Documents: Special Interest: Herbs:

10 Neat Things About Sage
by Dorothy Dobbie
by Dorothy Dobbie

The Local Gardener magazines, Ontario Gardener, Manitoba Gardener and Alberta Gardener, are published by Pegasus Publications Inc.

Drawing on her 30 years' experience as a senior executive in the magazine publishing industry, Dorothy launched Manitoba Gardener in 1998, initially running the business out of her home. Two years later, Dorothy's daughter Shauna, living in Ontario, jumped into the fray with Ontario Gardener. And two years after that, they started Alberta Gardener. Visit us at and register for our "Ten Neat things" newsletter. Watch Shaw TV for garden tips and Listen to CJOB for the Gardener Sundays at 9:08

December 16, 2013

1. Common sage, Russian sage, diviner's sage and Jerusalem sage .

Common sage and diviner's sage are Salvia, but Russian sage is Perovskia and Jerusalem sage is Phlomis. Salvia, Perovskia and Phlomis are all members of the Lamiacea family, also known as the mint family. The pretty blue Russian sage has become fairly popular in our gardens, but the large, yellow-flowered Phlomis hasn't really taken hold. yet. It's a popular sub shrub in California. Although it's listed as hardy to Zone 5, there are reports of it surviving winters well in Saskatchewan, where it dies to the ground and re-emerges in the spring.

2. The Russians get the credit.

Russian sage was named for the Russian general and governor V. A. Perovski. A Russian botanist named Karolin chose to honour Perovski by giving the plant the Latin name Perovskia. The plant, by the way, is not native to Russia, but rather to southwestern and central Asia, including Afghanistan and Tibet.

3. Common sage in the kitchen.

Several different varieties of Salvia are used for cooking, including clary sage (S. sclarea) and pineapple sage (S. elegans). The non-salvia sages are not widely used for cooking. Although I have heard of a woman who crumbles Russian sage into soups and stews, I wouldn't recommend it. Also, you may not want to cook with diviner's sage (S. divornum), which can be a little bit "trippy".

4. Diviner's sage can take you on a trip.

Diviner's sage contains a potent psychoactive compound. It is native to Mexico, where it has long been used by the Mazatec shamans to induce visions. It's developed quite a following amongst the recreational drug-using segment of society since the rise in popularity of the Internet. It has low addictive properties, but several American states have criminalized its possession. Diviner's sage is often simply referred to as salvia, so be careful what you ask for. It is also used as a diuretic - hmm, that conjures up visions of great mirth and dire consequences

5. White sage is the smudge plant.

In the American southwest, white sage (S. aplana) is used for smudging, a cleansing and healing ritual involving smoke employed by several native Americans in the area where it grows wild: southern California, northwestern Mexico and the Mojave and Sonoran deserts. Plains Indians use braids of sweet grass (Hierochloe odorata) and in some areas, cedar or juniper are the plants of choice for smudging.

6. Salvia is linked to salvation and much more...

Both come from the Latin word, "salvere" for "heal" or "to feel well or healthy". A sage is a wise person. Sage has been credited with slowing down the aging process. An ancient Arabian proverb asks, "How can a man die when he has sage in his garden?" Burning sage leaves is also said to attract money. If that doesn't work, perhaps you can use it to protect yourself from the evil eye or reverse a spell.

7. Salvia is good for Alzheimer's.

A 2003 double-blind scientific study showed promising results from treating mild to moderate Alzheimer's patients with extract of common sage. After four months of daily treatment, patients treated with the sage extract showed better cognitive function. Further studies done in 2010 with Salvia divinorum have underlined these findings. Apparently it also holds out promise for addictions.

8. Salvia is good for heavy perspirers.

Salvia officinalis has been used for centuries to reduce sweating, and no modern research has disproved its efficacy. In the twenties, people used sage to make tincture and pour-ons to control night sweats for people with tuberculosis.

9. Common sage grows nicely in a pot indoors.

Sun-loving plants like sage never truly thrive on a windowsill in winter because there simply isn't enough light, but you can keep a sage plant going for several months. Give it all the direct light you can and don't over water.

10. Harvest sage for cooking before the flower buds open.

As with all culinary herb leaves, flowering must be avoided. If you plan to use the leaves for cooking, pinch out any flower buds when they emerge. Harvest leaves regularly to keep the plant bushy.

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