Sage – the culinary seasoning that makes its way into so many holiday recipes – should also make its way into your herbal preps kit. Here’s some of the best preparedness uses for sage.
Although it is usually only valued as an ingredient in savory dishes nowadays, sage (salvia officinalis) has been valued for health and healing for thousands of years. The ancient Greeks as well as Chinese used varieties of sage for an astounding number of health problems. Common garden sage, the one we now use for cooking, was even used for broader health purposes as recently as the late 1800s by early doctors such as the Eclectics, Thomasonians, and Physiomedicalists in America.
Throughout history, sage has proven itself time and time again for everything from minor discomforts like gas and bloating after eating a fatty meal, to more serious conditions such as typhoid fever and tuberculosis.
Sage can help strengthen the lungs during bouts with coughs and bronchitis. Traditionally, sage was used in smoking blends for asthmatics. Although we realize now that the particles from a smoking blend could cause more problems in the long run than they relieve in the short term, using sage as an herbal steam might still offer some relief. In addition to the coughing that comes along with a common cold, sage can help balance the runny nose and postnasal drip that often accompanies the cough.
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If you do use steam, essential oils are the fastest and easiest method. It is a good technique for respiratory problems but anyone with asthma should be very careful with this method. After removing the boiling water from heat, drop a few drops in the heat. Put your head over it with a towel draped on top to keep the steam in.
Constituents in sage are believed to assist the body with the breakdown of fats and proteins, which is one reason sage may have been such a success as a seasoning for meats. In addition, sage’s astringent, antispasmodic, and carminative actions can help calm the digestive tract during a round of diarrhea, gas, or bloating.
Sage is also a very capable nervine, an herb that settles and calms the nerves and strengthens the nervous system. Many old sources discuss sage as an herb for healing grief and uplifting the emotions. Because of its influence on the nervous system, sage was also commonly used for disorders like palsy and epilepsy.
In addition, Sage is beneficial for strengthening the senses and sharpening the mind. Because grief can be something that is part of the aftermath of a natural disaster or emergency scenario, sage is valuable in the herbal preps kit on the strength of its nervine properties alone.
Tea made from sage leaf can be used as a gargle to promote oral health and the textured leaves make a decent stand-in for a toothbrush in a pinch. Traditional uses of sage for oral health include as a mouthwash for bleeding or receding gums, or as a gargle for hoarseness, swollen glands, and sore throat. This makes it a nice addition to an herbal first aid kit for dental hygiene and throat health.
A less well known ability of sage involves the blood. Traditional herbalists made use of it when there was a traumatic injury potentially leading to dangerous blood clots, in order to harmlessly break up clots and discourage strokes and thrombosis. Sage also has astringent properties that make it useful for cleaning up cuts and scrapes in a pinch. Applying sage tea as a wash for wounds and bruises, or applying the extract are good ways to utilize this aspect of sage.
Sage was also used as an herb to support the nervous system during fevers, and was used when there were fevers with signs of stress on the nervous system. This included high fevers with delirium or convulsions, or lower fevers with restlessness or muscle spasms.
Safety and Use
Sage is very safe when used at the levels normally found in cooking, and is considered safe by most herbalists when used for less than three weeks at a time at the serving size listed below. Modern research has shown that sage contains a compound, thujone, that can be toxic if it builds up in the body over time. Large doses of thujone can lead to convulsions or even coma, so be sure to follow the directions on the packaging that come with any sage supplements you purchase at the store, and follow the traditional wisdom regarding length of time and serving size if you are using sage you have grown yourself.
One serving of sage tea can be made by adding 1-2 tsps of fresh or dried leaf to 8 oz of boiling water, and allowing to steep for 10 minutes.
15-30 drops 1-3 times per day
For more information on sage
- The Earthwise Herbal, Old World Plants by Matthew Wood
- Herbs Demystified by Holly Phaneuf
- A Modern Herbal by Maud Grieve (or here)
- Chemistry, Pharmacology, and Medicinal Property of Sage (Salvia) to Prevent and Cure Illnesses such as Obesity, Diabetes, Depression, Dementia, Lupus, Autism, Heart Disease, and Cancer