Sage is a member of the Mint family.
A perennial native to the northern shores of the Mediterranean.Sage is found in its natural wild condition from Spain along the
Mediterranean coast up to and including the east side of the Adriatic; it grows in profusion on the mountains and hills in Croatia and
Dalmatia, and on the islands of Veglia and Cherso in Quarnero Gulf, being found mostly where there is a limestone formation with very little soil.
The Common Sage, the familiar plant of the kitchen garden, is an evergreen undershrub.
It has been cultivated for culinary and medicinal purposes for many centuries in England, France and Germany, being sufficiently hardy to stand any ordinary winter outside. Sage is one of the most important medicinal herbs of antiquity.
Sage generally grows about a foot or more high, with wiry stems. The leaves are set in pairs on the stem and are 1 1/2 to 2 inches long,
stalked, oblong, rounded at the ends, finely wrinkled by a strongly-marked network of veins on both sides, greyish-green in colour, softly hairy and beneath glandular. The flowers are in whorls, purplish and the corollas lipped. They blossom in August.
All parts of the plant have a strong, scented odour and a warm, bitter, somewhat astringent taste, due to the volatile oil contained in the tissues.
The best kind, it is stated, grows on the islands of Veglia and Cherso, near Fiume, where the surrounding district is known as the Sage region. The collection of Sage forms an important cottage industry in Dalmatia. During its blooming season, moreover, the bees gather the nectar and genuine Sage honey commands there the highest price, owing to its flavour.
The Sage oil of commerce is obtained from the herb S. officinalis, and distilled to a considerable extent in Dalmatia and recently in Spain, but from a different species of Salvia. A certain amount of oil is also distilled in Germany. The oil distilled in Dalmatia and in Germany is of typically Sage odour, and is used for flavouring purposes. The botanical origin of Spanish Sage oil is now identified as S. triloba, closely allied to S. officinalis, though probably other species may also be employed. The odour of the Spanish oil more closely resembles that of Spike Lavender than the Sage oil distilled in Germany for flavouring purposes, and is as a rule derived from the wild Dalmatian herb, S. officinalis. The resemblance of the Spanish oil to Spike Lavender oil suggests the possibility of its use for adulterative purposes, and it is an open secret that a mixture of the Spanish Sage oil with Spanish Spike Lavender oil does take place to a considerable extent, though this can be detected by chemical analysis. It is closer in character to the oil of S. sclarea, Clary oil, which has a decided lavender odour, although in the oil of S. triloba, the ester percentage does not appear to be as high as in the oil of the S. sclarea variety.
In cultivation, Sage is a very variable species, and in gardens varieties may be found with narrower leaves, crisped, red, or variegated
leaves and smaller or white flowers. The form of the calyx teeth also varies, and the tube of the corolla is sometimes much longer. The two usually absent upper stamens are sometimes present in very small-sterile hooks. The Red Sage and the Broad-leaved variety of the White (or Green) Sage – both of which are used and have been proved to be the best for medical purposes – and the narrow-leaved White Sage, which is best for culinary purposes as a seasoning, are classed merely as varieties of Salvza officinalis, not as separate species. There is a variety called Spanish, or Lavender-leaved Sage and another called Wormwood Sage, which is very frequent.
There are many varieties of more brighter attractive colouring; red-leaved, red and white, white, green and white,crisped and variegated in many forms.
A Spanish variety, called S. Candelabrum, is a hardy perennial, the upper lip of its flower greenish yellow, the lower a rich violet, thus
presenting a fine contrast.
S. Lyrala and S. urticifolia are well known in North America.
S. hians, a native of Simla, is hardy, and also desirable on account of its showy violet-and-white flowers.
There are over forty wild sages in the United States of America.
The name of the genus, Salvia, is derived from the Latin salvere, to be saved, in reference to the curative properties of the plant, which
was in olden times celebrated as a medicinal herb. This name was corrupted popularly to Sauja and Sauge (the French form), in Old English, ‘Sawge,’ which has become our present-day name of Sage.
The herb is sometimes spoken of as S. salvatrix (‘Sage the Saviour’).
Balsamic Sage, S. grandiflora, a broad-leaved Sage with many-flowered whorls of blossoms, used to be preferred to all others for making tea.
An infusion of Speedwell (Veronica officinalis), Sage and Wood Betony is said to make an excellent beverage for breakfast, as a substitute for tea.
A species of Sage, S. pomifera, the ‘Apple-bearing Sage’, of a very peculiar growth, is common on some of the Greek islands. It has firm,
fleshy protuberances of about 3/4 inch thickness, swelling out from the branches of the plant and supposed to be produced in the same manner as oak apples, by the puncture of an insect of the Cynips genus. These excrescences are semi-transparent like jelly. They are called Sage Apples, and under that name are to be met with in the markets. They are candied with sugar and made into a kind of sweetmeat and conserve which is regarded by the Greeks as a great delicacy, and is said to possess healing and salutary qualities. It has an agreeable and astringent flavour. This plant is considerably larger than the common Sage of our gardens and its flavour and smell are much more powerful, being more like a mixture of Lavender and Sage. It grows very abundantly in Candia, Syros and Crete, where it attains to the size of a small shrub. The leaves are collected annually, dried and used medicinally as an infusion, the Greeks being particular as to the time and manner in which they are collected, the date being May 1, before sunrise. The infusion produces profuse perspiration, languor, and even faintness if used to excess. There is a smaller Salvia in Greece, the S. Candica, without excrescences.
In Holland the leaves of S. glutinosa, the yellow-flowered Hardy Sage, both flowers and foliage of which exhale a pleasant odour, are used to give flavour to country wines, and a good wine is made by boiling with sugar, the leaves and flowers of another Sage, S. sclarea, the Garden Clary. The latter is known in France as ‘Toute bonne’ – for its medicinal virtues.
Another south European species, an annual, S. Horminum, the ‘Red Topped Sage’, has its whorls of flowers terminated by clusters of small purple or red leaves, being for this peculiarity often grown in gardens as an ornamental plant. The leaves and seed of this species, put into the vat, while fermenting, greatly increase the inebriating quality of the liquor. An infusion of the leaves has been considered a good gargle for sore gums, and powdered makes a good snuff.
Certain varieties of Sage seeds are mucilaginous and nutritive, and are used in Mexico by the Indians as food, under the name of Chia.
A prominent, potent camphor aroma gives this herb the reputation to use it sparingly.
Sage has distinct, woody characteristics, furred leaves that offer a warm smokey, musky intense flavour.
Health Benefits of Sage
Sage derives from the Latin salus, “health” or salvus, “in health”, “safe”. In the past people placed blind trust in its healing qualities
and believed that it could help to extend life. It’s said that even the great Cesar, on being informed about the death of a friend
exclaimed incredulously: How can a man who has sage in his garden die? (Cur moriatur homo cui salvia crescit in horto?) Whatever, sage contains precious essential oils, tannin acids, resins, flavones and even traces of estrogenic substances which are the reason for its reputation for curing almost everything, ranging from inflamed throats and sore gums, to menopausal difficulties, bad digestion and skin disorders.
Many kinds of Sage have been used as substitutes for tea, as mentioned .
So, whether you’re in excellent health or not, do yourself some good with a sage infusion. Mince five to six fresh sage leaves and boil for a couple of minutes. Strain, add sugar or honey if you like and enjoy in small sips.
In the cosmetic field, sage has a lot to offer, too. Formerly, women used a final rinse of sage infusion for soft and shiny hair but it
also finds its place in nutritious and purifying skin masks. You might want to try the following one:
Nourishing and purifying skin mask
1 sweet apple, peeled and sliced roughly
1 spoonful honey
1 spoonful fresh sage flowers and/or minced leaves
Mix the ingredients and spread over your clean and dry face, avoid eye and lip area. Leave for ten to fifteen minutes and rinse off with
warm water. Dry the skin delicately and apply a light, moisturing cream.
The curing of lethargy, palsy, stitch, cramp and plague.
Sage infusions wonderful for baths, powerful gargles, lustrious hair-dye as made as an infusion acts as a dye- as darkens hair; it yields a
yellow-buff color to wool mordanted with alum, (A mordant is a substance used in dyes to fix color) and a gray-green color to iron-mordanted yarn.
Stimulant, as tringent, tonic and carminative.
Sage Tea or infusion of Sage is a valuable agent in the delirium of fevers and in the nervous excitement frequently accompanying brain and nervous diseases and has considerable reputation as a remedy, given in small and oft-repeated doses. It is highly serviceable as a stimulant tonic in debility of the stomach and nervous system and weakness of digestion generally. It was for this reason that the Chinese valued it, giving it the preference to their own tea. It is considered a useful medicine in typhoid fever and beneficial in biliousness and liver complaints, kidney troubles, haemorrhage from the lungs or stomach, for colds in the head as well as sore throat and quinsy and measles, for pains in the joints, lethargy and palsy. It will check excessive perspiration in phthisis cases, and is useful as an emmenagogue. A cup of the strong infusion will be found good to relieve nervous headache.
The fresh leaves, rubbed on the teeth, will cleanse them and strengthen the gums. Sage is a common ingredient in tooth-powders.
It has been used to repel insects, such as flies, cabbage moths, and carrot flies, and to attract honeybees who turn it into a superb honey.
The volatile oil is said to be a violent epileptiform convulsant, resembling the essential oils of absinthe and nutmeg. When smelt for some time it is said to cause a sort of intoxication and giddiness. It is sometimes prescribed in doses of 1 to 3 drops, and used for removing heavy collections of mucus from the respiratory organs. It is a useful ingredient in embrocations for rheumatism.
In cases where heat is required, Sage has been considered valuable when applied externally in bags, as a poultice and fomentation.
Among many uses of the herb, Culpepper says that it is:
‘Good for diseases of the liver and to make blood. A decoction of the leaves and branches of Sage made and drunk, saith Dioscorides, provokes urine and causeth the hair to become black. It stayeth the bleeding of wounds and cleaneth ulcers and sores. Three spoonsful of the juice of Sage taken fasting with a little honey arrests spitting or vomiting of blood in consumption. It is profitable for all pains in the head coming of cold rheumatic humours, as also for all pains in the joints, whether inwardly or outwardly. The juice of Sage in warm water cureth hoarseness and cough. Pliny saith it cureth stinging and biting serpents. Sage is of excellent use to help the memory, warming and quickening the senses. The juice of Sage drunk with vinegar hath been of use in the time of the plague at all times. Gargles are made with Sage, Rosemary, Honeysuckles and Plantains, boiled in wine or water with some honey or alum put thereto, to wash sore mouths and throats, as need requireth. It is very good for stitch or pains in the sides coming of wind, if the place be fomented warm with the decoction in wine and the herb also, after boiling, be laid warm thereto.’
Native Americans use it medicinally, mixing it with bear grease to make a salve for skin sores and as an infusion for rubdowns and baths. It is associated with immortality, longevity, and mental capacity.
Buying and storing
You can dry small bunches by hanging them upside down out of the sun in an area where there is good air circulation, or you can snip leaves from the branches and spread them on cloth or paper in the shade. When they are thoroughly dry, store them in a tight-lidded jar in a cool, dark place. Dried leaves have a stronger but slightly different taste than the fresh ones.
Spikes of blue sage blossoms take center stage when in bloom, glowingly framed by sage’s soft gray-green foliage. Sage flowers are as edible as the leaves.
The flowers and leaves must be picked with no dew, can be kept in between paper towel in an airtight container and refrigerated, use within two days.
Sage does not loose its smell or colour when dried, making it a beautiful and aromatic culinary wreath all by itself or as the background
for other herb wreaths.
Sage has many uses: culinary, aromatic, ornamental, cosmetic, craftwork, as a dye, and as a preservative.
Sage is a wonderful basic ingredient for a wide range of savoury and sweet recipes.
Sage, in fact, not only enhances the flavour of meat,it is one of the best herbs with fatty meat such as pork, sausage, duck, goose, and
lamb, above all to turkey and, of course, liver, but can also be used for its own distinctive flavour.
Leaves immersed in batter and fried are delicious dusted with salt or sugar, depending on the final intended use, viz. as side dish or as
an unusual and delicate dessert.
It also confers a very striking aroma to simple apple jam.
A few leaves with bread and butter is a great way to eat sage.
Cheese years ago was flavoured with sage (still is), add it to cream cheese, season to taste lightly and serve with toasted bread.
Sage is commonly used to spice poultry, vegetables, stuffings, sausages and many other foods.
The most deliciously decadent way to eat sage blossoms is to dip them in a batter and fry until crispy, in which case leaving the bracts
intact gives the little morsels much-needed structure. But the bracts taste pretty strong raw, so I suggest pinching them off when preparing sage blossoms for salads, cheese or butter spreads, or general garnishing.
Speaking of plate, pairing blue sage blossoms with orange foods like oranges, carrots, or winter squash it always creates memorable special effects.
The red blossoms of pineapple sage are edible, too, and quite popular for tossing into pound cake or cornbread. In either blue or red, sage flowers are ultra-cool floated into little jars of sage jelly.
Sage sprigs can be deep fried and used as a garnish for roast meats.
Mince fresh sage leaves and add to any breading.
Toss a few into a spring salad or chop them up and infuse into softened butter or vinegar.
The Sage family is huge, just to name a few;
Asian Sage (Salvia plebeia)
Garden Sage (Salvia officinalis)
Extrakta Sage (Salvia officinalis ‘Extracta’)
Lyreleaf Sage (Salvia lyrata)
Purple Volcano Sage (Salvia lyrata ‘Purple Volcano’)
Painted Sage (Salvia viridis)
Red Sage (Salvia miltiorrhiza)
Spanish Sage (Salvia lavandulifolia)
Tibetan Sage (Salvia przewalskii)
White Sage (Salvia apiana)
Russian Sage (Perovskia atriplicifolia)
Tiaga Russian Sage (Perovskia atriplicifolia ‘Tiaga’)
Blue Sage (Salvia clevelandii)
Big Pink Sage (Salvia greggii ‘Big Pink’)
Cherry Chief Sage (Salvia greggii ‘Cherry Chief’)
Lowry’s Peach Sage (Salvia greggii ‘Lowry’s Peach’)
Raspberry Royale Sage (Salvia greggii ‘Raspberry Royale’)
Sierra San Antonio Sage (Salvia x jamensis ‘Sierra San Antonio’)
Cardinal Sage (Salvia fulgens)
Diviners Sage (Salvia divinorum)
Fruit Sage (Salvia dorisiana)
Grape-Scented Sage (Salvia melissodora)
Garden Sage (Salvia officinalis)
Berggarten Sage (Salvia officinalis ‘Berggarten’)
Dwarf Sage (Salvia officinalis ‘Dwarf’)
Golden Sage (Salvia officinalis ‘Aurea’)
Holt’s Mammoth Sage (Salvia officinalis ‘Holt’s Mammoth’)
Purple Sage (Salvia officinalis ‘Purpurea’)
Tricolor Sage (Salvia officinalis ‘Tricolor’)
White Dalmation Sage (Salvia officinalis ‘White Dalmation’)
Greek Sage (Salvia fruticosa)
Honey Melon Sage (Salvia elegans ‘Honey Melon’)
Hummingbird Sage (Salvia guaranitica ‘Black and Blue’)
Mexican Bush Sage (Salvia leucantha)
Pineapple Sage (Salvia elegans)
Peruvian Sage (Salvia discolor)
Tangerine Sage (Salvia elegans cv.)
White Sage (Salvia apiana)
Russian Sage (Perovskia atriplicifolia)