Sage, the familiar plant of the kitchen garden, comes to us from southern Europe. It grows to a height of 70 cm. and its purplish flowers are set in whorls. The leaves set in pairs on the stem are greyish-green with a silvery sheen and wrinkled. They possess a somewhat bitter, aromatic scent. Sage should grow in a sunny but sheltered position in your garden. To protect it from the frost, I cover it with branches of fir. Another kind, the Meadow Sage (Salvia pratensis) grows on banks, in meadows and pastures. The showy, purplish-blue flowers exude an aromatic perfume and are used mainly as a gargle or to make Sage vinegar - a handful of flowers are macerated in natural vinegar - and this is used as a beneficial and invigorating rub or massage during long illnesses. The leaves are gathered before the flowers open and at midday in bright sunshine, since the volatile oils of the plant are only fully developed in sunshine. The leaves are dried in the shade.
It is about the Common or Garden Sage, whose medicinal properties are more powerful, that I would like to talk. Already among our forefathers it was a highly esteemed herb. A thirteenth century verse says: "Why should a man die, whilst Sage grows in his garden?"
Sage is well named, coming from the Latin "salvare", to save, in reference to its curative properties. How highly it was praised in olden times we can read in a delightful old herbal: "During the Virgin Mary's flight from Herod, all flowers in the field were asked to hide Her and the Baby Jesus, but none gave her shelter except Sage. After Herod's men had gone without seeing Her and the danger had passed, the Virgin Mary told the Sage: "From now to, eternity, you will be the favourite flower of mankind. I give you the power to heal man of all illness and save him from death as you have done for me." Since then Sage grows to the benefit of mankind.
Sage tea, drunk frequently, strengthens the body, prevents stroke and is good for paralysis. Sage, besides Lavender, is the only plant that will help relieve night sweats; it attacks the illness which is the cause of it, and its invigorating forces take away the great weakness that is part of it. Many physicians have realized the beneficial qualities of Sage; they use it with great success for cramps, disorders of the spinal cord, glandular disorders and for trembling of the limbs. For these disorders 2 cups are sipped throughout the day. This tea is valuable in liver complaints, dispels flatulence and all complaints caused by an ill liver. It is blood cleansing, dispels phlegm from the respiratory organs and the stomach, increases the appetite, rectifies intestinal trouble and diarrhoea.
For insect stings crushed leaves are applied.
Sage tea is used for ulcerated throat and mouth, inflammation of the tooth pulp, tonsillitis and throat disorders. Many children and grown-ups could have saved themselves a tonsillectomy had they taken Sage tea in time. When the tonsils, which are the policemen of the body for toxic substances, are missing, the toxic substances go directly to the kidneys. A decoction of Sage is a useful gargle for loose and bleeding teeth and ulcerated or receding gums. A small piece of cotton saturated with Sage tea can be applied. A sitz bath (see "directions") taken once in a while would be of great help to women with abdominal troubles and to people with weak nerves.
Besides its medicinal properties Sage is used as a culinary herb. In small quantities similar to Thyme and Savory it is added to pork, goose and turkey, not only for the aroma but also for breaking down the fat in the meat. A small leaf added to venison improves the taste. In some districts "Sage biscuits" are baked. Finely shredded leaves are added to the dough. Sage added to the cheese or sauces makes them wholesome.
Infusion: 1/4 litre of boiling water is poured over 1 teaspoon of herbs, infused for a short time.
Sage vinegar: A bottle is filled loosely to the neck with the flowers of the Meadow Sage, natural vinegar is poured over them, so that the flowers are covered and kept in a warm or sunny place for 14 days.
Sitz bath: Two heaped double handfuls of leaves are steeped in cold water overnight. Next day it is brought to the boil and the liquid is added to the bath water, (see General Information "sitz bath").