SAGE (Salvia officinalis): Origin: native to the Mediterranean region and Asia Minor. Sage is associated with Jupiter and was thought by the Romans to facilitate memory and to quicken the senses. Known throughout the Mediterranean and associated with immortality, chewing sage has been credited in mythology with increasing mental capacity.   The name, sage, comes from the Latin salvo (to save or heal) in memory of Christianity and the flight into Egypt of the Holy Family who hid from Herod’s soldiers in a thicket of sage and were saved. Sage has been used for centuries to freshen the beauty of elegant ladies.

The Gerarde herbal recommends use of sage leaves to help cure wounds. Decoctions of sage leaves were prescribed for individuals who fell and were badly bruised on their insides; Gerarde also recommended that a decoction of sage be drunk given the success of this product for treating persons infected with the French pox [syphilis]. Sage also was used to induce perspiration, to dry up ulcers, and to reduce swellings. In another section of his herbal Gerarde reports: that during Roman times sage was called the Holie herbe, since pregnant women in danger of miscarriage would eat sage concoctions in belief that the process would closet the matrix, and maketh them fruitefull as it retaineth the birth. Sage was an excellent herb for the head and brain as it quickened the senses and memorie; it takes away shaking and trembling of the arms and legs, and when inserted into the nose it would draw flegme out of the head. Sage was recommended for ill persons who spit up blood, those with cough and pain in the sides, and for serpent bites. When mixed with honey sage is a good medicine for those that spit and vomit blood; it helps the pale regain color, strengthens the sinews, and purges the blood. Sage leaves mixed with rosemary, honey, and white wine was recommended as an excellent water to wash the secret parts of man or woman, and when mint juice is mixed with vinegar it will stop bleeding and help cure canker sores in the mouth.

The Culpeper herbal also reports that a decoction prepared from the leaves and branches of sage will provoke urine, help to expel the dead child [during miscarriage], and cause the hair of those who use it to become black. Sate also will stop wounds from bleeding and cleanse foul ulcers. To stop the spitting of blood with consumption [tuberculosis] it was recommended to take three spoonfuls of sage juice mixed with honey while fasting. Leaves of sage and nettles bruised together were applied to abscesses behind the ears in order to ease the pain; juice of sage taken in warm water would help cough and hoarseness; sage leaves soaked in wine and applied to the skin will ease palsy; sage mixed with wormwood was recommended for the bloody-flux [dysentery]. Sage reduces the pain of stings [from insects] and bites from serpents; kills worms that breed in the ear or inside sores on the body. Sage was used to improve memory as it would warm and quicken the senses. The juice of sage mixed with vinegar found usefulness during time of the plague. A range of useful gargles were identified that could be prepared using sage, rosemary, honey-suckle and plantain: these would be boiled in wine or water and sometimes mixed with honey or allum [a medical astringent] and used to wash sore mouths and throats, canker cores, and the secret parts of men or women as need required. Baths of sage taken in summer will warm the joints and sinews troubled by palsy or cramps and sage was much recommended against the stitch or pains in the side caused by wind [intestinal gas]. One of Culpeper’s legacies is a medicinal aphorism regarding sage:

A Caution …

If you will keep your teeth from rotting, or aching, wash your mouth continually every morning with juice of Lemons, and afterwards rub your teeth either with a Sage-leaf, or else with a little Nutmeg in powder; also wash your mouth with a little fair water after meats [meals]; for the only way to keep teeth sound, and free from pain, is to keep them clean.

A Medieval treatment for lethargy and forgetfulness was to make a decoction of tutsan (St. John’s wort), smalage (wild celery), and sage, then bathe the back of the head with this liquid! A faint memory that can be traced to the School of Salerno in the Middle Ages holds: How can a man die who grows sage in his garden? In the Middle Ages it was held that sage prolonged life, elated one’s spirits, softened sorrow, and when consumed by young girls, enabled them to see their future husbands. Sage tea has been thought for hundreds of years to be a brain food and a remedy against epilepsy and a protection against the Black Plague. Since Medieval times, people have gargled with sage to whiten the teeth and to strengthen the gums. It is also widely taken as a remedy against laryngitis. Sage is commonly planted on graves in rural England. Various American traditions of the 19th century held that: sage leaves will keep away ants, and if sage tea is drunk this will combat warts, measles, and seasickness. Drinking a great quantity of sage tea is thought by some to stop excessive perspiration. In English tradition sage grows best in household gardens where the wife dominates; after weddings the bride and groom plant bushes of sage – the one that grows best will reflect who dominates the household; alternatively, it is held “as sage flourishes, so does the family”; a long-standing tradition holds that one’s teeth should be cleaned using fresh sage leaves; in rural England so-called “Gypsy Toothpaste” consisted of chopped sage mixed with salt and rubbed onto one’s teeth using Irish linen; water used to boil sage leaves used to treat arthritis. (Summarized from: Gerarde, 1597, pp. 535-536, also 622-624; Culpeper, 1653, pp.162, also p. 397; Skinner, 1911, pp. 262-263; Colin, 1962, p. 78; Northcote, 1971, pp. 37-38; Vickery, 1995, p. 328; Grivetti, 2004, p. 99).

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