Research Article

Metformin-like effect of Salvia officinalis (common sage): is it useful in diabetes prevention?

Cristovao F. Limaa1, Marisa F. Azevedoa1, Rita Araujoa1, Manuel Fernandes-Ferreiraa1 and Cristina Pereira-Wilsona1 c1

a1 Department of Biology, Centre of Biology, School of Sciences, University of Minho, Portugal


Common sage (Salvia officinalis L.) is among the plants that are claimed to be beneficial to diabetic patients, and previous studies have suggested that some of its extracts have hypoglycaemic effects in normal and diabetic animals. In the present study, we aimed to verify the antidiabetic effects of an infusion (tea) of common sage, which is the most common form of this plant consumed. Replacing water with sage tea for 14d lowered the fasting plasma glucose level in normal mice but had no effect on glucose clearance in response to an intraperitoneal glucose tolerance test. This indicated effects on gluconeogenesis at the level of the liver. Primary cultures of hepatocytes from healthy, sage-tea-drinking rats showed, after stimulation, a high glucose uptake capacity and decreased gluconeogenesis in response to glucagon. Essential oil from sage further increased hepatocyte sensitivity to insulin and inhibited gluconeogenesis. Overall, these effects resemble those of the pharmaceutical drug metformin, a known inhibitor of gluconeogenesis used in the treatment and prevention of type 2 diabetes mellitus. In primary cultures of rat hepatocytes isolated from streptozotocin (STZ)-induced diabetic rats, none of these activities was observed. The present results seem to indicate that sage tea does not possess antidiabetic effects at this level. However, its effects on fasting glucose levels in normal animals and its metformin-like effects on rat hepatocytes suggest that sage may be useful as a food supplement in the prevention of type 2 diabetes mellitus by lowering the plasma glucose of individuals at risk.

(Received November 11 2005)

(Revised March 23 2006)

(Accepted April 13 2006)


c1 *Corresponding author: Dr Cristina Pereira-Wilson, fax +351 253678980, email