Sage has been used in cooking and as a medicinal herb for hundreds of years. Like many of the most popular kitchen herbs, sage (Salvia officinalis) originates from the Mediterranean region but grows around the world, in gardens and in the wild. Some cultures, including the Romans, considered it a sacred herb. It was once believed to save people from sickness and from death.
In its original home in Europe, sage was added to many foods and especially to cheeses, and it was also used when brewing ale. But sage has also been an important medicinal herb in the folk medicine in many cultures. Infusions and poultices were made with sage leaves to treat throat and mouth infections and to heal wounds. Sage was also believed to heal headaches and to “clear the head”.
Sage is one of the herbs that are specifically associated with the female reproductive system. Folk healers have used it to help in childbirth and to treat various problems related to menstruation: to bring on a delayed period, or to balance the menstrual cycle during menopause.
Sage Uses in the Kitchen
Both fresh and dried sage leaves can be added to foods. Fresh sage grows easily in pots on the windowsill or in the garden, and dried sage leaves are widely available. Sage is a common ingredient in many Italian dishes. Sage is gives flavor to many foods, but it also helps digestion after fatty meals.
- add a few sage flowers to a salad
- the leaves bring flavor to soups and stews, to pork and chicken dishes, and to sausages
- sage has been traditionally used to flavor homemade cheeses
- you can also make flavored vinegar with sage leaves
- drink a sage infusion (see below) after a fatty meal to stimulate digestion
- sage has other household uses, too: dried leaves keep insects away from your linens.
Using Sage as a Home Remedy
One of the main uses for sage as a home remedy is as a gargle for sore throats and for mouth infections. Red sage (Salvia officinalis purpurea) is said to be especially good for gargling. You can find red sage tea in health food stores, or you can make your own infusion (tea) by adding around a tablespoon of fresh leaves or a teaspoon of dried herbs for each cupful of hot water. Let infuse at least 5 minutes. Drink the infusion as an herbal tea, or let it cool down and use it as a mouthwash and a gargle.
A sage infusion is also an easy homemade rinse for dark or grey hair. Rinse your hair with the infusion after washing to strengthen the hair and to enhance dark tones.
Sage can have strong effect on the nervous system and it is not recommended that you use it as a home remedy for long periods of time. It is also not recommended as a remedy during pregnancy.
Lesley Bremness: The Complete Book of Herbs (Studio, 1994)
Photo by David Monniaux (Wikimedia Commons)