How To Grow And Use Sage

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Sage, or Salvia officinalis, is a simple but powerful plant to have at arm’s length. Sage shines as food, medicine and an addition to your beauty routine! Sage is easy to use and easy to grow. Simply said, a plant you don’t want to be without!

As with most plants, there are other types of sage out there, clary sage and white sage as examples. They all have their own personal properties and skills. You can wildcraft many different types of sage depending on your area the USDA Plants database can tell you what grows near you. You can then start exploring the properties of the sage that grows near you. Today we’ll focus on Sage, salvia officinalis.

How to grow Sage

Sage is a perennial that grows in zones 4-8. This plant thrives in hot to cool, dry environments, another herb that hails from a Mediterranean environment. Sage loves full sun and well-drained soil. When planning where to place your sage, keep in mind calendula is a good companion plant for sage.

It is always easier to grab a plant from the local nursery and when you are just starting out I recommend doing it that way. However, there are a few other ways to keep sage growing in your garden. If you already have sage or maybe your neighbor does, you can grow your supply through cuttings or root divisions.

You can also plant the seeds directly into your garden without any prep. Plant in the warm spring soil after any threat of frost. Most find it easier to start the seeds indoors to be transplanted into the garden later. You can also freeze the seeds before planting to help with germination. If planting indoors, freeze the seeds for three days prior to planting and plant them indoors about 8 weeks before the last frost. Then transplant these plants one week before the last frost. Then transplant these plants one week before the last frost. If you don’t want to start seeds indoors try freezing them for a few days prior to directly planting them in the ground.

Sage can grow up to 3 feet tall and 24 inches wide. When transplanting, space your plants, leaving enough room for them to grow to their full potential. I have squashed plants together before and the sage still grew. However, my plants certainly did not grow to 24 inches wide or three feet tall.

Harvesting Sage

To use sage you will need to harvest the leaves. Harvest before it begins to flower in May or June. When harvesting sage, pick a dry sunny day if possible. You can pinch a few leaves off as you need them or you can harvest more of the plant to preserve for later. To harvest a large amount of sage, clip only the upper half of the stem, allowing the plant to regenerate faster.

Preservation of Sage

There are many ways you can preserve sage. The easiest is to hang dry stems to dry. When you have clipped the stems from the plant, bunch them together loosely, wrap them with string and hang them upside down, out of direct sunlight. Leave them to hang about two weeks, until they are crisp but still retain good color.

You will find after using your own dried herbs, store-bought sage will never compare to what you can grow and preserve on your own. Depending on how you hope to use your sage, it can also be preserved in a tincture, oil or vinegar. Freezing sage in your cooking oil of choice, in ice cube trays, can later be used as an addition to marinades for your meat recipes. You can add more than just sage to the oil for freezing, get creative!

Storing Sage

To store your dried sage, remove the leaves from the stem when they are dry and place them in a dark colored jar, or any airtight jar you can find and store them out of direct sunlight. Powdered dry sage has many uses but once you have powdered your sage it is recommended you compost it after about 48 hours. Sage’s properties and taste rely on its volatile oils and these dissipate greatly when powdered and not stored properly. Your frozen cubes can be removed from the tray and stored in an airtight container or a zip bag. Tinctures and vinegars should be stored out of direct sunlight.

Buying Sage

Beyond just buying the plants for your garden there are many other places to purchase dried sage. Of course, you can get it as a seasoning at your local grocery store but when shopping I like to look at my favorite bulk herb stores. The quality of herbs from these stores is much higher. When looking through stores such as Bulk Herb Store and Mountain Rose Herbs be sure to look around a bit, some stores will have specialty seasonings and teas with sage as an ingredient.

Cooking with Sage

Sage is widely known as a culinary herb. It is a staple in many holiday stuffings, I’m not sure it would be stuffing without the sage taste. Sage is also used to flavor many meat dishes. When you use sage in a meat dish you are certainly making ‘thy food thy medicine.’ Sage helps your body to digest rich fatty meat so pile it on! You do not need to save sage for holiday foods alone. You can add it to breads, herbal butters, salad oils and vinegars to name a few. Sage is also a great addition to vegetables and cheese.

Medicinal Uses

As I mentioned above, using sage as a culinary herb really does add health to your diet. Sage has many medicinal properties. It is an antiviral, antifungal, antioxidant, astringent, antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory and so much more.

As an astringent, it has drying properties that can be used in deodorant, for excessive saliva experienced with Parkinson’s disease, heavy menstrual bleeding and when you are drying up your milk supply from nursing. It is not an herb you want to take in therapeutic doses when pregnant or nursing. Otherwise, it is generally safe to use.

Sage, as an infusion is helpful in many different situations. A hot infusion can help reduce a fever. A room temperature infusion of sage brings out the antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties that will help with sore throats, inflamed tonsils, and mouth infections. A cold sage infusion will decrease the flow of secretions and mucus. Each type of infusion can be useful during a cold or flu. Sipping often, on an infusion of sage, after a long illness, can help you recover your strength.

Sage can be helpful with bleeding gums, mouth ulcers, canker sores or herpes.

Studies are also showing that sage helps memory improvement and agitation in Alzheimer’s disease. Its effect on memory and mood is not limited to just Alzheimer’s patients, it has shown to have a positive effect on both young and old populations as well.

Sage In Self Care

We’ve all walked the face care aisle and found plenty of bottles labeled toner or astringent. Well, sage can do that too! Because of its astringent properties it also tones and tightens the skin. You can find sage in many tooth powders and mouthwashes. It is a very beneficial herb when dealing with mouth care so it certainly does not hurt to add it to your daily routines!

I personally have started adding sage to my hair care routine. I have very hard water so I’ve been using vinegar as a wash to help soften my hair for a while now, but I recently learned that sage is good for dry scalp, hair loss, and gray hair. To add extra punch to my vinegar I’ve added rosemary and sage to create an herbal vinegar. I’m sure it’s delicious but I just use it as a rinse for my hair.
To make this rinse, I packed the herbs in a jar, poured the vinegar over it and let it sit for three weeks. I strained out the herbs, re-bottled it and keep it in my shower to rinse my hair after washing. You can add an essential oil for a better scent if you’d like.

Sage Through History

Sage has been used since the middle ages all around the world. Hippocrates stated, “Why should a man die while Sage grows in his garden.” Many of the ways we find it helpful today are the same ways our ancestors used it. I find it fantastic that they are studying sage’s ability to improve memory in Alzheimer’s patients. When you read about sage throughout history, its ability to help with memory is noted many times. Native Americans regard Sage as a sacred plant, used for both physical and spiritual purification.

I barely scratched the surface of sage with this article. It is an amazing and easy to locate herb that everyone needs in their garden. Many studies are being done on sage’s ability to heal, especially on its effects on cholesterol and type II diabetes. So I recommend you invite sage into your garden and onto your plate if you have not already.

  • Jan Babbitt says:

    Excellent article! I have learned some new uses and properties!

    I am curious about powdered sage holding for only 48 hours. That does not seem right. I have commercial organic powdered sage that has been in my cupboards longer than that!

    I would add that frying them in ghee makes a great topper for many dishes.

    Thanks you for sharing this.

    • Melissa Combs says:

      Hey Jan!
      I am going to have to try frying them in ghee! That sounds wonderful.
      On the powdered sage, I was speaking more to powdering your own dried sage. I personally don’t powder a lot of sage at once so I’ve rarely kept it long enough to see if it stays good and fresh past 48 hours. I also wonder if it has to do with how the sage is commercially powdered as to how long it lasts.
      I’m glad you enjoyed the article!

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