We usually think of sage during the holidays when we make Thanksgiving turkey and dressing. However, sage is quite versatile, pairing well not only with poultry and stuffing but also with beef, pork, sausage, eggs, cheese, squash, apples, and citrus. Other recommended pairings with sage are asparagus, beans, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, carrots, corn, eggplant, potatoes, tomatoes and turnips. My daughter even chose sage to decorate her wedding cake! I guess you could say that sage goes with just about everything.

 Sage is not only a great culinary herb, but one with traditional and medicinal uses as well. In 1597, herbalist John Gerard wrote that sage was “singularly good for the head and quickeneth the nerves and memory.” Research on sage was conducted at the Medicinal Plant Research Center in England in 2003. Those who regularly took sage oil pills had much better word recall than those who did not. Perhaps having sage on the wedding cake will help my daughter and son-in-law remember their anniversary!

Some researchers believe sage could be useful in treating Alzheimer’s too. Sage contains a compound that is a natural acetylcholinesterase inhibitor. Acetylcholinesterase is an enzyme that breaks down acetylcholine. Simply speaking, those with Alzheimer’s are deficient in the neurotransmitter acetylcholine. By inhibiting the enzyme that breaks it down, levels can remain higher. Alzheimer’s patients are sometimes treated with drugs that do the same thing sage does naturally.  Of course, much more research would need to be done, so always follow a doctor’s advice and let them know about any herbs you’re taking.

Sage has a long history of medicinal use that spans several thousand years if not more. Its primary uses are for the treatment of sore throats, typhoid fever, diarrhea, asthma, dental abscesses, mouth sores, digestion, nerves, muscle and joint pain, excessive perspiration, and hot flashes in menopausal women.

Colonists in New England relied on sage tea to combat colds and flu, and even today many herbalists will recommend it to relieve symptoms and bring down fevers. Sage has antibacterial properties and is a natural expectorant, helping to expel and dry up excess mucus. I really enjoy sage tea. Add some lemon, ginger, and honey, and sip on this delicious drink.

Sage oil is also effective against E. coli, salmonella and staph infections. It is a powerful anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant, but that’s not all! Sage is a good source of vitamin A and calcium and has been used as a beauty aid to produce clear skin, and as a hair rinse to reduce hair loss and darken hair color.

Medicinally, sage is primarily used as a tea, but is also available as an extract and essential oil.  It’s easy to grow and dry, so I recommend planting sage in a sunny (or even partly shady) spot in your garden. I dry my own sage and use it for tea throughout the year:

Copyright © by Bobbi Mullins, originally published February 27, 2014.

Grieve, A Modern Herbal (©1931)
Tierra, The Way of Herbs (©1980)