You may have used sage from your garden to season your dinner, but this popular herb can do much more than taste delicious. It has been used for millennia as an ingredient in religious ceremonies and as a medicine. Today it is a popular herbal remedy, used to treat ailments ranging from menstrual cramps to cold sores.
The Benefits of Sage
Sage has many benefits when used on its own. It is often used to help with digestion and stimulate the appetite. It was approved by the German Commission E (the German equivalent of the United States FDA) to help soothe mild stomach upsets. Sage can be used to help relive bloating, cramps, and gas.
Women of childbearing age can benefit from sage in several ways. It can have an effect on a woman’s menstrual cycle, slowing down excessive bleeding and helping to reduce cramps. However, this property makes it potentially unsafe for women who are pregnant. If you believe you may be pregnant, stay on the safe side and do not use this herb in amounts larger than what is used in food. Sage is also used to help slow down the production of breast milk while a child is weaning.
An interesting use for sage is to help stop excessive sweating, due to compounds called phytosterols. Menopausal women may wish to take sage extract before sleeping to help control night sweats.
Sage has been looked to as a way to address cold symptoms. It has been referenced as far back as the first century, where the Greek physician Dioscorides recommended adding its juice to warm water to treat coughs and hoarseness. German natural health practitioners recommend gargling with cooled sage tea to reduce coughs and sore throats. It can also help to dry up phlegm.
Sage and Rhubarb
A German study found an interesting use for sage. Combined with rhubarb, it makes for an effective cold sore cream. The study found that a cream made of sage and rhubarb is as effective as a commercial cream in treating cold sores. The cream must have rhubarb in it to be most effective – sage on its own is not as active in this situation.
When used as a remedy, sage is most commonly prepared as a tea. It is an herb that is easily grown at home in a garden or on a kitchen windowsill, making it easy for many to harvest and use on a regular basis. Sage tea can be made with fresh leaves. Simply pour eight ounces of boiling water over ten fresh leaves. Allow the mixture to steep for five minutes and then strain. If you prefer, dried sage can be used as well – use one heaping teaspoon for every eight ounces of water.
Many people find the taste of sage tea to be off-putting. Its astringent nature makes the tea very bitter, but you can cut the taste by adding other herbs. Lemongrass, mint, and chamomile are popular additions. You can also sweeten the tea with honey.
If tea is not to your taste, you can still get many of sage’s benefits through a tincture. Sage tinctures can be purchased at natural food stores or made at home. To make a homemade tincture, allow several handfuls of fresh, washed sage to dry overnight. Chop the dried leaves and place them in a 1-pint glass jar. Pour alcohol (brandy and vodka are common choices) over the leaves, filling the jar most of the way to the top. Cover the jar and let it sit in a dark, cool place for two weeks, shaking it once a day. After two weeks, strain out the plant material with a cheese cloth. Take 1/8 of a teaspoon in a bit of water every day if you start to notice the signs of a cold.
Sage and Seizures
There have been a few reports that high concentrations of thujone, a chemical found in sage, can cause seizures in people who are epileptic. There is little risk of this when taken in the amounts usually found in food, but if consumed regularly as a medicine there is a chance that unwanted side effects can occur. Be cautious if you fall into this category.
Sage is a delicious seasoning and a useful remedy for many common health problems. It is a worthy addition to any herbalist’s medicine cabinet.