Sage (Salvia officinalis) is one of my favorite plants. Having beautiful velvety leaves of a light hue it grows up to around 18 inches tall and has lovely purple flowers during the summer. If you’re considering planting kitchen herbs this year, sage should be on your list. Aside from being a culinary herb that is beautiful in stews, squash soups and all manner of other dishes, it has healing properties:
- a styptic: it stops bleeding when lightly worked (chewing it, for instance) and applying to a cut or wound.
- It calms indigestion and discourages constipation. It’s good for ulcerated stomachs.
- It can be made into a gargle to treat oral infections. Steep a teaspoon of sage in boiled water for 10 minutes and use it as a wash for gum problems and mouth sores or as a gargle for a sore throat.
Along with that, a cup of sage tea taken daily is reputed to help reduce body odor!
Sacred to the tribes of North America, it is commonly used to cleanse and purify the energy of a place. To do this, burn dried leaves and stems; the smoke and fragrance sweep away undesirable energies and influences from a space.
The old-time herbalists had some great and–to a modern reader– amusing things to say about sage:
Culpeper wrote, “A decoction of the leaves and branches made and drank provokes urine, expels the dead child, brings down womens’ courses, and causes the hair to become black. it stays the bleeding of wounds, and cleanses foul ulcers or sores.”
Gerard said, “Sage is singular good for the head and braine, it quickeneth the senses and strengtheneth the sinews, restoreth health to those that have the palsie upon a moist cause, takes away shaking and trembling of the members, and being put up into the nostrils, it draweth thin flegme out of the head.”
More recently, Paul Beyerl wrote that, “One of its constituents, thujone, is a potent antibacterial, one of the best among herbs, which is contained as a volatile oil.”
Sage is easy to grow. It’s a tough plant that is drought resistant and its beautiful in the garden; planted behind shorter plants it’s a respectful neighbor (not invasive) and it’s fragrance is lovely. It attracts pollinators and gives the space of feeling of grace and vitality.
When I’m cooking I just pop out with some scissors to cut a sprig for my dish, and in the fall I cut it back and hang the branches to dry for cooking or tea. I’ve noticed that the plant flowers more when I haven’t cut it back aggressively the year before so I leave some of the plant to encourage blooms.