Regular Sage is a well familiar species, but there are many different species of Sage that are dispersed over large portions of the globe. Most prefer a dry, hot climate and are home in the Mediterranean region or California. Like its more exotic cousins, Garden Sage is strongly aromatic and very attractive to bees. The genus name comes from the Latin 'salvare' - to heal, and alludes to the fact that many species of Sage are great healers. We tend to regard it more as a kitchen herb, though - and not a very commonly used one at that. Perhaps the astringent, slightly bitter and somewhat overpowering flavour is more than what our modern taste buds are willing to tolerate. Yet, Sage provides excellent contrast, e.g. in cheese dishes, and compliments heavy, greasy meats, which it will help to digest. As always, it is the dose that makes the difference - in the case of Sage, a little goes a long way, but just a pinch of this herb makes for a very interesting flavour dimension. However, it is a bit of an acquired, somewhat 'grown-up' taste, so it is probably not a good idea to try it on your kids. The ancients held Sage in great respect, considering it an herb of Jupiter. It was thought to have protective and purifying powers that could preserve good health as well as a happy, strong spirit. In North America, Californian Indians made similar claims about White Sage. Prairie Sage, also known as Mountain or Desert Sage, only shares the name, but is actually not a Sage at all. Instead, Mountain Sage is a species of Artemisia and related to Mugwort.
Red Sage is considered medicinally more powerful than regular Garden Sage, but essentially the two can be used in the same way. Sage is a drying and astringing herb that stops excessive secretions, be it sweat, blood or milk. It is sometimes used during menopause to control hot flashes or night sweats. However, the dose is important as weak Sage tea increases perspiration, while a strong infusion will reduce sweating. Sage dries the mucous membranes and is an excellent herb in catarrhal conditions of the upper respiratory system. It is one of the best remedies to use as a gargle for sore throat and laryngitis, pharyngitis or tonsillitis. It is also excellent for inflammatory conditions of the mouth, such as mouth ulcers, inflamed or bleeding gums or stomatitis. It is also a mild bitter that can stimulate the digestive system, liver and gall bladder. Sage stimulates the uterus and should be avoided during pregnancy. Oddly though, one old herbal claims that if a woman who has had difficulties conceiving, drinks Sage tea for 4 days before she cohabits with her husband she will not only be likely to conceive, but also be able to retain the fruit of love and resist any threat of miscarriage. This practice has not been tried and tested by modern science as yet and there is no certainty that it will work. Do not use during pregnancy.
Sage is a powerfully protective and cleansing herb that can be used to purify a sacred space or ritual tools. It is also used for aura and crystal cleansing and helps to dispel negative energies. It may be employed in rites of passage and ceremonies held in remembrance of the dead. Sage protects the astral body and can be burnt as incense for protection during spirit journeys or for divination practices. It may be helpful as an aide for spiritual studies and may help deepen one's insight and understanding into the mysteries.
Not all herbs are suitable in pregnancy, breastfeeding or for young children, or if you are unwell, or taking any medication. If in doubt, please ask a medical herbalist or healthcare practitioner.