Welcome to another Blooming Lovely Monday.
As many of my garden plants are dying back my herbs stand out more clearly and today I also wanted to have something seasonal for Samhain for this post. Therefore I am looking at the herb Sage. I love the smell of fresh chopped sage, especially when it’s mixed to make sage and onion stuffing for poultry, but there is so much more about this plant than that, for this is the herb of wisdom.
The first documented use of this plant for both religious and medicinal use goes back to Egyptian times, but I am certain it would have been used for generations before those records were made. There are many varieties of sage that grow in various parts of the world, yet wherever sage grows the uses and attitudes to this plant all seem very similar.
The Latin name for sage is Salvia, this comes from the Latin word Salveo, “to heal” or “to save” though some say it is to “salve” as in rub on a healing ointment. At one time the plant was considered a cure for all ailments. Roman and Arab healers are said to have thought sage could impart immortality. The list of illnesses sage can be used to treat is extensive.
In ancient times Dioscorides a Greek physician reported that a decoction of sage stopped bleeding of wounds and cleaned ulcers and sores. He also recommended sage juice in warm water for hoarseness and coughs. This treatment for sore throats and coughs has been used for centuries since. Sage can be used externally to treat sprains and swelling associated with injury. It was also used by herbalists for rheumatism, excessive menstrual bleeding, and to dry up a mother’s milk when nursing is stopped.
Sage is known as a natural antiseptic, preservative and has bacteria-killing abilities when used on meat. Though the people at the time wouldn’t have explained it that way, those bacteria killing properties were one of the reasons this herb was used extensively in the medieval period as a food flavouring for meat.
In the past sage was noted for strengthening the nervous system, improving memory, and sharpening the senses. Writing in 1597, the herbalist John Gerard proclaimed sage was “singularly good for the head and quickeneth the nerves and memory” and modern testing has found him right.
Research has shown the oils (distilled from the blossoms) can be easily absorbed into the body. These oils can be used medicinally for muscle aches, rheumatism, and aromatherapy. The oils should not be ingested. Internal use of sage should be from tea. There is clinical evidence that sage can enhance mental clarity and upgrade memory. This evidence supports not only Gerard but over a thousand years of use in herbal healing.
Sage made into a drink from the leaves has been called the “thinker’s tea”.
A tablespoon of sage provides, Vitamin K 43% of the daily recommended amount, fibre, vitamin A, folate, calcium, iron, magnesium, manganese, and B vitamins such as folic acid, thiamin, pyridoxine, and riboflavin in much higher doses than the recommended daily requirements, plus healthy amounts of vitamin C, vitamin E, thiamin, and copper. I wouldn’t use that much to make tea to drink, I’d use a couple of teaspoons in a small pot.
Burned sage smoke has also been used over centuries to treat asthma and bronchitis.
In England in the past, sage tea was regularly drunk as a healthful tonic. It was also said that a woman who ate sage cooked in wine would never be able to conceive. I am not sure how trustworthy that belief might have been.
Fresh sage leaves were said to cure warts.
A strong version of sage tea can be also used as a hair rinse for shine if you are a brunette. Be aware sage can darken hair so I wouldn’t use it if you are fair, chamomile works better for fair hair. You can prepare the sage rinse by boiling 1 tablespoon of dried leaves in a cup of water. Please let it cool before you use it. 🙂 This sage tea is said to ward off dandruff.
Truly, the ancient proverb, “why should a man die who has sage in his garden?” may well have some merit.
The wonders of sage don’t stop there.
In the past sage has been used in sacred rites and still is today. The Romans would hold special ceremonies when sage was harvested.
Sage is sacred to the Greek god Zeus and the Roman god Jupiter. It is also a symbol of the Virgin Mary.
Legend says it was a sage bush that sheltered Mary and the infant Christ as they fled Herod’s soldiers during the flight to Egypt.
As they travelled they stopped on the way. Joseph went in search of water and left Mary to rest with the baby. Mary heard horses approaching. Afraid of what might happen if soldiers found her and the baby she asked a nearby rose plant for a place to hide. The plant refused for fear of being crushed by the angry soldiers; it is said the selfish rose sprang thorns and has worn them ever since. Mary then turned to a clove bush for refuge but the clove refused saying it was too busy blooming; since that day the clove’s flowers might look beautiful but they give out a bad smell. The only bush that remained was the sage plant and it offered to help Mary. Sage flowers quickly blossomed on the bush and created a shelter for her and the baby. When the soldiers passed them by without any suspicion, Mary, in her gratitude, thanked and blessed the plant saying, “Sage, oh holy sage, many thanks. I bless you for your good deed which everyone will henceforth remember”.
White sage which grows in the USA is sacred in many Shamanic and Native American belief systems and is used in smudging ceremonies for purification.
In the past in England legend said that where sage grows well in the garden the wife rules, and that sage will flourish or not depending on the success of the business of the household. It is said if you carry several fresh sage leaves in your wallet it will prompt financial improvements.
Sage is also believed to help alleviate sorrow on the death of a loved one and at one time sage bushes were planted on graves to ease those grieving. In pagan worship sage is the symbol of reincarnation and the wisdom of the Crone. Bundles of herbs including sage can be hung up as decoration and also burned as part of the celebration of Samhain.
In the language of flowers Sage means Wisdom, Domestic virtue, Good health, Esteem, and Long life.
Common sage in the top image is the plant I am familiar with. It is easy to grow in pots and will flower for you from May through to September. The leaves can be picked through the growing season but don’t strip too many all at once. One for the season, one for the sun, one for moon, and one for my thumb, that gives you one in four leaves but if your sage bush is a small one you could double the rhyme so the plant has the chance to spread.
If you want to use the woody stems it is recommended you swill the plant off the night before you want to cut them and take them the following morning once the dew is dry.
Your sage plant will be happiest in full sun and in a well drained soil. Don’t use pesticides if you are intending to use any part of the plant for anything.
After discovering so much about sage I am thrilled to have this plant in my garden. I would recommend it to all of you too.
Thanks for reading.
“Salvia officinalis0” by Kurt Stüber  – caliban.mpiz-koeln.mpg.de/mavica/index.html part of http://www.biolib.de. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Salvia_officinalis0.jpg#/media/File:Salvia_officinalis0.jpg