herbal stories: sage

As we’re approaching winter, I would like to share another herbal story, about sage this time. It’s one of my favourite winter herbs! I must admit, this hasn’t always been this way. For a long time I detested sage as its taste so easily dominates and was so bitter. But apparently my taste has quite changed and now I love this wintery herb, especially because of all its incredible benefits!

Let us first take a closer look at this medicinal herb. Its Latin name is Salvia officinalis. ‘Salvia’ is derived from ‘salvare’, latin for to cure or to save. ‘Officinalis’ means that sage is already known for a long time as a medicinal herb.

Sage is a perennial and hardy plant that originally grows in the Mediterranean area. Its felted, hairy and elongated leaves are jagged to smooth. We only use the leaves for all the medicinal cures or tisanes (herbal teas). As this herb grows all year round I don’t dry them but just cut some fresh leaves whenever I need them from my herb garden.

Though if you would like to dry sage, just harvest the young, aromatic stems before they bloom. Dry the stems that have unopened flowers as they contain the most essential oil. When the beautiful flowers are in full bloom, they are a favourite place to be for the bees! It’s a really easy plant to have in your garden. They only need to be completely pruned in spring. This plant looks really lovely in a floral border too and the bees will be grateful!

Sage, as a medicinal herb, is anti-inflammatory and astringent for the airways and it promotes the digestion. It is antibacterial, expectorant and  improves wound healing. Its bitter taste comes from the bitter and tanning substances sage contains. It contracts the taste buds and gives this typical wry taste in the mouth.

Chewing on fresh sage leaves cleans, strengthens and disinfects the gums. And it heals mouth ulcers in a natural way.

Since ages, sage is well-known as the herb for a sore throat and laryngitis. Every time when one of us has a sore throat I make the following recipe. Boil water, enough to fill a tea pot. Put a handful of fresh or some dried sage leaves in the tea pot and pour out a little cold water on them. Then add the boiled water and infuse for 5 minutes. Pour in a cup and gargle. Repeat this every hour until the pain is less.

This powerful remedy can also be used with kids, but if the taste would be too strong of bitter, one can replace half of the sage by camomile flowers.

The recipe of sage tea from above can also be used to drink when one has digestive problems, little appetite, cramp and flatulence. Make the infusion less strong (4 to 8 fresh leaves for a big cup) and drink it 30 minutes before the meal.

Only use sage infusion when it’s really necessary, don’t make it into a habit. This infusion is also delicious before you go to sleep because of the relaxing effect of sage. I often make myself a cup of hot milk with sage leaves and a spoon of our honey before I go to bed.

Be careful; don’t use sage when you are pregnant or when one has epilepsy ! Sage contracts the muscles and could therefore in these cases be dangerous.

Another way to profit of the benefits of sage, is to make your own bath salt. Taking a long hot bath on a dark winter evening will have a healing and soothing effect on your mind and body. So let’s start to make our own bath salt! Crush 1 and 1/2 tablespoon of yellow mustard seed with a mortar and pestle. Add this to 500 g Celtic sea salt and mix it with 13 drops of essential sage oil and 15 drops of essential orange oil. Let it dry for some hours before you put it into a closed glass jar. Now make a little herb bouquet by binding some branches of sage, rosemary and laurel together.

Fill your bath with water of ±38°C and add some of this bath salt and hang the herb bouquet on the faucet and enjoy!

If you would take a bath before going to sleep, don’t add the rosemary as it’s stimulating and refreshing.

I would love to hear if you have a favourite herbal remedy with sage…

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