The Majesty of Sagebrush

Fall came on like a shot through the West this year – a 30 degree temperature swing within 24 hours that shocked our native plants into overdrive. Sagebrush blooms in the fall, and typically when I harvest in mid-September the pungent, silver-green buds are still tightly coiled and packed with precious essential oil. 

But this year, our annual harvest weekend found many sagebrush shrubs with their humble, mustard yellow flowers partially emerged. Once in bloom, the plants release their oil – a fragrance to entice pollinators – making for a meager distillation run.

Sagebrush buds beginning to bloom.

Sagebrush buds beginning to bloom.

Fortunately, my husband and I foraged just in time, collecting 25 gallons of tiny buds to distill for essential oil and hydrosol – my leather gloves stained dark with streaks of camphorous oil and our car filled with the heady aroma I will always associate with home.

Sagebrush is endemic to the Pacific Northwest – a plant wholly unique to the high desert of the Rocky Mountains. To many, this hearty pale green shrub – which belongs to the Artemisia genus along with mugwort and wormwood – is nothing more than a persistent weed. But the sagebrush steppe ecosystem, often called the Sagebrush Sea by those who love it, is in fact one of the most biologically diverse in the world – home to more than 350 native animal species.

For those who care to take a closer look at this unassuming shrub, sagebrush is a medicinal powerhouse. Its essential oil is comprised primarily of the terpenoid camphor – making it an excellent choice for respiratory treatments. It is analgesic, so is a good choice for balms to relieve rheumatic pains and sore muscles. Sagebrush is also antimicrobial and can be used as a mild disinfectant.

Sagebrush – from harvest to distillation to essential oil.

Energetically, sagebrush helps clear and de-clutter the mind. It possesses the unique quality of being grounding and elevating – increasing self-confidence and our ability to trust our intuition. Sagebrush is often used as a smudge stick because of its power to clear and cleanse a space – the essential oil and hydrosol work in much the same way, with the added benefit of having topical applications.

This fall’s sagebrush harvest was so abundant and beautiful, it inspired me to introduce two new, limited edition products to my line. While it lasts, you can now purchase Sagebrush Essential Oil and Sage Two-O – the hydrosol (plant water) in a convenient spray bottle. 

Use the essential oil to create your own salves and massage oils, or dilute and dab on your pulse points to feel its affects throughout the day. Sagebrush essential oil is powerful – for topical application I recommend a blend using no more than 10% essential oil.

Use the hydrosol to freshen a room, refresh sheets and towels, cleanse your yoga mat, or give your skin a refreshing boost. The hydrosol is gentle and mildly cleansing – feel free to spray as often as you’d like!  

As always, Anthea Skincare products are handmade in small batches on our farm. I work hard to ensure that all carrier oils and other ingredients I can’t wild harvest or grow myself are ethically sourced. My deepest gratitude to all of you who enjoy the experience of using Anthea Skincare products! My company is made possible by you.