Salvia officinalis, also known as common Sage, is a very familiar plant of the kitchen.
It is an evergreen undershrub, its natural habitat being the northern shores of the Mediterranean. It has been cultivated for culinary and medicinal purposes for many centuries in England, France and Germany, being sufficiently hardy to stand any ordinary winter outside.
The herb is sometimes spoken of as S. salvatrix ('Sage the Saviour'). It was held that this plant would thrive or wither, just as the owner's business prospered or failed, and in Bucks, another tradition maintained that the wife rules when Sage grows vigorously in the garden.
Medicinal properties include: Stimulant, astringent, tonic and carminative.
These days, it's now mostly used as a kitchen ingredient, however still in the United States, the principal and most valued application is as a wash for the cure of affections of the mouth and as a gargle in inflamed sore throat, being excellent for relaxed throat and tonsils, and also for ulcerated throat. The gargle is useful for bleeding gums and to prevent an excessive flow of saliva.
The infusion when made for internal use is termed Sage Tea, and can be made simply by pouring 1 pint of boiling water on to 1 OZ. of the dried herb, the dose being from a wineglass to half a teacup, as often as required, but the old-fashioned way of making it is more elaborate and the result is a pleasant drink, cooling in fevers, and also a cleanser and purifier of the blood. Half an ounce of fresh Sage leaves, 1 OZ. of sugar, the juice of 1 lemon, or 1/4 OZ. of grated rind, are infused in a quart of boiling water and strained off after half an hour.
Sage Tea is a valuable drink in the onset of fever and in the nervous excitement that sometimes accompanies brain and nervous diseases. It is considered a useful medicine in typhoid fever and beneficial in liver complaints, kidney troubles, hemorrhage from the lungs or stomach, for colds in the head as well as sore throat and measles, for pains in the joints, lethargy and palsy.
A strong infusion, without the lemons and sugar, is an excellent lotion for ulcers and to heal raw abrasions of the skin. It has also been popularly used as an application to the scalp, and to darken the hair.
The fresh leaves, rubbed on the teeth, will cleanse them plus strengthen the gums. Sage is a common ingredient in tooth-powders.
In the region where Sage grows wild, its leaves are boiled in vinegar and used as a tonic.
Among many uses of the herb, Culpepper says that it is:
'Good for diseases of the liver and to make blood. A decoction of the leaves and branches of Sage made and drunk, saith Dioscorides, provokes urine and causeth the hair to become black. It stayeth the bleeding of wounds and cleaneth ulcers and sores. Three spoonsful of the juice of Sage taken fasting with a little honey arrests spitting or vomiting of blood in consumption. It is profitable for all pains in the head coming of cold rheumatic humours, as also for all pains in the joints, whether inwardly or outwardly. The juice of Sage in warm water cureth hoarseness and cough. Pliny saith it cureth stinging and biting serpents. Sage is of excellent use to help the memory, warming and quickening the senses. The juice of Sage drunk with vinegar hath been of use in the time of the plague at all times. Gargles are made with Sage, Rosemary, Honeysuckles and Plantains, boiled in wine or water with some honey or alum put thereto, to wash sore mouths and throats, as need requireth. It is very good for stitch or pains in the sides coming of wind, if the place be fomented warm with the decoction in wine and the herb also, after boiling, be laid warm thereto.'