Summary of white sage and its traditional use

Kumeyaay name: Pellytaay

White Sage (Salvia apiana)


White sage is a perennial shrub with silver-gray leaves. This native plant is often found in the coastal sage scrub habitat of southern California and Baja California.

White sage is an important and sacred plant for Native Americans. This plant provides both food and medicine for the Kumeyaay. The seeds of the white sage can be toasted, ground up and used as a main ingredient for a meal called pinole.

The young stalk of white sage is also peeled and eaten. The leaves of this plant are used to remedy a cold or flu. The Kumeyaay burn these leaves in a sweat-house to help purify out the toxins associated with an illness. Leaves are also burned in living spaces to act as a form of fumigation.

Research has been conducted on the biological activity of white sage plant extract. Interestingly, scientists at the University of Arizona tested this plant for anti-bacterial properties. They found that chemicals in the white sage can reduce the growth and survival of multiple bacteria species. This biological activity may explain the historical use of the white sage plant as a disinfectant. 


Here is what Delfina said about Pellytaay:

We ground the seeds for pinole; gathered young branches (before the flowers come) to dry, crumble and store to make tea for chest colds and coughs. Heat and smell steam when congested.



White sage foliage