Sage, Salvia Officinalis Much More than a Culinary Herb.
Probably best known for its part in that very British of foods, Sage and Onion Stuffing, this is a herb which does a lot more than complement your Sunday roast!
What is Sage?
Sage, or Salvia officinalis, is a herb which comes from the Mint (Lamiaceae) family and is native to the Mediterranean. Other herbs in the same family include Rosemary, Lavender, Thyme, Basil and Oregano, and like its siblings, it is a wonderfully scented plant.
The leaves of the Sage plant are grey/green with a purple/blue flower, and, in fact, the flowers can themselves be steeped in hot water as a tea, or used as edible decorations on a cake.
How is it Grown?
Although Sage is native to the Mediterranean, it can be grown virtually anywhere, and is, in fact, one of the easiest herbs to grow. It’s perfect for containers, and the more you can imitate the Mediterranean, the better. So, placing the containers in full sunlight with well-drained soil will make your Sage very happy!
Sage has been recognised as the wonderful herb it is for thousands of years, so much so that the Romans revered it as sacred, and would hold a special ceremony when it came to harvesting.
In the 10th century, Arabian doctors touted its powers of immortality, and the 14th century saw Sage being used as protection against witchcraft in Europe.
Such was its worth that in China, in the 17th century, one case of Sage was worth three cases of tea leaves and was a valuable commodity.
Here in England the amount of Sage in one’s garden was in direct proportion to how successful a business would be – the more Sage there was, the more prosperous the business would be.
Even now,it is compulsory for Sage to be grown in all monasteries, as, between 742 AD and 814 AD, Sage was one of the plants grown in the medical school run by Charles the Great, and was the one he held in the greatest esteem, labelling it as the ‘Salvation Plant’.
Its popularity hasn’t waned, as, in 2001 it was declared ‘Herb of the Year’ by the International Herb Association.
Health Benefits of Sage
In 2003, Pharmacological Biochemical Behavior published research in which 45 young adults were given either a placebo or extract of Sage in varying strength doses. The volunteers then took cognitive tests at intervals of between 1 and 6 hours, and even those who received the lowest dose of the extract performed significantly better at immediate recall than those who were given the placebo. What’s more, in studies conducted by The Medicinal Plant Research Centre, the chemical which improved the memory of volunteers was the same chemical which is lacking in Alzheimer’s patients.
During menopause, a woman’s level of oestrogen drops, resulting in many symptoms, including night sweats and hot flushes. Sage contains Phytoestrogen, a plant-based substance which mimics our natural oestrogen. By taking Sage, these Phytoestrogens can work towards restoring the oestrogen levels and reduce or even eliminate some of the symptoms associated with menopause. In a study conducted in Switzerland, Sage was given to menopausal women who suffered at least five hot flushes a day. After eight weeks, the results were impressive, with very severe flushes being reduced by 100%, severe by 79%, moderate by 62% and mild by 46%.
Are the compounds in our bodies which protect us against free radicals – the unstable particles which, if allowed free rein in the body, are responsible for the effects of ageing, and more importantly many degenerative diseases such as cancer, Alzheimer’s, arthritis, diabetes and heart disease. Sage has high levels of antioxidants, much higher than any fruit or vegetable and is, therefore, one of the most antioxidant-rich foods available today.
Sage is high in both flavonoids and phenolic compounds, both of which are known to help ease inflammation in the body. Drinking Sage tea is known to ease digestive complaints due to inflammation, as well as other inflammatory conditions such as arthritis and gout, heart disease, and high blood pressure. One study examined the effects of Sage on gingival fibroblast - cells in the connective tissues of the gums - and concluded that Sage had a significant impact on inflammation levels.
health is boosted by Vitamin C, essential for maintaining an effective immune system, Vitamin E, which helps the body fight infection, and Vitamin B6 which supports the immune system. All three of these essential vitamins are present in Sage. In fact, 100g of Sage yields 206% of the RDA of Pyridoxine (B6).
A study, which was published in Complementary Therapies in Medicine, saw 40 patients with diabetes and high cholesterol being given 3 months’ worth of Sage leaf extract. Results at the end of the trial showed lower glucose after fasting, as well as lower total cholesterol (LDL, or bad cholesterol, was reduced whereas HDL, or good cholesterol, was raised). A further trial, this time conducted on 80 patients with poorly controlled diabetes, showed that those who were given Sage had significantly lower levels of glucose compared to those who were not.
By adding Sage to your daily regime, you will be adding essential vitamins and minerals which are often lacking in modern diets. Vitamins A, C, E, K and B6, as well as Calcium, Potassium, Sodium, Iron and Zinc are all to be found in Sage in abundance – this little leaf didn’t earn the title of Herb of the Year for nothing!
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