Herbal Tip of the Month – August 2009

I’ve been spending a lot of time on the ‘Net recently and I came across a story on Herb Companion’s blog about many states and municipalities rushing to outlaw “Salvia”. What they’re concerned about is Salvia divinorum, a Species of Sage which is somewhat hallucenogenic. Unfortunately, many of the bills simply state “Salvia” – the entire Genus, which means they’re going to throw the baby out with the bathwater – that would make it illegal to use sage in your turkey stuffing at Thanksgiving!

So, that got me thinking about the different types of Sage and what they’re good for. The two most widely know are:

Salvia officinalis (Common Sage) is great medicinally, as well in your stuffing recipe. It’s very drying so is useful to help stop bleeding, or to dry up a mother’s milk when she’s weaning a child. It helps bring fevers down and is used in a gargle to help sore throats, laryngitis and tonsillitis. It’s known as a tonic herb and is still used in bread spreads in parts of Italy as a way to preserve health (tasty, too). Sage has antibacterial properties and is used even today in some “natural” mouthwashes and toothpastes to combat gingivitis. (While I won’t advocate it over your dentist’s recommendations, rubbing fresh leaves on your teeth will not only clean but whiten them.) I use a couple of drops of Sage essential oil in my tooth powder. Use the leaves or simply the entire above-ground part of the plant to make an infusion. You can use the essential oil sparingly externally (and as with all essential oils, dilute first).

Salvia sclarea (Clary Sage) has a wonderful odor – very similar to Lavender.
Once upon a time, an infusion of the seeds of Clary Sage was used to “clear the sight” (presumably an eye infection of some sort). An infusion is drunk to help digestive problems. I’ve found the essential oil useful in aromatherapy mixtures designed to calm someone who is experiencing nervous tension.

All Sages contain thujone, which has been known to cause convulsions and death in large doses. Because of this, I would not combine Sage with Thyme (which has a higher concentration of thujone) in any mixture.

So, if you hear of a legislative move to outlaw “Salvia” where you live, ensure they’ve got the Species name in the bill. Otherwise your Thanksgiving dinner could land you in jail!

Slàinte maith, h-uile latha, na chi ‘snach fhaic!
(Good health, every day, whether I see you or not!)