“He who would live for aye must eat sage in May.” – Anonymous
This time of year here in the US, the holidays are upon us. Our Thanksgiving will occur at the end of the month with Christmas a month later. There is a lot of turkey and stuffing being made, and a key herb seasoning in these is sage; Salvia officinalis part of the Lamiaceae or Labiatae (mint) family.
Sage, a staple in my herb garden, is a wonderful small perennial shrub. I love the gray green foliage that glimmers in the sun and looks gorgeous when frosted (as above). Of course an added bonus is the soft leaves and incredible smell. And sage is versatile as it is used worldwide for culinary and medicinal purposes. As the quote above says, sage is a great preventative against old age.
Salvia and the name “sage” come from the Latin salvere “to save”, which refers to the medicinal properties of the plant. Officinalis refers to those plants that are valued for their medicinal or culinary properties.
Salvia officinalis has many common names. Scarlett Sage, common sage, garden sage, kitchen sage, culinary sage and broadleaf sage.
Sage is native to the Mediterranean region, but has naturalized throughout the world.
Salvia officinalis is almost evergreen in my garden, with woody stems, wooly leaves and spikes of bluish purple flowers. Cultivars can vary in size flower and leaf color.
Sage grows about two feet tall. It prefers a sunny location in well-drained soil. It is very drought tolerant, and does not like to sit in water. Nor does it like extreme heat. Pruning after flowering helps keep the plant from becoming leggy.
Sage can be grow from seed or root cuttings. Actually it will set down its own roots once the stem touches the ground. But the best way is to find small starter plants in spring either in the garden or the nursery. I find many starter plants sprouting up from the larger shrubs.
Salvia officinalis has had many uses since ancient times for warding off evil, increasing women’s fertility, and more. To the ancient civilizations, like the Romans, sage was held sacred and thought to give one immortality and increase mental capacity.
The plant had a high reputation throughout the Middle Ages as well. It was supposed to ward off the plague, and was cultivated in monastery gardens.
The Chinese were said to trade green tea for sage.
American Indians used it for medicinal purposes as it cured skin sores. It was also used to banish evil spirits. Many Native American tribes considered sage as a purifying herb, and it was commonly used in ceremonial rituals.
Early American settlers, in the 1800’s, used sage to cure warts, and as an insect repellent.
It was believed that sage grew robustly in gardens where the household was ruled by a woman. My sage has been growing for 7 years, and it continues to root and increase itself throughout the garden.
In Britain, sage is listed as one of the essential herbs. It has a savory, musky, slightly peppery flavor. It is also found in many European dishes, especially Italian, Balkan and Middle Eastern.
Sage’s aroma makes it a great dried or fresh spice for meat dishes, especially poultry, seafood, sausages and some game. Of course it is used in stuffing, soups and stews and as a meat rub. Leaves of the plant are the most commonly used part of the plant.
Sage leaves have been used as a tonic for many ailments:
- Colds, fevers, coughs, flu, sore throats
- Memory enhancement and recall
- Mild sedative
- Anti-inflammatory and antihistamine
- Hot flashes
- Anti-dandruff and hair treatment
- Heartburn and indigestion
- Insect bites, rashes and skin conditions
- Decreasing plasma glucose in diabetes 2
In a double blind study, sage was found to be effective in managing mild to moderate Alzheimer’s disease.
A cold infusion has also been used as a facial astringent and aftershave.
Sage is considered a safe herb if consumed in moderate amounts. Strong mixtures of sage should be avoided by pregnant women.
Common sage is grown in parts of Europe for its essential oil. But sage is widely used and valued as an ornamental in gardens, especially herb gardens. Sage attracts bees so it is a wonderful plant to have near a veg garden. It is also great in potpourri because of its wonderful scent.
Once established it will grow like a low ground cover, particularly in dry beds. It is hardy to zone 5 so it will survive my wet cold winter in my beds that are well draining. But in winter it seems to do best when covered by insulating snow.
Language of Flowers
In the Language of Flowers sage stands for Wisdom, Long life and Good health. What a fabulous plant to grow in your garden.
“Why should a man die whilst sage grows in his garden?” ~Old English proverb
Check out other posts in the series, Simply the Best-Herbs:
Next up on the blog: Later this week will be GBBD, and I have no idea what blooms may be left in the garden to show off. It may just be a memory post. Then Monday I will be reviewing another great Garden Book about native plants.
I wrote a guest post over at Vision and Verb. I hope you will visit this wonderful website of women writers.
I am linking in with Michelle@Rambling Woods for her Nature Notes meme. It is a great way to see what is happening in nature around the world every Wednesday.
I hope you will join me for my posts once a month at Beautiful Wildlife Garden. See my next post on the 12th.
I am also joining in I Heart Macro with Laura@Shine The Divine that happens every Saturday.
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