Salvia officinalis


The ancients regarded sage as sacred, believing it imparted the virtues of strength, mental clarity and wisdom. Esteemed through the ages for its great healing and curative powers, sage is associated with longevity. This common culinary plant's genus name, Salvia, means "to save."

European grandmothers used garden sage to help influence hormones and increase fertility. Sage enhances the production of estrogen, so is an excellent ally for women during their childbearing years and menopause. My friend Nancy was suffering with daily headaches during one phase of her menopausal transition. She took 20 drops of fresh sage tincture in a little water daily and enjoyed a cup of sage tea occasionally. Her headaches disappeared in a few days.

Mineral-rich sage offers abundant calcium, magnesium, potassium, sodium and zinc. It also contains carotenes, vitamin C complex, thiamine, essential fatty acids, essential oils including theorem, cineol and borneol and lots of antioxidants, flavonoids and phytosterols.

Sage's sedating energies soothe irritated nerves. It is a bitter with bile-promoting activities, and carminative and antispasmodic properties. I use it to assist digestion and to help relieve indigestion, nausea and gas.

Antiseptic and disinfectant, sage inhibits the growth of bacteria both inside the body and on the surface of the skin. Sage has a great affinity for the mouth and throat. Its astringent tannins make it an excellent mouthwash for healing receding gums, mouth sores and ulcers. I use sage infusion as a gargle, sage syrup by the teaspoonful or sage honey to soothe sore throats and tonsillitis. Sage is an ally for those dealing with bladder infections or painful and inflamed rheumatic joints

Hildegard von Bingen suggested sage to relieve headache, gastrointestinal distress and respiratory ailments of all types. The Chinese use sage to treat insomnia, depression, stomach distress, menstrual complaints and mastitis. Ayurvedic healers use sage to heal hemorrhoids, gonorrhea, vaginitis and eye disorders.

First Nations people are also well versed in the uses for sage. Mohican chew the leaves as a strengthening tonic and Lumbee drink a dried leaves infusion to ward off colds. In Appalachia, sage is used as a gargle to tighten loose teeth and as a wash to prevent baldness. German studies show sage reduces blood sugar levels in diabetics who drink a cup of the dried plant infusion on an empty stomach.

Salvia grows spontaneously in the mountainous regions of Southern Italia. My neighbors make use of this herb’s stimulating properties for gastric and intestinal functions. They use an infusion of salvia leaves, sweetened with honey, for its balsamic and expectorant effect. As in ancient times, when it was considered a powerful wound healing agent, its use as an astringent, antiseptic and vulnerary is still widespread. An infusion of the leaves and flowers is used to counter inflammation of oral mucosa and to soothe the throat. It is very commonly used to flavor raw and cooked food, and as a special treat, fresh sage leaves are fried until crispy and consumed like chips - my personal favorite!

The oils in sage make it antihydrotic and give it the ability to reduce perspiration by as much as 50 percent. Freshly powdered dried sage mixed with clay and cornstarch is an effective antiperspirant. Sage contains antioxidants, which slow spoilage, and so is useful as a preservative for meats, butter, potato salad, mayonnaise and eggs. Sage is often used in hair preparations. It has a well-deserved reputation for ridding hair of dandruff and restoring color to dark hair that has begun to gray. My Aunt Eleanor warmed up a strong sage infusion and used it after shampooing as the final rinse over her hair.

Flower Essence Sage flower essence encourages clear thinking and decisiveness.

Magical Lore Sage is burned for its healing, blessing and clearing smoke. European ancestors fumigated with sage to purify the air and bring clarity to the mind.    

Culture Sage is a perennial plant with gray-green leaves that are oval to long, pointed and mildly fuzzy. Beautiful purple flowers bloom along the upper stems of the bushy plant which grows to a height of about two feet. Sage is happy in well-drained garden soil, appreciates a good helping of compost, likes full sun and is easily started from seed. Sage makes a good companion in the vegetable garden as it deters cabbage moths and carrot flies and attracts honey bees.

Harvest aromatic sage any time the leaves are vibrant, but not too late in the growing season, as this reduces its chances of wintering over. We cut our sage back a few inches from the ground and hang bundles to dry or lay it out on screens. I love wrapping sage into smudge sticks: the resins stick to my fingers and I absorb the essence of ancient wild hearted ones. I tincture fresh sage in alcohol or infuse it in oil, vinegar or honey. 

WARNING! Sage reduces lactation. Unless you're ready to wean, don't use sage medicinally. Pregnant women should avoid medicinal use of sage as well. Small amounts used in cooking are perfectly safe. 

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