Monday, September 20, 2010

Coloring Your Hair with Natural Sage Rinse - for Brunettes with GrayHair

Because I feel that I look older with gray hair, I want to color it. Currently, the hair on the front half of my head is covered with what they call “salt and pepper“ - almost and equal blending of brown and gray hair. The back half of my hair is around 90% brown with just 10% gray.

Conventional hair dyes contain many chemicals. Some of these chemicals can be carcinogenic (cancer causing). One of the chemicals for brown hair dye is the chemical p-phenylenediamine, known as “ppd” for short is a potential allergen and a possible carcinogen (see more information at the Environmental Working Group website).   So I decided to look for more safe and natural ways to color my hair.

For Brunettes, you can make a natural sage rinse to darken gray hair. It is a natural and safe way to color gray hair. You make a decoction of the herb “Sage” as a rinse for your hair. A decoction is made by boiling the herbs in water to extract the active ingredients into the liquid - just like making tea. It is a progressive color - that means the more you use the rinse, the darker the gray hairs get.

I have to say that it DID NOT work for me, but it may work for some other people out there. I’m really not sure why it didn’t work for me. Maybe my gray hair is too stubborn, or maybe it was my shampoo, or maybe it was my cream rinse.   Why then am I writing about it on this blog?  Well, because I haven't read that it did not work on anyone else's blog.

How to make the Sage Rinse:

the herb sage with a pan and a pitcher

Seeing that the process involves rinsing my hair quite often and I wanted to avoid the pesticides, I chose an organic sage that I purchased from Mountain Rose Herbs - who I am affiliated with.

<Mountain Rose Herbs. A Herbs, Health & Harmony Com
The formula below is enough for 2 separate applications:

  • 1 c. sage
  • 4 c. water
  • 1/2 c. rosemary (optional - also reputed to darken and bring out highlights in dark hair)

Add the ingredients to a pot and bring to a boil. Let simmer for 20 minutes, then shut off the heat and let the mix sit for 2 or more hours. The longer you leave it to sit - the stronger the decoction will be. Strain the liquid through unbleached muslin to remove the leaves and sticks.

How to Use:

  • You can store the sage decoction in the refrigerator for up to one week.

  • When you are ready to use it, place half the quantity into a pitcher for 1 application.

  • Wash and Rinse your hair as normal.

  • Rinse hair with the sage decoction over a portable basin to catch the water.

  • Pour the decoction from the basin back into the pitcher and rinse your hair again - do this 15 times.

  • Let your hair air dry.

  • Do a final rinse of your hair with clear clean water.

My Results:

  • After a month and a half of using the rinse 3 times a week, my gray hair should have darkened - but unfortunately did not.

Before and After photo - NO CHANGE:

my gray hair - no change after applying sage rinse for 45 days

Note: I have also heard that a decoction of black walnut hulls will darken gray hair to a dark brown. However, it will also darken everything it comes in contact with - skin, hands, face, clothing - and it also contains some toxins as well. I did not try this because of the above facts.

So far - as of Jan 2011, the only hair color I am applying that seems to work for me is Clairol Loving Care temporary hair color - see my blog article  Simple, Easy, Almost Non-Toxic Conventional Way to Dye Gray Hair: Loving Care Hair Color for Permanent Coverage.


  1. I am coming at this from another direction, as a guy who likes to grow his hair out & is getting into the "no-poo" stuff. I found out about using vinegar rinses, and looking into it further, was amazed to find people using sage & rosemary to darken hair! I do have, ahem, a few white hairs but as long as they don't abandon ship they're ok by me. But... heck, why not throw some herbs in and try it? So maybe if you add a couple tablespoons of apple cider vinegar to your brew it would help? I have no idea, I did my first sage/rosemary/vinegar rinse this morning. Whatever else it did, today my hair is like silk! I have a very bushy, big head of hair so having it feel so sleek and un-tangled is really cool.

  2. Dear graynod, thanks for the info - I'll have to try adding apple cider vinegar to the mix. I actually already do use apple cider vinegar and water as a cream rinse for my hair all the time, and like you - my fuzzy hair becomes sleek and untangled. Let me know if your gray hairs start to darken!

  3. Hi! I've been searching for natural ways to cover my gray and found soooo many recommendations for sage and rosemary and I'm going to try it.

    One suggestion I read was to pour boiling water over the herbs, or just to bring them to a boil. Apparently, boiling the herbs breaks them down makes them less effective. Maybe that's why they didn't work?

  4. I've been doing a lot of research about how to "naturally" darken gray hair recently.

    The most common substances suggested are coffee and sage. And some of the other things you mentioned such as black walnut hulls, rosemary, etc. are mentioned too but a little less frequently. And often they suggest mixing in some apple cider vinegar too.

    You find lots of recipes for various combinations of these same ingredients. But what you don't find is anything about actual results. Yours is the first time I have seen anyone post a before and after picture and state clearly what your results were. Thank you for posting this, it was helpful for me to know that someone else had the same lack of results.

    Having tried every combination of the coffee, sage and apple cider vinegar, my results were the same as yours: nothing. Sure, with either coffee of sage, my hair looks a little darker when I apply it, but as soon as it hits the water in the shower (even without any shampoo) any darkening is 100% gone.

    I have a hard time believing that either of these things work, it seem more like an urban myth to me. I have not tried the black walnut hulls, but then again I suppose you could use shoe polish too and I'm sure that would at least darken it for a time.

    By the way, just because something is natural doesn't mean it is safe. Sage (organic or not) contains the "natural" chemical thujone which can be toxic even in small amounts when used over a long period of time (like you might use it to color your hair). Sage oil in particular is the most toxic, but even the herb leaf contains measurable amounts of thujone and shouldn't be used indiscriminately.

    I know of no studies about the safety of using sage topically as a hair coloring agent, but don't assume that there isn't any possible health risk. Virtually everything you ingest or put on your skin has potential risks. Even water can kill you in sufficient quantities.

    Thank you for this article!

  5. I have tried this with fresh sage. I am up to my 5th day now, no detectable results yet. I just left the solution in my hair all day. I plan to try dried sage next but may give up soon. I also noticed a conditioning effect and I think the sage made me sleep better. It's meant to be a relaxing herb. It would be interesting to see if anyone has actually posted a successful before and after photo online.

  6. Since my last post I have tried again. I rang my cousin in law who is a chemist in the dying industry and he suggested the following; Put the sage infusion on the hair when it is still warm/hot (so long as it's not burning). Try adding salt to the infusion just before applying to the hair and rinse with vinegar afterwards - these are both mordants. I just tried this today with no noticeable results. I feel like anything I persist with has to have at least a slight effect straight away otherwise, what's the point? - so my last attempt with sage is going to be to try mixing in a little clear henna. I'm thinking maybe this will help seal in the colour? If that fails, I will try walnut husks. I'll let you know if I have any success. Good luck everyone. It would be great to have a natural, easy to use, gradual hair dye. Oh, I might try getting warm tea and coffee bags and kind of binding them to my head with cling wrap for a while. Would love to hear anyone's success stories.

  7. Hi guys. Graynod, what is the cup dosage for the sage, rosemary, and vinegar rinse that works well? I would really appreciate step-by-step instructions on how to make the rinse. Being a bi-racial women (italian, french, indian, and african american) I can't do a thing with my hair which is 23 inches long, by the way! Thanks for any feedback on how to tame this hair (smile).

  8. I`m determined not to use any more bought colours for my greying hair! I shall try the ssage and rosemary angle with apple cider vinegar.I already tried the hair went orange!Maybe coffee would be a good one to try next as well.
    I have also found to make hair soft,which is a problem for me,I have dry frizz,rain water works wonders.I live in a hard water area ,so I guess rain water must be soft.
    Good luck,hope some of you come back with your tested results!

  9. Hi, I have a few gray hairs and I tried sage only before reading this blog. It helped darken them so I wanted you to know you're not supposed to rinse it with water, I put it in a spray bottle and used it once or twice a day on my hair without rinsing. Also if you can find sage oil it would help speeding up the process.

  10. Sage and Rosemary rinse is basically an herbal tea and like all tea it might stain your hair if you use it enough and leave it on. It will wash out gradually unless you continue to apply it. It's like drinking a lot of tea will stain some peoples teeth. I'm sure any type of black tea would also work although it might be more orange. Like all teastains, it will stain some peoples hair more than others and maybe for some, not at all. If it stains your hair it will start out lighter and go darker as you use more. I really think that's all there is to it, and this stuff about roasemary sinking into your hair follicles and stimulating melanin production or whatever is nonsense.

  11. I am not sure what kind of shampoo or conditioner you ladies are using, but there are waxes in both commercial shampoos and conditioners that coat the hair shaft making it smooth and soft. Look in the ingredients for anything that begins with PEG....and also look for Dimethicone (silicone wax). So if your hair is coated with any kind of wax, this diminishes results from natural hair dye/rinses. Just a thought.

  12. Hi all
    Read through all the posts above and have to put my 2 penneth in - 6 months ago I decided to stop using shop bought rubbish to die my hair - Went through the coffee + extras like red wine, mint, lemon jiuce etc experient a couple of times - even tho it made my hair well conditioned alas the colour would not stay.. so I went back to my old favourite - henna but as i did not want bright orange hair on my approx 40% greying hair I mixed it with Katum (baby indigo) this dulled down the orange effect with resaonable results so I have now moved on to henna with Indigo - all natural and an amazing effect on grey hair - there are two methods a 1 or 2 step process. Have a look at for results and inspiration - all saying that I pulled up a large sage bush at the weekend and I am going to experient with grinding that down ( in any food mixer will do) and adding to henna - after all that was free and organic from my garden! will let you know if it works!

  13. I've tried all the herbal stuff too but finally found a fantastic product that is wonderful.It's made with naturally derived ingredients, is approved and certified to Natural and Organic standards. It's called NATURTINT. (NO Ammonia, NO Resorcinol and NO Parabens ) My gray is covered, my hair feels and looks soooo much healthier. You can buy it online line a lot cheaper than in a store. Just gotta do some research and find it :) Good luck!

  14. to the Naturtint user: It absolutely DOES contain amonia. NOt only can you smell it, I had a chemist test it. It's in there.

  15. There is a lady I know that is 74 and can count the number of gray hairs she has on less then 2 hands! She has been using sage as a rinse for years. Her and several of her family/friends have used it for years and do not have gray hairs. I asked her exactly how to do it. The important thing she said was DO NOT rinse it out! I believe too that the shampoo and conditioner make a big difference! My girls and I use baking soda and vinegar. Check out pictures of the results at
    I just started the sage water rinse today, so we will see. Since it has been so long since these comments were made, has anyone had any results yet?

  16. The Natural IdeaMay 8, 2012 at 6:18 AM

    Hi Melissa!
    That's great advice -- I am going to try the sage again in June and I won't rinse it out. I looked a your wonderful blog - it's great. I am not sure, but the baking soda shampoo may strip out the sage color - let me know how you make out with it.
    Michelle from the Natural Idea

  17. You all seemed to be having a problem withe the sage/rosemary blend. I am recommending the following site wherein you can see it is a long process, not an instant color like the boughten dyes.

  18. hey..i got a doubt..kindly guide me..what if i take a oil bath one week after the sage rinse...does the colour acquired thru earlier sage rinse goes off?? kindly help me out..

  19. Are you refering too sage?

  20. I know this is an old blog, but I wanted to comment in case aomeone is searching this method. It does work on some hair. I think it depends on your hair and how well it takes color. I have seen a difference in my hair, I do it about twice a week but I do not do it as a final rinse, I put it in a spray bottle and spray it into my hair, let it dry, spray it again, let it dry etc. I do this as many times as time allows, then I wash my hair as normal. I saw a difference after the first time doing it this way. I use fresh herbs and one organic black tea bag. My sister has done the final rinse method and her gray hair is darkening gradually and she does it twice a week. It also has made her hair very soft.

    1. Unknown from December 7, 2015; could you elaborate? How much of what herbs (sage? rosemary? both? other?) in how much water with one tea bag? Is distilled water necessary? Simmer how long? How much do you spray into your hair? How many ounces? Is hair saturated and/or dripping? Are you letting it air dry between sprays? How long does this take and does it get completely dry? Three or more rounds of this could take hours.

  21. Sage has been darkening my hair and covering my grays. On the last batch I made here's what I did. I put the fresh sage leaves and stems in the pot, then I covered them with the cold left over coffee from the morning. Then threw in some black tea bags. I let it it all simmer very low for about an hour or so. I drained it and put it a ketchup dispenser and put it on my hair. This is about my 6th time applying sage rinses and this dark batch really made a different. You have to re apply. It is messy. I applied conditioner on my head to try hold back the sage rinse from running down my face.I also put on black base ball cap. I did not rinse out. When it dried I re applied another layer. Left on all day. My hair is also getting so softer