Sage is a shrubby, herbaceous perennial that grows wild in Mediterranean Southern Europe. It has branching roots and square, hairy stems that woody at their bases. It has opposite, oblong, finely crenate (scalloped edge) leaves that feel roughly textured and slightly downy to the touch, are are more ovately shaped near the blueish purple to white bilabiate flowers. It typically flowers in the summer months. There are many varieties of Salvia officinalis available at nurseries for your garden, ranging from the standard, green leafed variation, to purple, golden, or lemon-lime color variegation, smaller, larger, or more oily leaves, but all can be used for culinary and medicinal purposes. Sage does best in well-drained, sandy to loamy soils in full sun, tolerating lightly shady areas. Overly rich, moist, or shady soils and areas will cause the plant to loose rigidity and fall over. Sage is drought tolerant, and should only be cut back in the spring. It can be grown from seed or from stem cuttings. In colder areas where snow or frost is expected, Sage can be grown as an annual, and should be mulched in the colder months to encourage hardiness.
Common Sage is both a strong culinary and medicinal herb used worldwide. While there are many varieties in the Salvia family with medicinal properties, Salvia officinalis is strictly the common garden variety, as the latin root ‘officinalis’ denotes. Common Sage is traditionally thought to clear emotional obstructions from the mind and promote clarity and calmness of the heart. It is a carminative, spasmolytic, antiseptic, astringent, and anti-hidrotic. It is commonly used for inflammations in the mouth, throat, and tonsils, as it’s volatile oils are soothing on the mucus membranes. It can be used as a mouthwash for gingivitis (inflamed, bleeding gums), swollen tongue, bleeding sores, ulcers of the mouth, laryngitis, pharyngitis, and tonsillitis. It’s carminative actions make it useful for dyspepsia and flatulence, easing symptoms of diarrhea and gastritis. It can also reduce sweating and excessive secretions from the body, drying up mucus in the nose and lungs and excessive salivation, stopping the production of breast milk, and reducing the occurrence of night sweats. Externally as a compress, it can quicken the healing of wounds. It is also a uterine stimulant, so it should be avoided during pregnancy. It can be taken as an infusion, tincture, compress, or mouthwash. Taken hot, it is a diaphoretic and expectorant, useful for Kapha and Vatta constitutions, while take cold, its astringent and diuretic properties are enhanced, and useful for Pitta.
Sage has been used since ancient times for warding off evil, enhancing memory, and clearing the energy of spaces, as well as a tea and savory culinary spice. In ancient Greece and Rome, Sage was used as a meat preservative. In the 10th century Arab world, Sage was believed to be a key to immortality. The plant had a reputation throughout the Middle Ages for it’s valuable healing properties, ability to ward of evil and snakebites, and make women more fertile. The French used it to calm the nerves and cure fevers, calling Sage “toute bonne“, meaning, “all’s well”. It was sometimes called S. salvatrix (sage the savior), and was one of the ingredients of Four Thieves Vinegar, a blend of herbs which was supposed to ward off the plague. Dioscorides, Pliny, and Galen all recommended sage as a diuretic, hemostatic, emmenagogue, and tonic. 11th century Icelandic herbals recommended sage for bladder infections and kidney stones. In the 16th century, Sage was introduced to China, where it was so highly prized it became worth three times that of tea, using it to treat insomnia, depression, gastrointestinal problems, and menstrual complaints. In India, it was being used for similar conditions, as well as hemorrhoids, gonorrhea, vaginitis, and eye disorders. European medicine thought it good for weak constitutions and for the brain and mental health. Early American physicians used sage to treat fevers and sore throats, and made poultices of it for arthritis and sprains.
1-2 teaspoons of dried herb per cup of boiling water, infused for 10 miles, taken three times daily, or 2-4ml of tincture three times a day.
To prepare a mouthwash of sage:
1. Take two teaspoons of sage in a pint of water.
2. Bring to a boil, cover, and let stand for 15 minutes.
3. Gargle with the warm tea several times a day for 5 minutes.
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