Weekly Herb Review #20 – Sage

“He that would live for aye, must eat Sage in May” – John Ray, 1678

Common Names: Sage, Garden Sage, Common Sage

Scientific Name: Salvia officinalis (salvia – “to heal” or “to be well”)

Family: Lamiaceae (Mint family)

sage

Parts Used: Leaf/Aerial parts

Harvesting: Native to the Mediterranean region, Sage now grows worldwide in kitchen gardens. Gather the leaves and flowers in the summer months, or the leaves throughout the year.

Qualities: Pungent, Aromatic, Warming, Drying, Slightly Bitter

Constituents/Nutrition: High in fiber, fat, Zinc, Calcium, Magnesium, Potassium, Sodium, tin and Vitamin A. Also contains Antioxidants, Volatile and Fixed Oils, Tannins, Bitter Resins, Flavonoids, and Phenolic Acids (powerful antioxidants).

Properties/Actions: Digestive, Stimulant, Carminative, Antispasmodic, Antiseptic, Astringent, Antimicrobial, Antiviral, Antibacterial, Tonic, Grounding, Blood Moving, Decreases Secretions (antihidrotic = inhibits sweating), Mild Emmenagogue, Vermifuge, Aromatic, Antioxidant, Anti-inflammatory,

Uses/Indications: Sage is most commonly used as a spice, especially for sausage, but has seen an increase in use recently due to its popularity with menopausal woman for hot flashes and night sweats. Sage is especially useful for the Respiratory, Digestive and Nervous systems. It is used for rebuilding and strengthening after illness, as a stimulating tonic for digestion, for flatulence, to increase the production of digestive fluids and relax the smooth muscles. Its astringent effects aid to decrease sweating and dry up breast milk. Sage is also used for respiratory ailments such as sore throats and tonsillitis, and has been effective for mouth ulcers and gum ailments (gargle). Externally, Sage is a wonderful compress for swelling and inflammation. It combines well with Rosemary to make a stimulating scalp tonic and skin soother.

Folk History/Magical Uses:
Sage is considered the herb of immortality and wisdom. (“sage advice”). The ancient Druids believed that Sage could bring back the dead. It was believed that Sage would grow vigorously in the garden where the wife ruled the house. So, husbands would prune it back well to show that they were not subservient. It was also said that sage would prosper or wane as the owners business did. Historically Sage was used in French cemeteries to dispel grief. It was also said to have been used for serpent bites. Because of its high antioxidant properties and antimicrobial flavonoids, Sage has been used as a meat preservative. The Eclectics used Sage to quicken the senses and memory, and to restore health. Sage was once such a hot commodity that the Chinese traded 4 pounds of tea for every 1 pound of Sage! Fresh Sage can be rubbed onto the teeth to whiten and clean them, strengthen the gums, and freshen breath.

To call forth you husband :-)
On Midsummer’s Eve, go to a pond in a lonely wood, pick a twig of sage and wave it around your head seven times, while repeating an certain incantation, and your bridegroom will appear by midnight. (Hopefully it’s not that weird next-door neighbor of yours who heard you chanting and wanted to come see what it was all about!)

“Why should a man die when sage grows in his gardens” – 10th Century Italian Medical School saying

Research:
Effects of cholinesterase inhibiting sage (Salvia officinalis) on mood, anxiety and performance on a psychological stressor battery.
A double blind study concluding that, yes, sage can lift the mood, decrease anxiety, and aid in alertness.
Neuropsychopharmacology. 2006 Apr;31(4):845-52.

Efficacy and tolerability of a spray with Salvia officinalis in the treatment of acute pharyngitis – a randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled study with adaptive design and interim analysis.

Well, the name says it all! Symptoms improved within the first two hours of giving sage spray and it was significantly more effective than the placebo. Don’t you just love it when science proves what we already know? In the words of Mulder and Scully “The truth is out there!”
Eur J Med Res. 2006 Jan 31;11(1):20-6.

Cautions/Side Effects: No known side effects or drug interactions. Cautious use in Pregnancy due to its stimulating effects. Due to it’s high Thujone oil content, some herbalists recommend only taking sage on a short term basis.

Preparation/Dosage: Sage can be taken as a tea, tincture, glycerite, honey, compress, gargle, vinegar, salve,
1/2 – 1 cup 3-4 x/day; 15-25 drops of tincture TID – Green
3-12g/day, 1:1 – BHP
4-6g/d, up to 9 grams – Commission E

Recipe:
Sage Cheese
‘Bruise the tops of young red Sage in a mortar with some leaves of spinach and squeeze the juice; mix it with the rennet in the milk, more or less, according to the preferred colour and taste. When the curd is come, break it gently and put it in with the skimmer till it is pressed two inches above the vat. Press it 8 or 10 hours. Salt it and turn every day.’
-Walsh’s Manual of Domestic Economy, 1857

My Thoughts: I’ve not used a lot of this wonderful herb. I did, however, have the chance to experience its powerful medicine after giving birth to my daughter. Soon after her birth I began drinking a nursing tea to increase my milk supply. Unfortunately, I already had more than enough and caused myself to get painfully engorged. So, I stopped the nursing tea and began drinking sage, which really helped to normalize my milk flow. I used sage again when I weaned my daughter. I drank sage tea for 4 days and it worked very well to dry up my milk, without getting clogged ducts, mastitis, or engorgement.

To me, sage seems like a children’s and elder’s herb. I think it is because of the name… since we seem to hold the wisdom in our bodies when we are young and old, and forget to take the “sage advice” when we are in-between.

Bibliography:

Green, J. (1991). The male herbal: health care for men and boys. Freedom, CA: The Crossing Press.

Herbs and herb lore of colonial america. (1995). New York, NY: Dover Publications.

Magic and medicine of plants. (1990). New York, NY: Element, Shaftesbury.

Onstad, D. (1996). Whole foods companion. Vermont: Chelsea Green Publishing.
Pederson, M. (1994). Nutritional herbology. revised edition. Indiana: Wendell W. Whitman Company.

Sage. Retrieved on August 5, 2006 from:
http://botanical.com/botanical/mgmh/s/sages-05.html

Sage. Retrieved on August 5, 2006 from:
www.florifacts.umn.edu/trials.html

Sage. Retrieved on August 5, 2006 from:
www.leserre.it

Tilgner, S. (1999). Herbal medicine from the heart of the earth. Creswell, OR: Wise Acres Press.

5 thoughts on “Weekly Herb Review #20 – Sage

  1. Thanks for the write up! Last year I went crazy with sage and used it in almost every meal I cooked. This year, I’ve hardly touched my sage plants. I don’t know what happened.

    I have a recipe for sage pesto(somewhere) if anyone is interested. Its more or less the same as most pestos except it uses sage, of course. Sage makes a really rich flavored pesto.

  2. I love to grow sage in my garden. I mostly use it for culinary uses. It is wonderful mixed into homemade sausage that I buy from some local hog raising friends and I also use it every Thanksgiving to make a very flavorful stuffing and dressing for my Turkey. I don’t think I’ve even tried it with any vegetables yet but I do use it in a sage bread that I make that is delicious. Thanks for the extra knowledge on this wonderful aromatic herb.

  3. I started gardening three years ago by starting a butterfly garden and then taking courses on horticulture and landscaping. I realized I could push myself to learn even more if I started to write on the subject and had to do the research. I started a blog that has a gardening therapy category. I was hoping that if I gave you my link you would make suggestions. I don’t see myself as a competitor, but part of the gardening community. My relatively new site is http://www.seattletrekker.com. As a side note I have been reading your site for the past several months and have enjoyed what you have to share.

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