Sage Growing and Cultivating Tips
The importance of sage as a medicinal herb is apparent in its scientific name, Salvia officinalis. The word salvia was derived from salve, which means “to save” or “to heal”, and officinalis came from officina, meaning a storeroom inside a monastery where medicines and herbs were kept during ancient times.
For centuries before it was classified by Linnaeus in the 1700s, the herb was extolled for purported miraculous properties. The Greeks and the Romans wrote about how it could fend off evil and cure snake bites. In the Middle Ages, it was used in a tonic thought to ward off the plague.
Today, sage is a staple in many European, North American, and Middle Eastern kitchens. It has a soft, earthy, and slightly sweet flavor that enhances meats and goes well with cheese, fish, and vegetables. The sage plant is a low-growing perennial shrub with grayish green leaves and a woody stem. It can be grown both indoors and outdoors, and will thrive in both.
Cultivation of Sage
Most varieties of sage are native to the Mediterranean region and Asia Minor. Though it will grow easily in almost any climate, sage grows best when conditions are similar to that of its native habitat. This means full sun, warm temperatures, and dry, nearly pH-neutral soil.
You can start cultivating sage either from seeds or cuttings. For seeds:
- You will need a pot at least six inches deep and some potting soil. To start off, pour a quart of water on the soil.
- Once it is drained but still moist, you can place 10 to 12 seeds on top of the soil at equal distances.
- Cover the seeds with dry soil at least an eighth of an inch deep.
- Use plastic food wrap to cover the pot and help the seeds germinate. Covering the pot keeps heat and moisture in.
- Place the pot in an area away from direct sunlight but with ample lighting. This will prevent the soil from drying up too quickly.
- Check the soil regularly. Add a cup of water if the soil gets too dry, but be sure to replace the plastic cover.
- Once the seedlings grow an inch high, you can transplant them to an area where sunlight is plentiful. Keep the seedlings at least two feet apart.
Tips on Growing Sage
- Transplant the seedlings after the cold season, when the danger of freezing has passed
- Sage can grow up to 36 inches high and 24 inches wide, hence the 2 feet of space between plants.
- Sage grows best in soil with 6.0 to 6.5 pH.
- Do some light pruning to encourage the plant to stay bushy.
- The plant will become woody after 4 or 5 years, and will need to be replaced. You can start new sage plants from cuttings from the parent plants.
- Dry sage leaves quickly so they don’t become moldy. Hang them to dry in a warm room with good air circulation. Keep the dried sage in an air-tight container away from sunlight.
Medicinal Uses of Sage
Ancient Egyptian women were known to consume sage tea and tonics in hopes of getting pregnant. It was also believed that sage can effectively lengthen one’s life span. Though these claims need to be backed up by scientific research, there are lots of other health benefits to be acquired from sage.
Keep your tummy happy – Sage is effective in treating various stomach problems. Flatulence, gastritis, bloating, diarrhea, and appetite loss can be treated with sage.
A woman’s secret weapon – Sage has antispasmodic properties that provide relief from menstrual cramps, hot flashes, and excess bleeding. Its estrogenic effects help regulate hormonal changes; its flavonoids and phytosterols help improve fertility. It even aids in proper milk flow while breastfeeding.
Potent antibacterial qualities – Sage essential oil has antiseptic, antifungal, and antibacterial qualities that help prevent and treat infections. It is used in mouthwashes, soaps, vaginal douches, and toothpastes.
Possible cure for Alzheimer’s disease – Studies are ongoing to determine the effect of sage on this dreaded condition. Preliminary research has shown that taking sage extract improved the memory and thought processes of test subjects.
All-around remedy – Sage can cure a great variety of ailments! It is used to treat cold sores, gingivitis, sore throat, asthma, heavy sweating, memory loss, depression, cough, and fever. It helps reduce hot flashes during menopause, enhances the appetite, improves liver function, lowers blood glucose levels, treats diabetes, and prevents hair loss.