Monday, January 22, 2007

Sage Advice

At the beginning of the year I promised to tell you each month what was on the super plant calendar which I got for Christmas. The plant on the January page is sage – salvia officinalis.

Officinalis in the name means that it’s considered a medicinal plant, and in fact the calendar specifically features plants which can be used in herbal remedies. The name salvia comes from the Latin verb meaning to save and, according to the calendar, there’s an Arab proverb which says Why should anyone die when they’ve got sage in the garden? - although
Wikipedia attributes that one to Martin Luther. There’s also supposed to be an English saying which goes Eat sage in May and you’ll not die, but I can’t say I’ve ever heard of it before.

Most of the remedies the calendar describes were already familiar – sage is good in a mouthwash for sore throats, inflamed gums and so on. But it also said that it’s good for the digestion and that it contains flavenoids which fight free radicals and strengthen the immune system. And the one that I hadn’t heard of at all was that, combined in a tea with other ingredients it helps stop hot flashes during the menopause. The recipe for that was to combine 20g each of sage,
hops, hawthorn, lemon balm (Melissa officinalis), and downy hemp nettle, and combine 2 tablespoons of the mixture with hot water. Let it stand for five minutes before straining. Two hours before going to bed, you drink two cups of the stuff, lukewarm. Can’t say I’ve tried it because I’m not sure where to get my hands on some downy hemp nettle, but if I do I’ll let you know if it works. We’ll see if the medicinal sections are a bit more authoritative than the proverbs.

Joking apart, if you do want to try it, the writer (Ursel Buehring) is a well-known German writer and presenter of TV programmes on herbal remedies, so she should know what she’s talking about. On some of the other pages there are warnings about possible side effects and so on, but nothing is mentioned here. I’ve checked all the herbs though, and it seems you should be careful of hawthorn if you’re already on heart medication, and hops if you suffer from depression. And don’t be tempted to go and pick downy hemp nettle yourself unless you’re sure you know what you’re doing – other members of the genus are poisonous. All in all, perhaps I’ll give this one a miss – but I’ve added links to descriptions of the herbs if you want to check them out for yourselves.


Unknown said...

I don't know about mixing it with all of the other things for medicinal purposes, but I think that sage makes a rather delicious tea. I have a store-bought blackberry sage tea, and I often take sage leaves out of my own garden, crush them, and steep them for tea. Add a little honey... yum. :)

Rebsie Fairholm said...

And another use for sage tea (once it's cooled a little): it makes a very nice hair rinse. Adds shine and combats dandruff!

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