Thursday, August 21, 2014

HERBAL MEDICINE: Sage (Salvia Officinalis)

The other day I was on the phone with a friend of mine, and asked her if she'd like some of our surplus Sage. Although many of our crops did poorly in this cooler-than-usual, drought-like summer, the Sage I had planted last year grew into what I can only describe as a "bush". Naturally, our conversation floated towards Thanksgiving in all it's Sage flavored glory... But did you know that Sage can be used medicinally? It's benefits go well beyond well seasoned meat!

Sage, a member of the mint family, is native to the Mediterranean region. It is named for the Latin word "salvia", which means "to heal". It was first used as a meat preservative in ancient Rome, but by the 10th century some cultures even believed Sage held the key to human immortality! Throughout history, as trade lines expanded, many cultures came to prize Sage for it's healing abilities. It is used by Native Americans in purification and protection ceremonies.

Antiperspirant, antimicrobial, antiseptic, astringent, antioxidant, digestive aid, diuretic, mild hormonal stimulant. The active ingredients in Sage include: camphor, cineole, flavonoids, pinene, rosemarinic acid, salvene, tannins, thujone, and fresh leaves contain Vitamins A and C.

Most often taken as a tea to soothe sore throats and break a fever, as a gargle for irritated gums, or used as a poultice on wounds and insect bites. Sage Tea has also been known to aid in the treatment of menstrual and menopausal issues, and to help reduce breast milk when weaning.

Sage Tea: Pour 1 c. boiling water over 1 tsp. crushed dried leaves. Steep for 10 minutes. Do not strain before drinking. A dash of Lemon Balm and Rosemary can be added for flavor and for stress relief.

Sage Gargle: 1 c. boiling water, 2 Tbsp. Sage, 1/4 tsp. salt. Steep Sage in boiling water for 20 minutes. Strain out the bits of sage and add salt. Gargle for sore throat or irritated gums.

Sage Poultice: Mix a small amount of dried Sage with a few drops of warm water until a paste forms. Either apply the paste directly to the affected area, or wrap paste in a muslin cloth and hold it to the wound.

Sage is a perennial in USDA Hardiness Zones 4-9. It is generally grown from seed sowed indoors under lights or outdoors in early spring, or from cuttings from established plants. Seed germination, depending on soil temperature, is roughly 10-14 days. Soil should be kept moist, but not completely wet. If growing indoors, use a spray bottle to distribute water lightly. Plants should be transplanted about 18 inches apart, in direct sunlight. They are drought resistant and should be fine with just a good weekly rain. Sage can be grown in a container with proper drainage and brought indoors for the winter in cooler climates.

Simply harvest leaves  from stems in mid-summer before the flowers bloom for peak flavor. Never harvest more than 2/3rds of the leaves from the plant. You can either dry the leaves by hanging them in small bunches in a dry, ventilated area away from direct light, or using a dehydrator set to 95 degrees. They can be frozen by packing ice cube trays with chopped leaves and pouring water over them. This method is only recommended if you intend to use it in soups and sauces.

*SAFETY PRECAUTIONS: Should be avoided as a medical treatment by pregnant and nursing mothers. Concentrated sage oils are toxic. DO NOT ingest.*

***All information is intended for your general knowledge only and is not a substitute for medical advice or treatment for specific medical conditions.***