Sept/Oct '14 Essential Herbal
Sage was given the distinguished title of "Herb of the Year" in 2001 by the International Herb Association. It has a long history of medicinal use recorded back to the ancient Egyptians and Greeks. The colonists considered Sage a valuable remedy for colds and fevers in the harsh New England winters. The Arabs, along with everyone from the Chinese to the Romani, believed that Sage was the key to a long life. Sage is one of those extraordinary, ordinary herbs whose longstanding and familiar use leads us to sometimes underestimate it.
Sage is a relatively small, fast growing shrub, with hairy, green or gray green leaves and a pungent smell. An interesting bonus from the pungent smell is deer don’t like it and that may help keep them out of your garden.
Sage (Salvia officinalis) or Spanish Sage (S. lavandulifolia) are two Sage species that have been traditionally used for memory problems. Sage oil and Sage extracts enhanced memory in studies with young and elderly as well, and seeing positive behavioral effects in clinical studies of patients with Attention Disorders.
Sage is a commonplace herb used throughout the world for culinary, medicinal and ceremonial purposes. These uses include everything from the mundane to the mystical, from a cure for the common cold to psychoactive effects in ceremonial and religious celebrations.
Sage is brought out in the fall to season Thanksgiving dinner. Many cooks use too much Sage, and that may explain its unpopularity with cooks during the rest of the year. Different opinions persist whether to use fresh or dried Sage in cooking. The overall consensus is “less is more” regardless of which type you use.
The tradition of using Sage at Thanksgiving began with the early American colonists. Sage is an excellent digestive herb providing relief from acidity and aids in digesting of fatty and hard to digest foods.
It has been used for colds, fevers, coughs, flu, sore throats, memory enhancement and recall, menstrual regulation, hot flashes, anti-dandruff & hair treatment, heart burn, dyspepsia, bloating, indigestion, insect bites, rashes, skin conditions, as a mild sedative, as an anti-inflammatory and anti-histaminic and to treat many other ailments. You can reduce the symptoms of hot flashes by preparing and drinking Sage tea. There have also been studies using Sage to treat Type 2 Diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease.
Sage leaves can be prepared into infusions or decoctions. They can also be made into tinctures, macerated, or otherwise encapsulated and consumed as a food supplement. Sage has excellent antibacterial and astringent properties, which explains it’s popular use in gargles for sore throat, gingivitis and sore gums. A strong Sage tea or tincture diluted with water can be used.
Fresh leaves may be bruised and applied topically to treat insect bites, itchiness, rashes, or any number of skin diseases, while a poultice of its leaves effectively relieves joint pains, cools the body, and alleviates nausea when applied to the forehead.
Milder decoctions of Sage tea have sedative properties, but it has also been found to enhance memory and improve mental recall - this is probably the origin of its name!
Sage contains the phenolic acid, rosmarinic acid, which is both an antioxidant and an anti-inflammatory which helps in conditions like arthritis. Very potent decoctions of Sage leaves can be used as a disinfectant due to its antimicrobial and antifungal properties, and can be useful in treating and disinfecting both minor and major wounds and injuries.
Gypsies used Sage to darken graying hair. It has a subtle, gradual darkening effect that doesn't leave you with ugly gray roots. Sage also leaves hair feeling soft and shiny and the scalp invigorated. Sage does not stop at making you look younger, it can also help prevent those "senior moments" too.
Sage is a wonderful herb that is not only good for cooking and alternative medicine but is believed to have great spiritual benefits, too. Throughout the centuries, Sage has been considered a sacred plant. For a number of Native American tribes, Sage is a purifying herb, and is commonly used as a smudge or incense prior to, during, and after ceremonial rituals. The most well known species used for this purpose is White Sage (Salvia Apiana), although all types of true Sage may be effectively substituted. Dried Sage is often burned as an incense in order to obtain insight or guidance from one’s Spirit Guides or Totems. Sage is usually used for wisdom, for protection, cleansing and purification. Sage can be placed in a personal medicine pouch and carried to protect the bearer from all types of physical and spiritual harm.
As you can see, there are many, many uses for Sage, and I encourage you to do even more research on this special herb. Always know where your herbs come from or grow and harvest your own.
If you are pregnant, always consult your doctor before taking any alternative treatment.
But, most of all, have fun learning about and enjoying herbs!