Folklore Thursday: Sage Advice

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My health has kept me indoors more than I would wish recently, but my plants are still growing strong. The woody herbs that died back over the summer are emerging again. One of these is sage (which you may not realise is a member of the mint family).

While many assume sage is only useful for making stuffing, it has a long history of being used for healing and magic. The Latin name for safe is salvia, meaning ‘ to save’ or ‘to heal’.

When I was a child, my gran told me to chew on a sage leaf to make my teeth extra clean (I do not recommend this unless you love sage, as the flavour is overwhelming).

Sage tea, made by boiling sage in water for 10 minutes, has been used to ease headaches; as a gargle to treat mouth ulcers and sore throats; as an arthritis treatment; and, if I’m not misremembering Jackie magazine from my youth, a hair wash to give brunettes shiny tresses.

Romans saw sage as a brain stimulant, and it was thought to act as a memory aid for aging people: possibly why we call the wise ‘sage’. More recently, sage has been researched as a potential Alzheimers treatment, with promising results. It was used in medieval times to fight epilepsy and liver disease; and also believed to aid grieving.

Stay Safe With Sage

Sage has antibacterial properties which, along with its strong taste, may explain why it was often used in meat dishes with less-than-fresh meat (sausages from Terry Pratchett’s ‘Cut Me Own Throat Dibbler’ spring to mind). Store sage with your potatoes to make them last longer too.

Sage is also thought to indicate luck: a flourishing sage bush is apparently a sign that your business will thrive. It’s believed to render women unable to conceive  – and a flourishing sage bush is apparently a sign that a woman rules the home: perhaps making sage the ideal herb for a business woman with no desire to have children*?

Sage Words

Sage has so many uses that it’s not surprising some believed eating it daily would lead to immortality (others thought that eating it every day in May was enough to grant immortality). There’s a proverb, “Why should a man die when he has sage in his garden?”

With so much scope, it seems sad to relegate sage to your stuffing alone.

*NB I do not recommend sage alone for fertility control…

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