Sage, the “Savior”

Photo Courtesy of Maggie Hoffman

Ever since I first realized I might age, Sage has beckoned. There was a conference on aging back in the 80’s that caught my eye, called “Saging, Not Aging”  – so, what is it about Sage?Why are wise men called “Sages”? Could there be a relationship to the plant itself?

I was looking for more than what  my herbal library had to say about this plant – precious little about it’s role in the aging process.  This was  a plant held in high esteem by the Greeks, Romans and Old European herbalists. A common saying was, “Why should a man die whilst sage grows in his garden?’

It’s Latin name, Salvia, comes from the Latin salvere  which means ‘to heal’ or ‘to be safe and unharmed’. These days its mostly known as a culinary herb. Sage has slipped. By that I mean, if you look at what herbalists recommend for various conditions, Sage will be overshadowed by other plants (with a few exceptions, ie.sore throats, night sweats, smudging). Perhaps its our culture’s fascination with what’s new.  If I may offer my own 2012 prediction – Sage shall rise again.  A precursor to its rise – in 2001 it was named the “Herb of the Year” by the International Herb Association.

A member of the mint family, its closest to it’s cousin, Rosemary – considered  THE best herb for protection against radiation – I wonder if Sage might do that too?  There are over 500 varieties of Sage, they are not interchangeable either…Sages have their own personalities. The wild Sage we commonly find around the Ozarks is Lyre-Leaf Sage. also known as Cancerweed. We do not put it in soups or stuffing. Records indicate it was Salvia officinalis who won first-place among the ancient healers…that’s our common garden sage. Don’t be fooled by it’s moniker , common. Medicinally speaking, its so strong that some herbalists caution not to tincture it nor use its essential oil. This is due to its thujone content which, if misused is a neurotoxin. Used wisely, thujone heals some difficult conditions.

One of the safest ways a gardener can use it is to nibble on 7-8 leaves daily. Its said to aid memory at that amount. Otherwise, an infusion of properly dried herb works well.

Getting back to Saging instead of Aging – There is some research into this plant that supports the anti-aging claims. Take menopause – a natural process that I would consider aging only if done poorly, causing debility. There was one clinical study using Salvia extract (along with Alfalfa) to alleviate a variety of menopausal symptoms. Hot flashes and night sweats completely disappeared in all of the subjects. (1)

Another study validates its traditional use in  mild to moderate Alzheimer’s as a neuroprotective (2)

The chances of developing type 2 diabetes increases as we age (though its appearing in younger people all too often lately) .  Sage is known to help control blood sugar and also acts as a blood cleaner. Now we have a study indicating it may well be a treatment for diabetes 2. I know of one 67 year old woman who reversed her diabetes through diet, exerise and Sage. (3)

Antioxidants are well-known to slow down aging. It turns out the Sage is loaded with them. It also protects the liver. A study was done that indicates that the compounds present in Sage infusions contain interesting bioactivities, which improve the liver antioxidant potential. (4) Another study showed that Sage may prevent degenerative diseases associated with oxidative stress. (5)

Of course, there’s a lot more to Sage than what I’ve written here so I encourage all of you to seek it out and explore its potential. Isn’t this a great time to arm ourselves with a  plant that keeps us “safe from harm”? And isn’t 2012 supposed to be when we’re all transformed into Sages?




About dcoda

An herbalist for over 40 years, ten years spent alone in the Ozark Hurricane Creek Wilderness Preserve, working with its brilliant botanicals. I'm an instructor and co-founder of the Ozark Herbal Academy which offers training in medicinal and edible plants through hands-on workshops and online courses.

Posted on January 15, 2012, in Various Useful Plants and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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