Considered all across the world as a valuable culinary spice, and cultivated everywhere, the sage is a perennial shrub that grows best in its wild state in Europe and in the Mediterranean areas of the world.
The plant consists of a strongly branched root system, which produces
square and finely hairy sterns. These are woody at the base and bear
oblong leaves. The floral leaves of the sage are ovate to
ovate-lanceolate. The flowers of the sage are small and two-lipped and
they grow in whorls. The flowers are blue, purple or white in color.
The versatile sage can be used for bringing in quick relief from a
variety of ailments, both minor and major. For example, to gain
immediate relief from itching and swelling accompanying insect bites, a
few fresh sage leaves can be plucked, and then crushed or even chewed.
When mixed with a little saliva, the sage leaves can make an excellent
poultice, albeit crude and wet. This can then be applied to the affected
area, and secured in place with the help of common adhesive tape.
When one is suffering from symptoms like sore throat, tonsillitis or
loss of voice or from mucus accumulation leading to congested lungs,
then sage would be the best bet for providing immediate relief. Sage tea
can be used in these cases. The tea can be made in this way: steep 2
tsp. dried or fresh sage leaves in 1-1/4 cups of boiling water for half
an hour. Then strain, sweeten with honey (if desired) and drink a half
every few hours as needed. Add 1/4 tsp. of fresh lime juice and gargle
well before swallowing. This will provide great relief for a raw,
painful and irritated throat.
While it may be true that more and more mothers of today believe in
breast feeding their infants, so that the infant remains healthy and
free from infections, it is also a fact that not many mothers are aware
of how exactly they can stop nursing their babies when they are old
enough and need to be weaned. Mothers keep producing extra milk, and
this becomes completely unneeded when the babies are off the breast.
This is when sage can help; two cups of warm sage tea a day for up to 7
days is quite capable of drying up the milk supply quite nicely. Bring 1
qt. of water to a boil and steep 8 tsp. dried or fresh sage leaves in
it for 45 minutes, covered. Then strain, add honey and drink.
Similarly, an old folk remedy from Nassau in the Bahamas, which uses
sage will prove to be immensely useful whenever one suffers from any
type of intense and unbearable itching, whether it has been caused by an
insect bite, or whether it is due to an allergic reaction. Sage can
also help in cases of general nervousness, eczema and psoriasis or
coming in contact with poison ivy or sumac.
Sage is often used for actually taking away gray hair. This may be
excellent to use because of the fact that it is completely natural, and
is therefore free of any chemicals in any form. The infusion can be
prepared like this: in a heavy ceramic mixing bowl put two large
tablespoons of dried sage and the same amount again of either orange
pekoe or black tea. Then fill the bowl half full of boiling water. Cover
with a small plate and place in a moderately warm (275°F) oven or in a
large pan of boiling water on top of the stove on a low setting for at
least a couple of hours. Then remove, cool, stir well and strain. Once
the infusion is ready, it can be kept stored in a safe and dry place,
and used on the scalp four to five times a week, rubbed into the roots.
If used regularly, the infusion will start showing results within a few
days, when the grays will start disappearing gradually, as the hair
starts becoming darker once again. Once this happens, however, one must
remember that one can only use the infusion once or twice a week and not
more, and that too for the purposes of maintenance. There are some
people who vouch for the efficacy of sage in treating hair conditions;
bald spots have filled with hair and at the very least, they have
reported noticing an overall improvement in the tone and the texture and
the color of one’s hair. If one were to add about 3 tbsps. of either
gin or rum to the infusion, it would keep longer.
Sage can be used for all types of sore throats. This is because of the
fact that sage has antiseptic and astringents as well as certain
relaxing properties, and this is one of the main reasons why sage is
used rather frequently in gargles. It is also used for treating and
bringing relief to sore gums and canker sores. Sage is often described
as a digestive tonic, and as a stimulant, and in Chinese medicine, sage
enjoys a good reputation as a versatile nerve tonic, as it is used as a
yin tonic for helping to calm and stimulate the nervous system. Sage is
also an excellent remedy for treating irregular and light menstruation,
and this is achieved by encouraging a better flow of blood. Sage is
excellent for handling the various symptoms of menopause, as the herb is
effective for reducing sweating, a primary indication of menopause.
Sage, because it has a combination of tonic and estrogenic effects, is
deemed as an excellent remedy for reducing hot flashes while at the same
time helping the body to adapt to the hormonal changes involved. Sage
has also been used traditionally to treat asthma, while the dried leaves
of the herb can be included in herbal smoking mixtures for treating
Sage is considered to be one of the most valued herbs right through the
ages. It is used by herbalists to treat a wide variety of conditions
ranging from colds and fevers and other similar infections, and it is
generally advised that sage must be taken at the first signs of any
respiratory infections, like for example, asthma, bronchitis, sinusitis
and catarrh. Sage also relieves tonsillitis. Since the herb possesses
astringent and expectorant properties, these help expel phlegm from the
chest and reduce catarrh. The airways can be disinfected by a simple
process of inhaling the tea prepared with sage. Sage generally enhances
the immune system and provides help in thwarting and preventing
infections and auto-immune problems in an individual.
Sage has volatile oils which have the capacity to induce a relaxant
effect on the smooth muscle of the digestive tract, and this is the
reason why sage is known as a digestive remedy too. The volatile oils of
sage, in conjunction with the bitters, prove to stimulate the appetite
and improve weak digestion. Sage successfully encourages the flow of
bile and digestive enzymes, and settles one’s stomach, sage relieves
flatulence, colic, colitis, indigestion, and nausea. It also proves
extremely useful in treating and relieving liver complaints, and worms.
Antiseptic properties of sage are helpful in infections such as
gastroenteritis. The herb is a tonic to the nervous system and has often
been used to enhance strength and vitality in an individual. As
mentioned earlier, sage has a stimulating effect upon the female
reproductive tract, and is often recommended by herbalists for treating
female disorders such as delayed or scanty menses, menstrual cramps,
infertility and lack of periods. The estrogenic properties of the herb
become very useful for treating menopausal problems, especially for
night sweats and hot flashes. Since it is a fact that sage stimulates
the uterus, it is no surprise that it can be very useful during
childbirth, and for expelling the placenta after childbirth. Sage can
also stop the flow of breast milk and therefore, it is excellent for
Sage possesses potent antioxidant properties, and this proves to be
helpful in bringing about a delay in the aging process and in reducing
the harmful effects of free radicals.
Other medical uses
Abscess, Denture problems, Ovulation pain.
Sage can be used to season foods such as gravies, poultry, pickles,
stews or soups. It is a fact that garden sage will help and aid
digestion; therefore it is a wise idea to use the herb when cooking
fatty meats such as pork, duck or sausages. Sage can also be used for
lending a zest and a tang when preparing vegetarian dishes such as lima
beans, eggplant, and onions, and in omelets, tofu, cheeses or tomato
recipes. One must, however, remember to use the herb rather sparingly,
because the flavor and the aroma can very easily overtake and overwhelm
the actual taste of the foods being cooked. Ground garden sage can be
added in small quantities to savory biscuits or muffins that can be
served with fish or chicken. Even the cooking oil that one uses can be
flavored by a few garden sage leaves to the oil. Commercially, sage can
be used to flavor and season foods like soups, and sauces, meats,
sausages, pickles, fried chicken, candy, cheeses, chewing gum, baked
goods, vermouth or ice cream.
It is possible to use dried garden sage branches into garlands and herbal wreaths.
HABITAT AND CULTIVATION
Although sage is considered native to the Mediterranean regions, it can
be cultivated all over the world, and it grows in the wild in a large
number of places in the world. Garden sage will grows best when it is
planted in well-drained, nitrogen-rich clay loam, preferably near a
wall. This will provide a shelter for the plants during harsh winters.
The generally tolerated pH range is 4.9 to 8.2.
Sage will thrive in bright and open sunlight, but the shrub will also
tolerate a certain amount of light shade. Over watering must be avoided
at any cost, because this would stunt growth, and quietly kill the roots
of the plant. The plant can be propagated by seeds, layering, and
If one is using seeds, then these would have to be planted in the
garden, to a depth of 1 cm (1/2 inch) or less, about 14 days before the
last spring frost date. Seedlings will generally arrive in two to three
weeks. Seedlings must be thinned to about 0.6 m (2 feet) apart.
If one has a favorite shrub, and wishes to use this as cultivar, then
it would be a good idea to propagate from cuttings taken sometime during
early summer; seeds may not be able to produce the desired result. This
is the best method for propagation from a cultivar: cut a sprig of new
growth, about 5 cm (2 inches) from the top of the herb. Then remove all
the leaves from the bottom, and put the end of the twig in wet sand to
root, generally in one to two months. Branches can be layered by bending
them over and then anchoring a portion under the soil to promote
rooting. This method will produce new roots in about a month’s time.
Typical garden sage will not grow too well indoors.
Once the flowers emerge, then one must take care to trim back the
plants. This will prevent them from becoming much too woody and
unmanageable, which in turn will produce poorer quality sage. They must
be replaced every three to four years without fail, and one will then be
able to enjoy excellent quality sage. The plant is inevitably
susceptible to root rot and fungal diseases, and to infestations of
slugs and spider mites, and this means that one would have to take care
to avoid these infestations at any cost. During the winter the sage can
be offered protection by mulching well with leaves or straw.
Growing in containers
Edible sage in its several different forms is considered to be an
ornamental plant, and this can be used to the maximum advantage. In
fact, sage can be planted in containers along with other flowering
annual plants, and it can make a good companion for the other plant. On
the other hand, sage can be planted on its own in an individual
container, a 12-inch (30 cm) pot filled with a standard, soil-based
potting mix. Purchased plants or rooted cuttings will prove to be the
best bet when starting to cultivate the sage; using seeds is not a good
idea. The plants must be kept evenly moist, but not excessively so. A
balanced fertilizer must be used every month, and one must make the
effort to pick the leaves of the sage frequently, as this will promote
vigorous foliage production in the plant. If the plant seems to be quite
hardy, then it can be taken indoors during winters. However, it must be
kept in a brightly-light location with cool temperatures. Although it
is advisable to keep the soil dry, it must not be overly so, it must be
slightly moistened at all times, and never allowed to dry out fully.
Certain tropical varieties of sage can be grown all the year-round
indoors. These plants will be able to thrive with 6 hours of natural
sunlight from a window or 12 hours under artificial plant lights.
Research has been done to find out what gives the sage it’s antiseptic
and carminative properties, and it has been discovered that it is
thujone, contained in the volatile oil, that gives the sage its curative
abilities. The herb contains certain estrogenic properties, which are
considered to be partially responsible for its hormonal effect. This is
why sage is capable of stopping the flow of breast milk, but one must
remember that thujone taken in excess can become toxic and dangerous.
Sage also contains rosmarinic acid, considered to be a phenol. This is
known to be strongly anti-inflammatory, while the volatile oil relieves
muscle spasms and acts as an antimicrobial.