My introduction to Sage was as a fine powder my mother would add to the Thanksgiving Dressing. Even as a finely ground powder from a classic McCormick tin, Sage would make my mouth water. It is still one of the scents that I love at Thanksgiving. As a young mother, experimenting with fresh herbs grown in a hanging basket on my porch, I was confused. How did this piney, velvety leaf become the fine, easy to measure powder that my mother used in the 60’s?
I have since learned to harvest stems on the rare dry days of early summer in the Pacific North West (PNW). When the sage puts out the first blossoms and starts to get gangly, it is time to snip down stems and bundle with a rubber band (or ribbon if you have some). Hang the stems to dry in a dark place where you will not forget about them. There should be air flow but not wind. The darker your drying area is, the better the chance that your leaves will not fade to gray. Once the leaves are dry they can be stripped from the stem for storage in a glass jar or tin herb container. They are fine even in a ziplock bag. I use sage in food by rubbing a leaf or leaves in my hands until they become a powder and drop them into my dish. These days I measure more by the leaf than by the spoonful.
My mother was keeper of the keys in an era with a high regard for science and the doctors who practiced it. I do not remember her telling me so much as to put mud on a bee sting to draw out the venom. Instead alcohol based medicine would be dabbed on. My father would assure me that I was just being dramatic if I squealed with pain. I must have been a pip to raise. My time as keeper of the keys was an exploration into the old ways of herbalists. Sage is a fantastic learning tool for an aspiring herbalist.
Got a headache? Try an infusion of sage. An infusion is like tea but much stronger. Use two to three times as much herb to make and infusion as you might use to make tea. Pour boiling water over herb leaves, allowing them to steep (soak) for 10 minutes instead of the usual 3 minutes you allow for tea. Pour the resulting liquid through a strainer. It can be used hot or cold.
Sage is astringent (draws together and contracts swollen tissue) and tonic (invigorating and strengthening physically and mentally). It is used to cool a fever and cleanse the blood.
An infusion of sage will help when I have a headache because of tension. If you are a younger woman you should be aware that Sage will promote menstruation so use it with caution if you are trying to get pregnant. Because sage is an antiseptic you can use the infusion as a mouth wash or gargle it when your throat is sore or if you have the occasional pus bubble (ulcer that looks like a pimple in your mouth) or for the occasional bleeding gums. Be smart. If your gums are bleeding your body is telling you something. Talk to your hygienist about this at your semi-annual visit. The same goes for mouth and throat ulcers. The occasional white spot in your mouth or on your tonsils isn’t a big deal, your body is getting rid of toxins. But if it happens often or gets nasty TALK TO YOUR HEALTH CARE PRACTIOTIONER!
Garland, Sarah The Complete Book of Herbs & Spices New York c 1979 Viking Press