Black Sage (Salvia melifera)

Black Sage is a highly fragrant, evergreen perennial in the Lamiaceae family found on both coastal and inland chaparral slopes throughout Southern California and Northern Baja California in a wide variety of soils. It’s a drought tolerant plant, but does rely on about 15 inches of rainfall or fog-drip annually to survive. During times of low water, the plant tends to drop its leaves. The plant is also easily damaged by air pollution, making it a strong indicator of environmental conditions. Black Sage has dark ovate leaves and blooms light blueish lavender bilabial flowers in the spring and early summer in dense whorls that grow in clusters around the square stem. These flowers eventually fall off and leave the whorls, which darken and grow woody, giving Black Sage it’s common name. The plant grows quickly and effectively controls erosion, and is pollinated by native solitary bees, hummingbirds, and butterflies. Black sage readily hybridizes with White Sage, Cleveland Sage, and Purple Sage.

Parts Used
Leaves, flowers, stems

Chemical Constituents
Diterpenoids, such as aethiopinone and ursolic acid, salvene, tannins, and formic acid

Solvent
Alcohol, glycerine, water

Medicinal Uses
Black Sage is useful for relieving sore muscles and stiff joints. It can be used as a bath additive, ointment, liniment, or as a compress, and is especially potent combined with Epsom salts. Externally as a compress, it can also quicken the healing of wounds. Internally, it can be used for inflammations in the mouth, throat, and tonsils, as its 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. Its 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. It can be taken as an infusion, tincture, compress, or mouthwash. Taken hot, it is a diaphoretic and expectorant, helpful for damp, mucousy colds.

Traditional Uses
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. Honey produced from bees feeding on black sage is strong and peppery, and is prized due to it’s specific and rare production conditions. Sage is also thought to help ease anxiety attacks, especially when combined with rose and milky oat tops.

 Flavor Profile and Energetics
Astringent, cooling to warming (temperature variable herb), bitter

Dosage
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, use 3-4 tsp of sage per cup of water and bring to a low boil, remove from heat cover, and let stand for 15 minutes. Gargle with the warm tea several times a day for 3-5 minutes.

Combinations
Combine with marshmallow root and goldenseal for sore throats. For sore muscles, combine with epsom salts and lavender (desert or french),  and for weepy skin eruptions combine with chickweed and calendula.

Contraindications
All sages are uterine stimulants, so internal ingestion of medicinal doses should be avoided during pregnancy

Sources  2, 5, 10, 18, 20

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The clusters of flowers dry dark on the stem, hence the common name “black sage”

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Close up of stems and leaves

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Black sage blooming

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