Sage (Salvia officinalis)

Sage is one of those great multi purpose herbs.  My favorite use is to add it to breakfast sausage.  There are multiple cultivars of sage that you can get from any garden center.  Lemon sage, mint sage, ect.  Way to many varieties to list.  But which ever variety you pick you will find that they are very easy to grow. Sage is a perennial, evergreen subshrub, with woody stems, grayish leaves, and blue to purplish flowers. It is a member of the family Lamiaceae and is native to the Mediterranean region, though it has naturalized in many places throughout the world. It has a long history of medicinal and culinary use, and in modern times as an ornamental garden plant. The common name “sage” is also used for a number of related and unrelated species.

My single sage plant has grown huge in the last year.
My single sage plant has grown huge in the last year.

Sage is an easy herb to grow, putting up with conditions far from optimum. However, the closer you can imitate its native habitat, the happier it will be. Ideal conditions are full sun, good drainage, a soil pH of 5 to 8, and moderate fertility. You don’t want to plant it in a heavy clay soil.  The lack of drainage will water log the roots and tend to kill the plant. Mine is in a raised bed so it almost drains to well and tends to get very dry during summer months.  Luckily it loves that and grows and grows and grows.

Now some of you may be wondering what you can do with sage. Generally, it is the plain narrow-leafed varieties and the non-flowering broad-leafed varieties of sage that are used as cooking herbs. It is a common condiment for Mediterranean dishes, specifically Italian foods. It is generally used in marinades for meat, fish, pork sausage, lamb and even vegetables like peas, eggplants, lima beans and carrots. It is the perfect seasoning for poultry. Interestingly enough, sage is used in the preparation of English Sage Derby cheese and other soft cheeses. It is also used as a flavoring in certain biscuits, scones, breads and other baked foods. I should try to make a Sage Derby style cheese one of these days.

Sage herb can be used both internally and externally to counteract various health problems in humans. It curbs excessive sweating, treats depression, nervous anxiety and liver disorders and is also a great cure for several skin conditions. It is also used for treating painful jellyfish stings and spider bites. Sage herb is the perfect antiseptic wash for dirty wounds and forms a part of most concoctions that treat persistent and recurrent coughs (adding it to horehound tea works best for me). The mixture of sage, white vinegar and water forms a good astringent for oily skin. It is also one of the best herbal remedies for indigestion.

Sage is known to contain natural estrogens, and hence, is used in most homeopathic medicines that improve circulation and treat menopausal problems. It is also used to relieve suppressed menstruation problems in women, as well as in the regulation of abnormal flow. Sage acts as a central nervous system stimulant and is also used in the treatment of varicose veins. This herb is also used in gargling solutions used to ease laryngitis and tonsillitis. The July 2003 issue of the ‘Pharmacological Biochemical Behavior’ claims that sage has the power to improve memory. Sage is an all-in-one herb. It is also an antifungal antiseptic. This estrogenic agent works miracles in women. It is also a hypoglycemic astringent and is a good antispasmodic agent. Sage is one of those herbs that tastes great and is very good for you.

My sage plant blooming in late May
My sage plant blooming in late May



White Horehound (Marrubium vulgare)

Time to start an herbal section.  Since my sinus have been killing me with the onslaught on pollen this spring I thought that this would be a good herb to start with.  Horehound is a very easy herb to grow.  There are no special requirements for it at all.  I just planted mine and ignored it other than a little water once in a while.

My small plant that is now 2' across and nearly the same height
My small plant that is now 2′ across and nearly the same height

There are a lot of benefits that horehound has to offer. And I even found a list of things for everyone to read:

  • Since ancient Egypt, white horehound (Marrubium vulgare L.) has been used as an expectorant (to facilitate removal of mucus from the lungs or throat). Ayurvedic, Native American, and Australian Aboriginal medicines have traditionally used white horehound to treat respiratory (lung) conditions. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) banned horehound from cough drops in 1989 due to insufficient evidence supporting its efficacy. However, horehound is currently widely used in Europe, and it can be found in European-made herbal cough remedies sold in the United States (for example, Ricola®).
  • White horehound is a plant. The parts that grow above the ground are used to make medicine.
  • White horehound is used for digestion problems including loss of appetite, indigestion, bloating, gas, diarrhea, constipation, and liver and gallbladder complaints. It is also used for lung and breathing problems including cough, whooping-cough, asthma, tuberculosis, bronchitis, and swollen breathing passages.
  • Women use white horehound for painful menstrual periods.
  • People also use it for yellowed skin (jaundice), to kill parasitic worms, to cause sweating, and to increase urine production.
  • White horehound is sometimes applied to the skin for skin damage, ulcers, and wounds.
  • In manufacturing, the extracts of white horehound are used as flavoring in foods and beverages, and as expectorant in cough syrups and lozenges. expectorant are ingredients that make it easier to cough up phlegm.

It is a handy little herb to have around.  If nothing else my sinuses havent hurt since I started off the day with a ginger and horehound tea.