Plant Profile: Sage
Also, Known As:
- Common Sage
- Dalmatian Sage
- Garden Sage
- Meadow Sage
- Red Sage
- Scarlet Sage
- True Sage
Considered all across the world as a valuable culinary spice, and cultivated everywhere, the sage is a perennial shrub that grows best in its wild state in Europe and in the Mediterranean areas of the world. The plant consists of a strongly branched root system, which produces square and finely hairy sterns. These are woody at the base and bear oblong leaves. The floral leaves of the sage are ovate to ovate-lanceolate. The flowers of the sage are small and two-lipped and they grow in whorls. The flowers are blue, purple or white in color.
The versatile sage can be used for bringing in quick relief from a variety of ailments, both minor and major. For example, to gain immediate relief from itching and swelling accompanying insect bites, a few fresh sage leaves can be plucked, and then crushed or even chewed. When mixed with a little saliva, the sage leaves can make an excellent poultice, albeit crude and wet. This can then be applied to the affected area and secured in place with the help of common adhesive tape.
When one is suffering from symptoms of a sore throat, tonsillitis or loss of voice or from mucous accumulation leading to congested lungs, then sage would be the best bet for providing immediate relief. Sage tea can be used in these cases. The tea can be made in this way: steep 2 tsp. dried or fresh sage leaves in 1-1/4 cups of boiling water for half an hour. Then strain, sweeten with honey (if desired) and drink a half every few hours as needed. Add 1/4 tsp. of fresh lime juice and gargle well before swallowing. This will provide great relief for a raw, painful and irritated throat.
While it may be true that more and more mothers of today believe in breastfeeding their infants, so that the infant remains healthy and free from infections, it is also a fact that not many mothers are aware of how exactly they can stop nursing their babies when they are old enough and need to be weaned. Mothers keep producing extra milk, and this becomes completely unneeded when the babies are on the breast. This is when sage can help; two cups of warm sage tea a day for up to 7 days is quite capable of drying up the milk supply quite nicely. Bring 1 qt. of water to a boil and steep 8 tsp. dried or fresh sage leaves in it for 45 minutes, covered. Then strain, add honey and drink.
Similarly, an old folk remedy from Nassau in the Bahamas, which uses sage will prove to be immensely useful whenever one suffers from any type of intense and unbearable itching, whether it has been caused by an insect bite, or whether it is due to an allergic reaction. Sage can also help in cases of general nervousness, eczema, and psoriasis or come in contact with poison ivy or sumac.
Sage is often used for actually taking away grey hair. This may be excellent to use because of the fact that it is completely natural, and is, therefore, free of any chemicals in any form. The infusion can be prepared like this: in a heavy ceramic mixing bowl put two large tablespoons of dried sage and the same amount again of either orange pekoe or black tea. Then fill the bowl half full of boiling water. Cover with a small plate and place in a moderately warm (275°F) oven or in a large pan of boiling water on top of the stove on a low setting for at least a couple of hours. Then remove, cool, stir well and strain. Once the infusion is ready, it can be kept stored in a safe and dry place, and used on the scalp four to five times a week, rubbed into the roots. If used regularly, the infusion will start showing results within a few days, when the greys will start disappearing gradually, as the hair starts becoming darker once again. Once this happens, however, one must remember that one can only use the infusion once or twice a week and not more, and that too for the purposes of maintenance. There are some people who vouch for the efficacy of sage in treating hair conditions; bald spots have filled with hair and at the very least, they have reported noticing an overall improvement in the tone and the texture and the color of one’s hair. If one were to add about 3 tbsps. of either gin or rum to the infusion, it would keep longer.
Plant Parts Used:
Sage can be used for all types of sore throats. This is because of the fact that sage has antiseptic and astringents as well as certain relaxing properties, and this is one of the main reasons why sage is used rather frequently in gargles. It is also used for treating and bringing relief to sore gums and canker sores. Sage is often described as a digestive tonic, and as a stimulant, and in Chinese medicine, sage enjoys a good reputation as a versatile nerve tonic, as it is used as a yin tonic for helping to calm and stimulate the nervous system. Sage is also an excellent remedy for treating irregular and light menstruation, and this is achieved by encouraging a better flow of blood. Sage is excellent for handling the various symptoms of menopause, as the herb is effective for reducing sweating, a primary indication of menopause. Sage, because it has a combination of tonic and estrogen effects, is deemed as an excellent remedy for reducing hot flashes while at the same time helping the body to adapt to the hormonal changes involved. Sage has also been used traditionally to treat asthma while the dried leaves of the herb can be included in herbal smoking mixtures for treating asthma.
Sage is considered to be one of the most valued herbs right through the ages. It is used by herbalists to treat a wide variety of conditions ranging from colds and fevers and other similar infections, and it is generally advised that sage must be taken at the first signs of any respiratory infections, like for example, asthma, bronchitis, sinusitis, and catarrh. Sage also relieves tonsillitis. Since the herb possesses astringent and expectorant properties, this help expels phlegm from the chest and reduce catarrh. The airways can be disinfected by a simple process of inhaling the tea prepared with sage. Sage generally enhances the immune system and provides help in thwarting and preventing infections and auto-immune problems in an individual.
Sage has volatile oils which have the capacity to induce a relaxant effect on the smooth muscle of the digestive tract, and this is the reason why sage is known as a digestive remedy too. The volatile oils of sage, in conjunction with the bitters, prove to stimulate the appetite and improve weak digestion. Sage successfully encourages the flow of bile and digestive enzymes, and settles one’s stomach, sage relieves flatulence, colic, colitis, indigestion, and nausea. It also proves extremely useful in treating and relieving liver complaints, and worms. Antiseptic properties of sage are helpful in infections such as gastroenteritis. The herb is a tonic to the nervous system and has often been used to enhance strength and vitality in an individual. As mentioned earlier, sage has a stimulating effect upon the female reproductive tract and is often recommended by herbalists for treating female disorders such as delayed or scanty menses, menstrual cramps, infertility and lack of periods. The estrogen properties of the herb become very useful for treating menopausal problems, especially for night sweats and hot flashes. Since it is a fact that sage stimulates the uterus, it is no surprise that it can be very useful during childbirth, and for expelling the placenta after childbirth. Sage can also stop the flow of breast milk and therefore, it is excellent for weaning.
Sage possesses potent antioxidant properties, and this proves to be helpful in bringing about a delay in the aging process and in reducing the harmful effects of free radicals.
OTHER MEDICAL USES:
- Denture problems
- Ovulation pain
Sage can be used to season foods such as gravies, poultry, pickles, stews or soups. It is a fact that garden sage will help and aid digestion; therefore, it is a wise idea to use the herb when cooking fatty meats such as pork, duck or sausages. Sage can also be used for lending a zest and a tang when preparing vegetarian dishes such as lima beans, eggplant, and onions, and in omelettes, tofu, cheeses or tomato recipes. One must, however, remember to use the herb rather sparingly, because the flavor and the aroma can very easily overtake and overwhelm the actual taste of the foods being cooked. Ground garden sage can be added in small quantities to savory biscuits or muffins that can be served with fish or chicken. Even the cooking oil that one uses can be flavored with a few garden sage leaves to the oil. Commercially, sage can be used to flavor and season foods like soups, and sauces, meats, sausages, pickles, fried chicken, candy, cheeses, chewing gum, baked goods, vermouth or ice cream.
It is possible to use dried garden sage branches into garlands and herbal wreaths.
Although sage is considered native to the Mediterranean regions, it can be cultivated all over the world, and it grows in the wild in a large number of places in the world. Garden sage will grow best when it is planted in well-drained, nitrogen-rich clay loam, preferably near a wall. This will provide a shelter for the plants during harsh winters. The generally tolerated pH range is 4.9 to 8.2.
Sage will thrive in bright and open sunlight, but the shrub will also tolerate a certain amount of light shade. Overwatering must be avoided at any cost because this would stunt growth, and quietly kill the roots of the plant. The plant can be propagated by seeds, layering, and cuttings.
If one is using seeds, then these would have to be planted in the garden, to a depth of 1 cm (1/2 inch) or less, about 14 days before the last spring frost date. Seedlings will generally arrive in two to three weeks. Seedlings must be thinned to about 0.6 m (2 feet) apart.
If one has a favorite shrub and wishes to use this as cultivar, then it would be a good idea to propagate from cuttings taken sometime during early summer; seeds may not be able to produce the desired result. This is the best method for propagation from a cultivar: cut a sprig of new growth, about 5 cm (2 inches) from the top of the herb. Then remove all the leaves from the bottom, and put the end of the twig in wet sand to root, generally in one to two months. Branches can be layered by bending them over and then anchoring a portion under the soil to promote rooting. This method will produce new roots in about a month’s time. Typical garden sage will not grow too well indoors.
Once the flowers emerge, then one must take care to trim back the plants. This will prevent them from becoming much too woody and unmanageable, which in turn will produce poorer quality sage. They must be replaced every three to four years without fail, and one will then be able to enjoy excellent quality sage. The plant is inevitably susceptible to root rot and fungal diseases, and to infestations of slugs and spider mites, and this means that one would have to take care to avoid these infestations at any cost. During the winter, the sage can be offered protection by mulching well with leaves or straw.
Growing in containers:
Edible sage in its several different forms is considered to be an ornamental plant, and this can be used to the maximum advantage. In fact, sage can be planted in containers along with other flowering annual plants, and it can make a good companion for the other plant. On the other hand, sage can be planted on its own in an individual container, a 12-inch (30 cm) pot filled with a standard, soil-based potting mix. Purchased plants or rooted cuttings will prove to be the best bet when starting to cultivate the sage; using seeds is not a good idea. The plants must be kept evenly moist, but not excessively so. A balanced fertilizer must be used every month, and one must make the effort to pick the leaves of the sage frequently, as this will promote vigorous foliage production in the plant. If the plant seems to be quite hardy, then it can be taken indoors during winters. However, it must be kept in a brightly light location with cool temperatures. Although it is advisable to keep the soil dry, it must not be overly so, it must be slightly moistened at all times, and never allowed to dry out fully. Certain tropical varieties of sage can be grown all the year-round indoors. These plants will be able to thrive with 6 hours of natural sunlight from a window or 12 hours under artificial plant lights.
Research has been done to find out what gives the sage it’s antiseptic and carminative properties, and it has been discovered that it is thujone, contained in the volatile oil, that gives the sage its curative abilities. The herb contains certain estrogenic properties, which are considered to be partially responsible for its hormonal effect. This is why sage is capable of stopping the flow of breast milk, but one must remember that thujone taken in excess can become toxic and dangerous. Sage also contains rosmarinic acid, considered to be a phenol. This is known to be strongly anti-inflammatory while the volatile oil relieves muscle spasms and acts as an antimicrobial.
Components of Sage:
- Volatile oil (thujone -about 50%)
- Diterpene bitters
- Phenolic acids
Sage can be normally taken as an infusion, 200 ml (8 fl oz) daily. It can also be used as a mouthwash or gargle, 100 ml (4 fl oz), 2 – 3 times daily. The tincture of sage can be taken 2 ml (40 drops), two times daily.
Possible Side Effects and Precautions:
Although there is evidence to show that sage is perfectly safe for consumption, it is generally advised that drinking sage tea to alleviate an upset stomach may not be a great idea; the reason may be the fact that sage contains thujone. Even though the water in which the tea is boiled will only extract a minuscule amount of thujone, one must be careful to avoid taking it to cure an irritable stomach.
Some people do use sage essential oil as an important ingredient in aromatherapy, but some experts do advise strongly against this usage.
Nursing mothers and pregnant women must take care not to use sage for medicinal purposes. The reason is that the sage has a reputation for inducing contractions, and for drying up breast milk, and unless these effects are specifically desired, sage must be avoided. There are also reports that some individuals who have handled sage have developed dermatitis.
How Sage Works in the Body:
Sage contains antiseptic properties because of its primary ingredient thujone. This makes sage an invaluable remedy for gargling and for use as a mouthwash. Sage can also act as a mild digestive and circulatory stimulant. When sage is used for problems in the reproductive system, it can bring on the onset of a much delayed period, and for those women going through menopause and who suffer from hot flashes and sweating, sage can be used to bring excellent relief for these symptoms. Asthma herbal cigarettes also contain sage as the main ingredient; the component rosmarinic acid acts as an antispasmodic and anti-inflammatory element.
- INFUSION: To make an infusion, use a combination of 20 g leaves to 50 ml water. This will act as an effective tonic and liver stimulant, and can improve digestion and circulation in debility. The infusion can also be used for these disorders: to relieve night sweats at the time of menopause and to reduce lactation when weaning.
TINCTURE – Can be used to bring in relief in menopausal problems. Salivation can be a major problem for patients with the dreaded Parkinson’s disease, and tincture of sage can bring relief from this symptom.
COMPRESS – To treat slow-to-heal wounds, a pad soaked in the infusion can be applied to the affected areas to bring immediate relief and to start the arrested healing process.
GARGLE/MOUTHWASH – A weak infusion of sage can be used for respite from tonsillitis, sore throats, mouth ulcers, or gum problems.
HAIR RINSE – The infusion of sage can be used to restore color to greying hair. It is also an excellent rinse for dandruff.
- DECOCTION – This is generally prescribed for period pain caused by stagnation of the blood. The decoction of sage is also prescribed in Chinese medicine for treating coronary heart disease and angina.
Harvesting of Sage:
Young shoots of sage must be collected from near the tops of the plants. These can be used for drying before the mature flowers are produced. These young shoots must be tied in small bunches and hung in a warm area for them to dry out completely. Since the leaves of the sage plant are fairly thick, they can take a longer time to dry. Once they are dry, they can be crushed and then stored in airtight containers for future use. Sprigs of leaves can be frozen on a cookie sheet before they can be stored in airtight freezer bags for later use. On the other hand, the leaves can be frozen in ice cubes. Freezing is a good idea and must be done because it retains the flavor of garden sage better than the conventionally used drying method.
One must remember to stop harvesting during early fall to allow the plants to maintain the essential reserves required to survive the winter.
Sage Stuffing for Pork or Fish:
- 2 Tbs. butter
- 3/4 cup onion, minced
- 2 cups breadcrumbs
- 1/4 cup beef bouillon
- 1 clove garlic, peeled and mashed
- 1 tsp. dried, ground sage
- 1/4 cup parsley, minced
- 1/8 tsp. allspice
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- 1/8 tsp. pepper
- 1 egg
In a medium saucepan, melt the butter and simmer the onions until translucent. Remove from the heat.
In a mixing bowl, combine onion and pan juices with the remaining ingredients and mix well. Spread the stuffing along the cut between the pork ribs and the backbone. Tie the roast firmly with white string, and bake 1/2 hour longer than for unstuffed pork.