~SAGE (Salvia officinalis)~
~"Why should a man die whilst sage grows in his garden?"
~"He that would live for aye, Must eat sage in May"
Long associated with the wisdom of age, Sage is not only one of our most loved herbs, but also one of the most useful. Salvia comes from the same Latin root as "salvere"- to be saved or to heal. Today, healing salves and the word "salvo" to mean cure all, share the same connotations. The name "sage" is actually a French and then Old English corruption, but it suits the reputation of the plant.
I can't think of an area of life where sage has not be used. As with many people, sage was one of the first plants to pull me in to the world of herbs, was one of the first herbs I ever planted (at age 11), as well as being the first one I planted when establishing my current garden nearly 30 years ago. I eat it, use it in beauty products, for specific healing purposes, as incense and for certain holiday celebrations.
Sage's associations with wisdom are twofold. The plant itself is considered wise as it can target so many health concerns and slowly build health in people of all ages. However, its constituents also contribute to the ability of the elderly in maintaining their verbal, visual and intellectual skills (so they can share their wisdom with younger generations)--and may help with keeping a nice head of hair as well.
MEDICINAL USES ~
Though highly regarded as a culinary herb, sage is quite strong and is used as a medicine, not as a food tonic. It's taste is pleasant, but not enough to eat it everyday. However, its culinary uses tell us something very important--which is that ALL herbs that have a strong flavor/scent (this includes spices)are plentiful in antibacterial/antifungal properties. These are often conveyed in the volatile oils that allow us to experience the scent. Aside from flavor, part of our ancestors imperitive was to preserve foods and they found they could do so with certain plants. Sage is one of these. Since bacteria will not grow in the presence of certain volatile oils, herbs containing them were rubbed on meats, stored with dried foods, etc. The same antibacterial function can be broadened to use in human/animal illnesses.
If you look at and feel a sage leaf, it is dry-not juicy, which points to its use as an astringent (something that dries/tones tissues in general, but reclaims diseased tissues in particular). So, we have a plant that can improve tissue and kill bacteria. Volatile oils also affect the hormonal system. Sage is also a stimulant and thus will aid in general circulation, but with an affinity for the upper regions of the body. Because it tones the entire circulatory system, it adds general strength and vitality to the whole body- not by building tissue, but by "warming our core"--sort of like "fire in the belly". Looking at a sage plant, it is soft, but structurally strong and upright and older plants have a woody stem indicating strength as a young plant as well as it ages.
Here are some of the ways I've used Sage over the years:
~ Gingivitis- make a paste of dried and powdered sage and water. Rosemary powder may also be added in equal parts. Rub this on gums after brushing your teeth and leave on all night. This also seems to help tighten loose teeth.
~ Foot Odor/Fungus- Powdered sage alone or mixed with powdered balck walnut hull and put in socks or in shoes. This will stain--no white socks!!
~ Deep cuts/Wounds/Bites- Until medical care and careful cleaning can be sought, sprinkle sage powder directly on wound to diffuse germs or use tincture on abraisians or bites.
~ To dry up milk supply in weaning mothers- Begin drinking 1 -2 cups every other day. Milk will gradually dry up without causing distress to the baby or mother.
~ Mastitis- make a strong sage tea, soak a cloth or towel in it and use as a warm compress directly on breast (s)
~ Menopause-For those suffering with hot flashes or heavy flows, take sage tea (COOL) 2-3 days before your period is expected or for 3-4 days every 2 weeks. For hot flashes, take a tincture (40-50 drops) before doing tasks that trigger them or in the morning and evening or as needed.
~ Sore throat- make a tea, cool and strain and use as gargle- then drink the rest. If sore throat is severe, add thyme and a pinch of cayenne to the tea. Yes, it is a shock, initially, but 1-2 treatments usually works wonders.
~ Ageing- As we age, drinking a cup of sage tea 2-3 times a week can do several things. Because it aids circulation without the stimulant action of coffee, I feel Sage aids in keeping the circulatory system resiliant. Organs needing extra help with maintaining healthy circulation as we age include the eyes, ears, and brain. Sage maintains or improves sight, hearing and the ability to remember.
~ Digestive Aid- All culinary herbs aid digestion--it's the volatile oils again! So, eating small amounts with or after meals, helps with hard to digest food and can eliminate flatulance.
(*NOTE- Volatile oils in sage can build up in the system, so while a little is a great thing, more is not necessary, better or good for you. 1-2 cup a day for a few days at a time is fine, 2-3 cups per week for an extended period is also fine. Pregnant women should not use it as it has a drying effect on amniotic fluid (perhaps leading to uterine contractions) and colostrum.)
~ Toothpaste- mix 1 Tablespoon of powdered sage, 1/2 cup of baking soda and 3-4 drops of mint essential oil. This has the double action of preventing gingivitis and whitening teeth.
~ Breath Freshener-chewing fresh mint leaves after meals freshens breath and aids in further digestion--especially after fatty foods.
~ Oily Skin - For oily skin or acne, use sage rinse as a daily astringent. Chop 1 cup fresh or dried sage leaves and steep in 2 cups of witch hazel (from the drug store) for at least 2 weeks. Strain and dab on skin as needed.
~ Dandruff- Make a strong tea, cool and massage into hair after shampooing. Quick rinse. *This treatment is also useful to darken hair.
~ Eating sage in May- I ususally do this on May 1st (May Day)-early in the morning. Eating a bit of fresh leaf is supposed to make you live "forever". What our ancestors really were referring to was not actually living forever, but living long and well.
~ Smudge Sticks- this is not the sage that Native Americans make smudge with, but Europeans made incense to cleanse themselves and places of worship, and sage was used for that purpose. Simply dry and wrap sage tightly into bundles. Light the end and use the smoke to ritually cleanse rooms after spring cleaning or to dispel "bad vibes". If their happen to be germs inthe air, sage smoke will get rid of them. Sage can also be added to simmering potpourris, or dried and crumbled and put on the charcoal bricks meant for indoor incense.If you make candles, add some to the wax--but I find the same result with sprinkling dried sage periodically into the melted wax in the center of the candle. Powdered herb will not cause a fire hazard, while putting whole herbs leaves hear the flame could.
~ Midsummer's- this is a day of celebration (June 20th) and thanks to the faeries for keeping you land and plants productive. It is customary to pick your favorite herbs, bundle them and then offer them in a bonfire. Sage is one of my favorites, so I always pick one of the nicest sprigs for my bundle.
~ Tussie Mussies- Since sage has a nice firm structure, using it as the outside plant in a tussie mussie looks nice and gives good "bones" to your arrangement.
In terms of eating sage, it is unfortunate that it has been pigeonholed into use as a fish flavoring and as an ingredient in turkey stuffing. Being a vegetarian, I've had no trouble finding plenty of other culinary uses.
~ Stuffing- Go ahead and make yummy stuffing, but make it more often and who needs poultry to stuff it into?
~ Add it to anything- I try not to get into a cooking rut as far as flavorings are concerned, so I will use sage in place of other herbs, just to keep things interesting. Use sage in breads, omelets, soups, casseroles, butter, cream cheese......
~ Roasted Veggies- My favorite veggies to use sage with are potatoes, parsnips, tomatoes.
Cut veggies, toss with olive oil. pepper and finely chopped sage. Bake at 350 for 45 mins.
~ Fried Sage Leaves- Frying a natural food sounds unhealthy, but in spite of the oil, sage helps digest it. These are a treat to be serves with savory foods--left whole or crumbled and used as sprinkles. Use fresh leaves, heat oil or butter in a sauce pan, dredge leaves in flour (you can dip them in egg first and then flour), drop leaves in oil and cook until crispy (2 minutes), drain and add salt/pepper to taste. These are easy and the taste is not what you would expect!
* In spite of the fact that sage is stronger than most herbs, it is safe to eat in the quantities usually found in foods. Cautions only apply to it's medicinal use.
*Read more about SAGE