The herb known as Sage (Salvia) actually consists of over 750 species that are widely dispersed throughout the world. It consists of annuals, biennials and perennials, herbs, sub–shrubs and shrubs of various habits.
The name Salvia is derived from the Latin Salveo, meaning “I save or heal”. The Greeks used Salvia to heal ulcers, consumption and snake bites. The Romans considered Salvia a sacred herb to be gathered ceremonially using a special knife that did not contain iron as sage reacts with iron salts. Sage is considered to be good for the brain, the senses and as a memory enhancer. It is also a good gargle and mouthwash and was sometimes used as rudimentary toothpaste.
Of the many varieties of Sage here are a few that are well–known for their medicinal, aromatic and culinary value:
The essential oil of Clary Sage, Salvia sclarea, is obtained by steamed distillation of the fresh or partially dried flower stems and leaves of this herb plant. It is used in herbal medicine but more widely in toilet waters, perfumed and soap, and to flavor wine, vermouth and liqueurs.
Salvia elegans “Scarlet Pineapple Sage,” has brilliant red blossoms, and smells strongly of pineapple when the leaves are crushed. Besides its visual and bee–attractive presence in the herb garden, pineapple sage’s main value is in potpourri as an aromatic and as interest in herbal arrangements.
Salvia officinalis, “Common Sage” is probably known by many as the powdery dried stuff in a jar that goes into poultry stuffing at Thanksgiving. Using this herb fresh will change your opinion about the musty flavor associated with dried sage. Fresh sage can add life to sausage, meat stuffing’s, and in an herb vinegar or jelly. Besides adding a lovely flavor, sage also aids in digestion of fatty foods and, being an antiseptic, kills off potential bugs in cooking meats.
Medicinally, a hot infusion of sage is an excellent tonic for colds. Combined with a little cider vinegar, sage tea makes an effective gargle for sore throats, laryngitis and tonsillitis. Prolonged use of sage is not recommended so use it only for a week or so.
Put dried sage leaves among linens to deter insects, Burn or boil sage leaves to disinfect a room. Sage smoke is considered a ritual cleanser for Native American ceremonies and will deodorize animal and cooking smells. A sage tea can be used to darken and condition gray hair, or as an astringent for oily skin.