Thursday, April 28, 2011

Want to Increase Your HDL Cholesterol by 50%? Sage Tea May Be the Answer

Salvia officinalis tea can increase HDL cholesterol by 50%
Common sage tea increases HDL and reduces LDL. (Photo by Kelly Johnson)

Salvia officinalis, also known as common sage or garden sage, has been used for hundreds of years both for cooking and healing purposes. It's the variety you can find in most grocery stores – not to be confused with the psychoactive herb Salvia divinorum.

While you might not get hallucinations from common sage, it does have a wide range of health benefits. For instance, sage is commonly used for its antibiotic and antispasmodic properties. In medieval times, sage was generally associated with longevity.

One less well known use for common sage is cholesterol. Nonetheless, a 2009 pilot trial with six healthy female volunteers (aged 40–50) looked at how drinking sage tea would affect their blood glucose regulation and lipid profiles (link). They also evaluated the antioxidant properties of sage tea.

To prepare the tea, 300 mL of boiling water was poured over 4 grams of dried Salvia officinalis plant material and allowed to steep for 5 minutes. Each participant drank the tea twice a day for four weeks.

Salvia offinalis tea and total & HDL cholesterol

The graphs above show total cholesterol (A) and HDL cholesterol levels (B) of the participants at baseline (white bar), after two weeks, after four weeks (grey bars) and after a two-week washout period (black bar).

While total cholesterol decreased only marginally after two and four weeks of drinking sage tea, there was a 16% drop in total cholesterol two weeks after the treatment ended. HDL cholesterol, on the other hand, increased after just two weeks. After four weeks, HDL levels were up by ~50%. Two weeks later, they were still ~38% higher than at baseline.

Salvia offinalis tea and LDL cholesterol & LDL/HDL ratio

The graphs above show the LDL cholesterol levels and LDL/HDL ratios of the participants. There was a gradual reduction in LDL levels during and after treatment, with a ~20% drop seen after the two-week washout period. Consequently, the LDL/HDL ratio improved throughout the four weeks and remained significantly better after the washout period compared to baseline.

Although the sample size is very small, and this was a non-randomized crossover trial, the figures look very promising. I mean, a 50% increase in HDL in just four weeks? Where else are you going to see improvements like that in healthy people?

The authors also evaluated the antioxidant properties of sage tea by measuring erythrocyte antioxidant status. Both superoxide dismutase (SOD) and catalase (CAT) activity increased significantly after two weeks. Unlike the effect on cholesterol levels, however, there was no significant difference after four weeks compared to baseline. It would be interesting to see a comparison between drinking sage tea daily and cycling it. Who knows, maybe something like two weeks on, two weeks off would be better than drinking it constantly.

Although it has been suggested that sage improves glucose tolerance and insulin sensitivity, the results of oral glucose tolerance tests did not change after four weeks of drinking sage tea. While the participants were healthy, they did belong to a risk group for developing pre-diabetes based on their age. It may be that sage is helpful in those who are already pre-diabetic or diabetic but not in healthy people. On the other hand, the expression of the heat shock protein Hsp70, which is involved in insulin sensitivity, increased by 2.8-fold in lymphocytes after two weeks and remained elevated after the washout period.

For more information on improving HDL and reducing LDL, see these posts:

Hibiscus Tea Increases HDL, Lowers LDL and Triglycerides
Anthocyanins from Berries Increase HDL and Lower LDL
Low-Carb vs. Low-Fat: Effects on Weight Loss and Cholesterol in Overweight Men
Niacin Raises HDL, Lowers LDL, VLDL & Triglycerides

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8 kommenttia:

douglis April 29, 2011 at 2:39 PM  

I really enjoy your blog.Keep up the good work.

I guess the HDL rising ability of sage is due to its phytoestrogens content.
I really wonder what's the effect of sage on sex hormones since some phytoestrogens have estrogenic and some antiestrogenic abilities.

Unknown April 30, 2011 at 8:09 PM  

dunno... what about the thujone? drinking sage tea on a regular basis should lead to overdose of thujone and thus to complications like damage of neurons and liver cells I thought... does any research exist concerning this point?

Maybe one will profit most when drinking it regularly over a long period, but not daily... possibly in combination with green tea and hibiscus.

JLL May 2, 2011 at 1:07 PM  


I doubt the amounts of sage tea used in this study contained enough thujone to be dangerous -- more likely neuroprotective (there's at least preliminary evidence suggesting sage protects from Alzheimer's).

With essential oils it's a different matter. I imagine you can poison yourself pretty easily with sage that way.

But the thujone issue is definitely something to read up on if planning to drink sage tea on a daily basis.


Anonymous May 2, 2011 at 6:54 PM  

The cholesterol altering benefits of this are of great interest to me, but I find tea nauseating. Is there a supplement equivalent of this?

JLL May 2, 2011 at 7:48 PM  


I've only seen sage essential oil for sale, but then thujone toxicity is a concern.


Anonymous June 2, 2011 at 12:44 PM  

I tried sage tea so my suggestion
is don't. It doesn't take much to get a whopping dose of thujone.

I started to have anxiety attacks
that correlated with the use of
the herb though symptom continued
for awhile longer. It has since
resolved. Myo-inositol and passion
flower masked problem until it
cleared up.

clare July 4, 2011 at 12:38 AM  

One fact about sage: It reduces sweating. Occasionally I will have a cup of sage tea to reduce works for me. One of the only herbal remedies I have a used and seen a direct effect.

Anonymous July 13, 2012 at 1:10 AM  

I know my comment has absolutely nothing to do with cholesterol but sage tea is incredibly beneficial in all sorts of ways. My daughter always used to get this horrible cough during winter months we've tried everything the doctor gave us, all kinds of medicines and some felt as if they made her coughing worse. One day I decided to make her a tea with sage, and her coughing subsided almost immediately. I have been using it every time when she gets a cough specially at night. I don't know if it would work for everyone but it sure does with her.
Just something to share.

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