The name sage is derived from the Latin word salvere meaning 'to heal' or 'to save'. Sage has vitamins A, B and C. It also has minerals like calcium, magnesium, potassium, sodium, zinc and iron.
The volatile oils and phytochemicals in sage include thujone, rosmarinic acid, camphor, tannin, flavonoid, estrogenic compounds and cineole. Because of its rich profile, Sage was even declared the "Herb of the year" by The International Herb Association back in 2001.
Sage has been used to treat a wide range of conditions that include cold, sore throat, fever, respiratory problems, sinusitis, skin problems, menstrual disorders, digestive ailments and memory loss. It also helps enhance mental functions and boost the immune system.
Eases menstrual and menopausal problems: Sage is effective in treating menopausal and menstrual problems, as it contains phytoestrogens [plant compounds that act like oestrogen].
In menopausal women, it eases hot flashes and night sweats as it naturally inhibits perspiration and prevents excessive sweating. It is also helpful in reducing associated mood swings and insomnia. In women with menstrual problems, it helps regulate menses and abnormal blood flow.
Fights infections: The tannin in sage helps fight infections and has been used for treating mouth sores, mouth ulcers, infected and bleeding gums, sore throat, tonsillitis, cold and fever.
Enhances mental functions: Sage is powerful in enhancing mental functions and memory and helps keep the brain sharp and alert. Chinese sage is said to fight the degenerative effects of Alzheimer's disease due to the presence of cholinesterase inhibitor compounds. These inhibit the action of the enzyme acetylcholinesterase, thus preventing the breakdown of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine that slows down and prevents the progression of Alzheimer's.
Treats digestive disorders: Sage is a carminative [medicine that prevents formation of gas] herb and a digestive tonic. Consuming sage on a regular basis stimulates appetite and aids in smooth functioning of the digestive system. It has been used for treating abdominal colic, intestinal spasms, cramps, flatulence and indigestion.
Reduces cellulite: Sage oil is good for people suffering from cellulite [dimpled appearance of skin that is caused due to fat deposits]. Since the oil helps in increasing blood circulation, it expedites the breakdown of the fat cells and helps in reducing cellulites. Massaging the affected skin with sage oil added to olive, rosemary and almond oils can work wonders.
Promotes healthy hair: The herb nourishes scalp, improves blood circulation and encourages hair growth. The oils in the herb help strengthen weak hair. The herb has been used to reverse premature greying and loss of hair. Massaging your scalp with sage oil can even reverse male pattern baldness. A strong infusion of sage prepared by boiling sage leaves can be used as a hair rinse to darken grey hair and treat dandruff.
Improves skin texture: Regular use of sage oil or herb delays ageing of the skin by preventing wrinkles and fine lines. Massaging your skin with sage oil has a rejuvenating effect—it promotes regeneration of skin cells. Sage also helps treat acne, skin blemishes, eczema, psoriasis, athlete's foot and cracked skin. It is due to such skin-friendly properties that oil extracted from the leaf is added to skin care products such as face washes, body washes, deodorants and massage oils. It also has insect-repellent properties.
In your diet
Sage is used as a spice and lends a sweet, warm and earthy flavour to foods. It pairs well with herbs like thyme, basil and rosemary. It can be used as seasoning or even as a marinade. When used as marinades for meat preparations, it helps preserve the meat longer and also makes digesting meat easy on the stomach.
However, use the herb sparingly. The dish can taste bitter if used in large amounts due to its strong and pungent taste.
Buying and storing sage
Sage is available throughout the year as fresh or dried leaves in whole, crumbled or powdered form. When buying fresh leaves, make sure that they are free from dark spots or yellow patches. And when buying dried form, go for the organically grown variety. The flavour of fresh leaves, however, is superior to dried ones.
Take care while storing the fresh leaves; wrap them loosely in a damp towel and keep them in a container. They can be refrigerated for a week or 10 days. Dried sage can be kept fresh for six months by storing in an air tight container in a cool, dark [away from sunlight] and dry place so that it retains its flavour.
- Not for pregnant or breast feeding mothers.
- Continuously using sage for long can be harmful.
- Epileptic and hypertensive people should refrain from using sage.
- Use cooled sage tea as face wash for soothing the skin. Prepare sage tea by boiling handful of sage leaves in a cup of water. After steeping for 10 minutes strain the leaves. You can even use the same as mouth wash and for gargling [after adding honey]. Drinking sage tea twice daily for a month can help ease symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis.
- Boil equal amounts of sage and rosemary herb in a cup of water for 10 minutes. Strain and use the strong liquid [tea] for colouring grey hair. Apply on the grey patches and leave for 10 minutes before washing hair. The remaining liquid can be refrigerated for using later. After few weeks the grey hair disappears.
- Combine finely chopped sage leaves with bell peppers, onions, tomatoes and cucumber with plain yogurt for a refreshing healthy salad.
This was first published in the January 2011 issue of Complete Wellbeing.
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