Salvia sclarea belonging to the Family Labiatae (Lamiaceae), is an erect biennial or perennial herb with large hairy leaves and stout hairy stem. It grows up to about 1 meter in height and while native to southern Europe is now cultivated worldwide. A colourless to pale yellow essential oil is obtained through steam distillation of the flowering tops and leaves. Clary Sage should be distilled fresh, otherwise a considerable amount of volatile oil is lost by evaporation. The essential oil yield is approximately 0.1 – 0.15% and contains 70 – 75% esters mainly linalyl acetate. After the essential oil is removed by distillation, the crude material is used as a source of sclareol, which can be solvent extracted from the plant and converted to sclareolide; both of which are used in the flavouring of tobaccos. R.J. Reynolds, the tobacco company, is one of the largest growers of Clary Sage in the U.S and produces essential oil as a by-product of its sclareol production.
Clary Sage oil is used as a fragrance component in soaps, detergents, creams, lotions and perfumes. Maximum use level reported for the oil is 0.8% in perfumes. Clary sage is also used in the food industry to flavour wines and liqueurs with a muscatel flavour. It is also used in major food products such as alcoholic (vermouths, etc) and nonalcoholic beverages, frozen dairy desserts, candy, baked goods, gelatins and puddings, and condiments and relishes. Highest average maximum use level reported is about 0.016% (155ppm) for the oil in alcoholic beverages. Clary Sage has according to Guenther a delightful odour, somewhat wine-like and reminiscent of ambergris. It blends well with most oils especially, bergamot, jasmine, juniper, lavender, neroli, petitgrain, pine, frankincense, vetiver, geranium, sandalwood, cedarwood and citrus. Tony Burfield gives the odour profile of the USA oil as being sweet herbaceous and linalyl acetate-like with a tobacco-like complexion. The dry-out is softer, sweeter than the top, with a more pronounced ambery-dried leaf note.
Psychologically, Clary Sage has calming and sedative properties and can be effective for depression, nervous tension, fatigue and stress. It can be mildly intoxicating and euphoric. It is thought to enhance dreaming.
On the physiological level Clary Sage has calming, anti-fungal, anti-inflammatory and deodorant properties and is very useful for skin conditions and gastric complaints. It is considered to be a uterine tonic and thought to be effective in many of the problems affecting this organ. It is thought to be very helpful controlling menstrual spasms and labour pains.
Contraindications:. Generally considered non-toxic, non-irritating and non-sensitizing. Do not use during pregnancy. Do not use while drinking and driving.