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%.
In 2017, around 4,700 hectares of Salvia sclarea was cultivated and close to 12 tonnes of essential oil obtained. All of this stock has been exhausted as it is already sold out. In 2018, 1,700 hectares were cultivated. The plants are flourishing and farmers hope to achieve about 10 tonnes of essential oil amidst a healthily increasing demand. In 2018, factories have invested considerable sums towards steam distillation equipment. However, in the meantime, more than five small farmers have stopped cultivation and production due to the huge investment on environmental protection, and negligible margins on clary sage concrete.
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