The Sage is the wise one within us. The Sage is the quiet, subtle and patient part of us that sits and waits to be seen. We are both the Seer (the see-er) and the Sage. We seek to understand the world around us and we find our insight and wisdom from the world within.
Sage is a medicinal herb of many names and many faces, many qualities and many medicinal properties. Sage can be the most common plant in our garden, or it can be the most mysterious esoteric herb that takes a lifetime to know. Sage is one of those herbs that is valuable to most people, for most ailments, and it would be wise to have Sage in your apothecary if nothing else.
Salvia, the botanical name of Sage, stems from the meaning of salvation, to save or be saved. Its name suggests its potency and value as a medicinal herb, Salvia officinalis is a strong antimicrobial with a particular affinity for the throat, mouth and gums. It is a key medicinal herb for an inflamed sore throat and tonsils, mouth ulcers or bleeding gums. And because it is so strong it is best blended with a soothing demulcent herb such as marshmallow root or licorice root.
Along with its cousin Thyme, it makes an essential winter tonic for the colder months when we are exposed to viruses and do not get enough fresh dry air into the lungs. Sage strengthens the respiratory system with its warming, stimulating and antimicrobial properties.
Sage also strengthens and stimulates the digestive system, again with its warming, stimulating and anti-microbial properties. Its aromatic flavour and antioxidant properties make it a powerful herbaceous seasoning that will enliven cooked food and protect the body from any damaged nutrients that occurs in the process of frying.
Excessive perspiration can occur due to ones natural rate of metabolism, or it can be an acute occurrence due to a fever, or it can be caused by the dis-regulation of temperature in the body due to hormonal fluctuations, such as in menopause. Sage is the most well known herb to alleviate such fluctuations in temperature.
An emmenagogue is the action of a herb that brings about menstruation in those women where menstruation is slow or scanty, and therefore is a sign of a hormonal imbalance. Light periods may not be a problem, however when menstruation is frequently late in the cycle, as well as being very light, it can often be accompanied with low energy, low mood and a tendency to be cold. These symptoms can be associated with insufficient adrenal function (caused by excessive stress), nutrient deficiencies (caused by a poor diet or poor digestive function), or low thyroid function (caused by both of the above).
Sage strengthens and protects the entire body, giving us overall resilience in both our physical immunity and our emotional stamina.
There are many, many Salvia species, too many to mention here, however here are three that are worth knowing and growing for yourself…
Pineapple Sage, Salvia elegans, is a delightful fruity sage that brightens our spirits midwinter with almost fluorescent cerise coloured flowers. As its common name suggests, it smells and tastes of pineapple, and so makes a sweet and fragrant infusion for tea, or even better in a syrup. I like to add the flowers into the ice cube trays so that I get to experience their delight throughout summer too. As its botanical name suggests, Salvia elegans is a plant of elegance. The late philosopher Alan Watts describes the Japanese Zen term Fūryū as elegance in simplicity. Elegance, even a state of poverty. Meaning that one can withdraw from life’s burdens, free from false perceptions of permanence and stability, living with the simplest of needs and still radiate elegance. Even in midwinter, when most other plants are in hibernation mode, the Pineapple Sage requires no attention or tender loving care, and still it blooms. Fūryū is the modest yet elegant nature of Salvia elegans.
Clary Sage, Salvia sclarea, is a little more textured and a little more mysterious. The leaves of Clary Sage are larger and plumper, with toothed edges, a wrinkled surface and velvety hairs. The flowers range from pale blue, to violet, to white. The volatile oils of Clary Sage are extracted and used in aromatherapy for its deeply relaxing effect on the muscular and nervous systems, working as an anti-spasmodic to ease muscle cramps and a sedative to ease nervous tension. Clary Sage is earthy, herbaceous, musky and sweet. It has been used in the brewing of beer for its deep relaxing qualities, similar to hops, and has also been used to flavour tobacco. Within skincare Clary Sage is used to regulate sebum production for combination skin, also for scalp health where hair is greasy and yet the scalp is flaky. For the deeper levels of the mind, Clary Sage is balancing, strengthening for those who are fatigued and relaxing for those who are tense. More than this, Clary Sage is so tranquilizing that it allows the body and mind to relax to the point of opening up to deeper states of pleasure, creativity and clarity.
White Sage Salvia apiana is otherwise known as Sacred Sage, it has been used ritually within native American traditions for the purpose of clearing the air, cleansing a space or a persons energy from negativity, or creating boundaries between the sacred and the profane at the beginning and end of rituals. White Sage is still used for the same purposes today by anyone who wishes to cleanse a new home, bedroom or office before moving in, or for clearing ones own energy after having experienced a negative situation or ending an unhealthy relationship. You can find White Sage in the form of a smudge stick where it is bound up with string to form a wand shape, once it is lit of fire it gently smoulders away creating a fragrant herbaceous smoke. Along with all Salvia species, White Sage strengthen, preserves and conserves our energy. By the act of acknowledging endings and celebrating new beginnings, White Sage allows us to let go and move on, preventing our energy from dragging behind us as excess baggage.
As we can see, Sage cultivates the wise one within, from the depths to the surface, from the gross to the subtle, from the body to the spirit. Sage gives us insights into our innate resilience, elegance, clarity and sanctity. Allowing us to become the Sage that we were meant to be.