Obtained from the flowering stems of Salvia sclarea L. clary sage is a biennial or perennial herb that grows up to 40 cm in height, much smaller than the same species growing in France and Russia.
Historically China was the world’s largest producer of clary sage oil. However production declined after 2010 as oil prices became too low and farmers opted to grow other more profitable products. Today the main producing areas are those in ShanXi and XinJiang Provinces combining to give a total output of approximately 10 MT of oil. As recently as 2007, China produced over 30MT of oil and 200 MT of concrete. Last year China's clary sage concrete production recovered from 60 MT in 2011 to nearer 100MT. China is continuing to replant and expect output to increase over the next few years.
Clary sage is thought to have a number of therapeutic benefits, in particular for women’s health. However, it also has known benefits to reduce the symptoms of upset stomach and other digestive disorders, as well as kidney diseases.
Clary sage is used as a flavouring agent in many food and beverage products as well as used in fragrances, in particular for cosmetic applications.
Often the flowers are used for the production of sclareol, a concrete which in turn is used for the manufacture of a number of valuable aromatic compounds like ambroxan. Typical sclareol yields range from 0.5-2.5%.
Close to 12 MT of essential oil were obtained from 4,700 hectares of clary sage plantations in 2017. In 2018 1,700 hectares were cultivated. The crop is a healthy one, and so is the demand. Some of the distillers invested heavily in upgrading and steam distillation equipment. However, negligible margins on clary sage and huge investment on environmental protection have deterred some small farmers from continuing.
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