The botanical name of sage, which is Salvia Officinalis, is derived from salvare—mesining “to save”—referring to its great curative and healing power. It was highly esteemed by the ancients and regarded as a panacea for all diseases. It became so popular that it was universally drunk as we drink tea today, as a spring tonic.
Sage grows wild in the South of Europe, but is cultivated abundantly in our gardens. It is one of our most popular plants. It has terminal spikes of blue, light purple, or red blossoms, but all possess the same medical properties. The LEAVES are the official portion.
Both the leaves and the flowering summits have a strong fragrant odor and a warm, bitterish, aromatic, somewhat astringent taste. It imparts its virtues to boiling water in infusion but more especially to alcohol. They abound in a volatile oil which, when distilled, is strongly antiseptic.
In infusion, it may be given in debilitated conditions of the stomach, attended with flatulence, and is said to have been useful in checking the exhaustive sweats of hectic fever. Its most usual application is as a gargle in sore and inflamed throat, mouth ulcers, and the relaxation of the uvula.
A gargle in sore throat and mouth ulcers is made as follows: steep 1 oz. sage, 1 Dr. powdered borax and 2 oz. honey in 1 pint hot (not boiling) water. Cover till cold. Strain and gargle freely. If a more stimulating gargle is desired, equal parts of vinegar and water may be used. Bring to a boil and pour on the ingredients. Cover closely until cold, strain, and use freely.
Another excellent gargle for relaxed throat, quinsy, laryngitis, and tonsils, and also for mouth and throat ulcers is made by pouring 1/2 pt. hot cider vinegar upon 1 oz. leaves and add X pt. cold water. Dose—Drink wine-glassful frequently as well as gargle.
The infusion is prepared by macerating 1 oz. of the leaves in 1 pt. boiling water, of which 2 fl. oz. may be taken at once. When intended to be used merely as a pleasant drink in febrile complaints, or to allay nausea, the maceration should continue but a very short time so that all the bitterness (tonic) of the leaves may not be extracted.
It is very soothing to the nerves, being used largely to quiet cerebral nervous excitement and the delirium of fevers. Make the infusion of 1/2 oz. to 1 pt. of hot or boiling water.
Sage tea taken in cold infusion will, within a few days, cause milk to leave the breasts and prevent milk from forming where this is desirable in nursing mothers, as in the cases of inflammation or gathering in the breasts.
Sage has a marked effect on the brain and the head. It strengthens the sinews and has been used with success in palsy.
It was formerly made into wine and pressed into cheese; also made into stuffing for fowl and sausages and in the 18th century, sage butter was one of the Church’s great fasting dishes. Sage is one of the most important herbs for seasoning food, both the red and green-leafed sage being used. The dried and the fresh whole leaves are used. Sage cheese is still sold in our food shops today.
In making the infusion, see to it that no steam escapes, as the result will not be nearly as good. The leaves of sage contain considerable volatile oil, hence it should NEVER be boiled.