Northeast Wisconsin
  • Northeast Wisconsin
  • September 2018
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Garden sage — Salvia officinalis

Garden sage is one of those widely accessible herbs that is greatly ignored, but for once a year when we pull it out to stuff the Thanksgiving bird. This herb has been used for millennia as an antimicrobial, preservative and for women’s reproductive health. Sage is easily found in stores and grows well in most garden settings, thus it is worth keeping stocked in the home pantry.

Sage is part of the mint family and grows as an herbaceous perennial. It prefers well drained soil, low to moderate water and a sunny location. It does well in zones 4-8; though, some sources mention only to zone 6. It does well in our Wisconsin winters as long as it’s protected from the winter wind.

Sage is a potently drying herb, it is one of the best to dry up excess secretions in the body, including sweat, mucous and breast milk production. Further, it provides digestive support through its carminative and bitter effects, as well as having anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, antibacterial, antifungal, hypoglycemic, neuroprotective, antiviral and immunomodulant actions. It has been used for gastritis, food poisoning and diarrhea, reducing excessive secretions in the upper respiratory tract mucous membranes, including postnasal drip and sinusitis, and excessive sweating, hot flashes, or night sweats. Sage has also been found to be effective at reducing symptoms of mild to moderate Alzheimer’s disease, and improving the mood and cognitive performance of young healthy individuals.

The leaves are commonly used to make infusions (tea) or tinctures. The herb is used fresh or the stems are cut before flowering and hung to dry, to store for the winter months. A tea or tincture can be made with fresh or dried material. A tea is made by using one teaspoon of dried, or 2-3 teaspoons fresh, sage leaves per 8 ounces of hot water; steep for 15 to 20 minutes. Drink 4 ounces at a time. This can be drunk at the first sign of a cold, to relieve menopausal night sweats or hot flashes, or to dry up a nursing mother’s milk supply. Sage also makes a delicious vinegar to be used to replace regular vinegar in a recipe or as a dressing, marinade or on top of roasted vegetables. Combine fresh sage, thyme and oregano and add to a Mason jar. Cover the herbs with a high quality, raw apple cider vinegar and let sit for six weeks before straining. Use a plastic cover or layer a piece of parchment paper between the canning lid and the vinegar as the vinegar will corrode the metal.

Sage Throat Gargle

Salt water is a common folk remedy and is gargled regularly to prevent illness. With the addition of sage, the remedy has far more antimicrobial activity to bolster the body during times of illness exposure.

1 tablespoon dried sage leaves

1-2 tablespoons of Himalayan sea salt

8 ounces of hot water

Pour hot water over the sage leaves in a pint-sized Mason jar. Steep 45 minutes to one hour. Strain out the leaves and dissolve the salt in the infusion. Use this gargle regularly to prevent illness or use several times a day at the first sign of a cold or sore throat.

Sage should be avoided during pregnancy and lactation. The tincture should be used for a relatively short amount of time — four weeks or less. 

As always, please talk to your health care provider before adding herbs into your diet.

Sources: “Making Plant Medicine.” Oregon, Herbal Reads. Richo Cech. 2016.

“Medicinal Herbs: A Beginner’s Guide.” North Adams, MA, Storey Publishing. Rosemary Gladstar. 2012.

“Herbal Therapy & Supplements: A Scientific and Traditional Approach.” Wolters Kluwer Health. Merrily Kuhn and David Winston. 2008.

“The Desktop Guide to Herbal Medicine.” Laguna Beach, Basic Health Publications, Inc. Bridgette Mars. 2007.

Dana Schlies

Dana is a Certified Women’s Herbal Educator and Community Herbalist. She is passionate about educating women about the many botanical and alternative methods to bring the body into balance and create vibrant, healthy living. She utilizes a comprehensive approach including environment, nutrition, exercise, stress reduction and botanicals to bring support to the whole body. She is part of the team at Sweet Willow Naturals, and can be reached at 920-530-1188 or [email protected]

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