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Usable parts: leaves and flowers
Other names: Sacred herb, Greek Tea, White Sage, Bird’s Sage, Erba Savia, Salvio alder, Salvia osèi, Sàlevia, Selvia
A perennial plate native to the Mediterranean area, robust, 50-70cm tall with branched stems. The leaves are long, lanceolate, oval-shaped and grey-green. Sage blooms from June to August. The flowers are lilac, blue or white and grow in full-budded stems. The whole plant, especially the leaves, emits an intense and pleasant smell reminiscent of the slightly bitter flavour of a lemon. It is propagated by the division of the root, through leaf cuttings or by seed.
A bit of history … Between myth and reality
The Latin name for sage salveo means “healthy star” and refers to the many healing properties that were attributed to sage in ancient times. The expression, “Why would a man die if there is still sage in his garden?” highlights the importance of the species in medicine from as early as Roman times. For example, in the first century, the Greek physician Dioscorides recommended sage as a disinfectant for wounds and to soothe coughs.
The plant has always been associated with longevity and you’ll find many examples, especially in early history, of its therapeutic uses as a digestive and tonic for the nerves, a gargle for a sore throat and gingivitis, an antiseptic for infections and a poultice for insect bites.
During the Middle Ages, it was recommended for its bactericidal and antiseptic properties. The so-called “vinegar of the four thieves”, included in the pharmacists’ code up until the 19th century, consisted of sage leaves macerated with thyme, lavender, rosemary and other aromatic species. When in the 17th century sage spread to America, Dutch merchants would barter one case of it with the Chinese in exchange for three cases of green tea.
In traditional Indian medicine (Ayurveda, Siddha and Unani) sage is widely used to treat indigestion, as a remedy for sore throats and to soothe pain and swelling in the mouth and gums, while in Ancient Chinese medicine, sage is thought to procure immortality, chase away fatigue and preserve the teeth.
While enjoying considerable success in ancient medicine, the herb’s many pharmaceutical virtues were significantly reduced in as early as the last century.
Today, sage is one of the most frequently used species in herbal medicine; in the food industry to flavour meat, salads, soups, stews as well as oils, vinegars and teas; and in the liquor and homeopathy fields for its antibacterial, eupeptic, antiviral and astringent properties. It’s also a common ingredient in soaps, cosmetics and perfumes.
A recent study highlighted, through in vitro tests, that both Salvia officinalis and Salvia lavandulaefolia con