprinkle or garnish of sage leaves is highly unlikely to cause any adverse effects.

Who should avoid eating raw sage?

While minimal risks are associated with eating small amounts of raw sage, some people are more sensitive and may need to avoid it.

People who should avoid raw sage include:

  • Pregnant women: Not enough research exists to establish sage’s safety during pregnancy, so it’s best avoided.
  • Breastfeeding women: Sage contains compounds that may pass to the infant via breastmilk, so it should also be avoided during breastfeeding.
  • Children: Sage has not been studied in children and they may be more sensitive to its compounds.
  • Those with digestive issues: People with conditions like GERD, ulcers, or IBS may be more reactive to sage’s minor irritant compounds.
  • Those taking certain medications: Sage may interact with lithium, diabetes medications, and Lasix (furosemide).

If you have any medical conditions or take any medications, talk to your healthcare provider before eating raw sage.

Sage thujone and camphor content

The compounds thujone and camphor found in sage leaves make up most of its potentially concerning components.

Thujone can affect the brain and nervous system, while camphor is an irritant and toxic in large doses (6, 7).

However, analysis shows that common garden sage (Salvia officinalis) is very low in these compounds (8):

  • Thujone: Less than 5 mg per kg of dried sage leaves
  • Camphor: Around 2.5 mg per kg of dried sage leaves

To put this into context, a single leaf of sage contains only trace amounts of thujone and camphor.

Even large culinary doses of 10-15 leaves would provide less than 0.1 mg of thujone and camphor, well below levels of concern (9).

Allergy risk

Some people may be allergic to sage and experience reactions like itching, puffy lips, or hives after consumption. However, this is considered rare.

One study found that out of over 3,000 people with plant allergies, only around 4% had an allergy to sage (10).

If you have any known plant allergies, it’s best to start with a small amount of sage and watch for any reactions when trying it for the first time.

Pregnancy and breastfeeding precautions

Not enough reliable research exists to confirm the safety of consuming any amount or form of sage during pregnancy or breastfeeding.

Animal studies indicate components in sage may have antispasmodic, antisecretory, and lactation-reducing effects (11).

While these effects have not been confirmed in humans, it’s best for pregnant and breastfeeding women to avoid sage until more research is available.

Can you eat a lot of raw sage leaves?

It’s best to limit your intake of raw sage leaves instead of consuming large amounts.

While small garnishing amounts are considered safe for most people, there isn’t sufficient research to determine if eating many sage leaves raw has risks.

Sticking to using 1-2 raw leaves at a time helps minimize any potential adverse effects.

How to eat raw sage leaves

Here are some ways you can enjoy eating raw sage leaves:

  • Chopped fresh on salads, soups, pasta, or pizzas
  • Wrapped around cheese, fruits, or nuts
  • Blended into smoothies, dressings, or marinades
  • Infused in water, tea, or cocktails
  • Frozen into ice cubes with juice or lemonade

Chop or tear the leaves into smaller pieces to release their flavors and make them easier to chew raw.

Potential health benefits

In addition to adding flavor to dishes, raw sage may offer some potential health effects.

However, most research has used concentrated sage extracts. More studies are needed on sage leaves consumed as a herb.

Some possible benefits of raw sage include:

  • Antioxidant effects: Sage is high in antioxidant compounds like rosmarinic acid that help neutralize unstable compounds called free radicals.
  • Anti-inflammatory properties: Rosmarinic acid and other sage components demonstrate anti-inflammatory effects that may help reduce inflammation.
  • Improved cognition: Some animal research indicates sage may boost memory, alertness, and cognition by inhibiting acetylcholinesterase, an enzyme involved in brain and nerve functioning.
  • Enhanced mood: Small studies have found sage extracts may boost mood and mental wellbeing.

However, human research is lacking, and these effects cannot be attributed to raw sage leaves specifically at this time.

Risks of eating too much

Eating too much raw sage can come with some risks:

  • Digestive issues: Excessive intake may cause abdominal pain, stomach upset, diarrhea, and nausea.
  • Neurological symptoms: Very high doses may affect the brain and nervous system.
  • Drug interactions: Large amounts combined with certain medications could lead to complications.
  • Toxicity: Extremely high, infeasible doses may cause toxicity from thujone and camphor.
  • Allergic reaction: Those allergic may experience hives, itching, or puffy lips even from small quantities.

To avoid these risks, limit intake to modest culinary amounts of a few raw leaves at a time and avoid exceeding 10-15 leaves per sitting.

Nutrition facts

Here are some key nutrition facts for raw sage leaves (11):

  • Calories: Around 5 calories per leaf
  • Carbs: 0.7 grams of carbs per leaf
  • Fiber: 0.5 grams per leaf
  • Vitamin K: 1.4mcg per leaf, providing over 1% DV
  • Vitamin A: 49IU per leaf, providing 1% DV
  • Calcium: 3mg per leaf, providing 0.3% DV
  • Iron: 0.1mg per leaf, providing 0.6% DV
  • Potassium: 4mg per leaf, providing 0.1% DV

Sage leaves also contain small amounts of B vitamins, vitamin C, copper, and manganese.

So while not very high in any one nutrient, sage can provide a small boost when used fresh.

Nutrient Amount Per Leaf % Daily Value
Calories 5 N/A
Carbohydrates 0.7 grams N/A
Fiber 0.5 grams N/A
Vitamin K 1.4 mcg Over 1%
Vitamin A 49 IU 1%
Calcium 3 mg 0.3%
Iron 0.1 mg 0.6%
Potassium 4 mg 0.1%

Taste and flavor

Sage leaves have an earthy, peppery, minty, slightly bitter taste. They provide a strong herbal flavor.

Their taste pairs well with cheeses, beans, grains, root vegetables, tomato sauces, and poultry.

Chopping or tearing the leaves before eating raw helps release their natural oils for the most flavor.


Some possible sage substitutes include:

  • Marjoram
  • Thyme
  • Savory
  • Rosemary
  • Parsley
  • Oregano

However, none can perfectly mimic the unique flavor of sage. Use half the amount of these substitutes to match sage’s bold flavor.

Storing sage

To maintain flavor and freshness, store raw sage leaves:

  • In the refrigerator wrapped in a damp paper towel for up to 1 week
  • In an airtight bag or container for 2-3 days
  • In ice cube trays with water or stock for dropping into soups, stews, etc.
  • Dried at room temperature for months
  • Frozen for 6-12 months


Eating a garnish or two of raw sage leaves is generally safe and provides a tasty way to add herbal flavor to many dishes.

While very high doses may be risky, limiting intake to culinary amounts is unlikely to cause adverse effects in most people.

However, sage in any form should be avoided by pregnant/nursing women and those with digestive issues or sage allergies.

Use raw sage leaves moderately and sparingly to take advantage of their unique flavor and nutrition without risk.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can you eat too much sage?

Yes, it’s possible to eat too much sage. Consuming very high amounts may cause digestive upset, dizziness, tremors, and other symptoms due to thujone and camphor. Stick to small culinary amounts of a few leaves at a time.

What does sage do for your body?

In small amounts, sage provides vitamin K, antioxidants, and anti-inflammatory compounds that may benefit your body. However, human research is limited and uses mostly sage extracts.

Is raw sage safe during pregnancy?

No, raw sage is not considered safe for pregnant women because of its potential effects on the uterus and its unknown safety profile. Pregnant women should avoid all forms of sage until more research is available.

Does sage have side effects?

When used in small culinary amounts, raw sage rarely causes side effects. In larger doses, it may cause minor digestive upset, dizziness, increased heart rate, and other symptoms in sensitive people.

Can you eat sage leaves every day?

It’s best to limit intake of raw sage leaves to 3 times a week or less. Daily use of more than 1-2 leaves per day has not been studied for long-term safety. Variety and moderation are key when adding any herb to your diet.

Is sage high in oxalates?

Yes, sage does contain measurable amounts of oxalates. For those prone to kidney stones, it’s best to limit sage intake to occasional small servings. Boiling sage may help reduce its oxalate content.

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