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Sage, Salvia officinalis 

Sage (Salvia officinalis)

The ancient Romans used to ask, "How can a man die if he has sage growing in his garden?" It was a highly valued herb in those times and is well supported for its medicinal values today as well. It is an attractive, shrubby plant that develops upright flowering spikes with tiered clusters of inch-long violet-tinted blue blossoms. The taste of sage is a welcome addition to many different types of cooking.

Growing Info: Sage is a fairly drought tolerant plant, but will grow better when moderately watered. It loves full sun and well drained, average or even poor soil fertility. Can be started from seed, or start plants from cuttings of new growth in mid to late spring. After it flowers, cut them back; and in late spring, just as growth begins to renew itself, cut plants back by about half. Hardy to about -10 degrees F (-23 degrees C) and will grow to about 12-20 inches (30-50 cm) high.

Standard Uses: Sage makes an attractive ornamental plant for most any garden. The most common use today is as flavoring for meat and poultry stuffings. It also makes an appearance in many of the culinary dishes of the Mediterranean and Near Eastern region. Leaves retain the most flavor when slowly dried.

Medicinal Uses: Sage leaves can provide relief of the itching and swelling resulting from insect bites by chewing some to mix with saliva, thus making a crude poultice to apply to the bite. A tea made from the leaves provides soothing, healing relief for sore throat, loss of voice and tonsillitis, as well as helping to remove mucus from congested lungs. When time for nursing mothers to stop their milk flow, two cups of warm sage tea each day for about a week will generally dry up the milk supply quite well.

A alternative to commercial chemical products to darken gray hair is also made with this plant. Just mix dried sage and black tea or orange pekoe (2 tablespoons each) in a heavy ceramic bowl filled halfway with boiling water, cover with a plate and place in a 275 degree F oven for two hours. Afterwards, allow to cool, stir well and strain. A small quantity of the infusion can then be rubbed into the roots of the hair about 4-5 times a week. Pretty soon the hair will become darker once again, and the treatment can be continued once or twice a week thereafter. Add three tablespoons of gin or rum to make the infusion keep over longer periods.

Recently published studies by a team of scientists at the Nippon Roche Research Center in Kamakura, Japan, concluded that powdered sage or sage tea helped to prevent blood clots from forming, making it useful in the treatment of myocardial infraction and general coronary pains.

Some people have used a sage infusion, cooled and strained to relieve intense itching of the skin. By pouring it over the affected area, then, while still wet, and powdering it with whole wheat flower (never white), sufferers will most always report immediate relief.

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