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Kitchen Herbalism: Sage

sage leaves closeup

When you think of herbal medicine, do you think of Sage?

Garden Sage (Salvia officinalis), the same Sage that’s on your kitchen spice rack, is antibacterial, anticatarrhal, anti-fungal, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and antiviral. It’s thought of as “cleansing” and has been used throughout history to treat illness and wounds, but is also used as a tonic reputed to bring good health and longer life.

It contains minerals and vitamins that are known to have disease preventing and health promoting properties including potassium, zinc, calcium, iron, and vitamin A. Fresh sage leaves are a good source of vitamin C.

Sage stimulates cell renewal and increases blood circulation, which is why you’ll see it as an ingredient in skincare as it may help minimize facial wrinkles.

It’s usually recommended to gather Sage leaves before the plant begins to flower, but some believe Sage’s medicine is at its best when flowering. Personally, I love using herbs in flower in my medicine. If you don’t have garden space, Sage can be grown in a sunny spot indoors.

This time of year, you’ll see Sage in many recipes because it helps the digestion of fatty foods. Sage tea after the meal helps with digestion too, so try a cup if you’ve overindulged and are feeling uncomfortable.

Sage wine is an old remedy used to calm the nervous system that I think deserves a comeback. Add a fresh leaf to your glass of white wine to enjoy the aroma and flavor.

For a stronger, more medicinal wine, add 4 fresh leaves to a bottle of white wine, let steep for 2 weeks, then strain. If you don’t have fresh, use a tablespoon of dried herb.

Salud! To your health!

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Sage, Winter’s green

December = Nothing to do in the garden, devouring each seed catalog as it arrives in the mail. No snow yet so I can still see some green out there including Chives, Lemon Balm, and Sage.

Garden or Common Sage (Salvia officinalis) has become one of my favorite herbs since I’ve been gardening. Partly because it’s so easy to care for, I admit (Low maintenance perennials are gold, Jerry! Gold!).

Sage is also really beautiful, and it’s a medicinal as well as culinary herb. If you think next I’m going to say I also adore it because bees love the flowers, you’re right!

Sage makes a tea that’s especially nice this time of year as it helps ease coughs and sore throats. Some people find it a little bitter, so add sweetener if you like.

Another way to experience Sage tea is in the bath. Sage alone makes me feel refreshed and clean but combined with Rose petals, the bath becomes more fragrant, luxurious, and soothing.

(Adding Pine needles to the Sage and Rose just occurred to me. That seems a perfect Winter bath blend to remedy the melancholy dark days.)

One last thought on Sage, from the old Latin proverb, “Cur moriatur homo, ciu calvia crescit in horto?

“Why should a man die while Sage grows in his garden?”


I’ll be writing all about Sage this month, so hop on to our newsletter if you’d like to have the posts emailed to you. The signup box is at the bottom of this page. I often include extras in the newsletter that aren’t shared on the blog.

 

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Herbal Alchemy: Calendula oil

calendula oil

al·che·my: a seemingly magical process of transformation, creation, or combination.

Herbal oils are a good home remedy to keep on hand, useful for everything from skin moisturizing to first aid.

Infusing herbs into oil is actually a simple process, but every time I decant the resulting colorful (and sometimes fragrant) oil it seems like magic had a hand in its creation.

If you’ve never tried making your own herbal oil, Mountain Rose Herbs has a helpful blog post with directions for both the solar infused and quick heat infused methods.

If you’d like to try a different technique that’s closer to how true medicine makers do herbal oils, herbalist Kami McBride has a Calendula oil video tutorial on YouTube that’s really informative.

She talks about why she loves herbal oils, what she uses Calendula oil for, and then demonstrates how she makes oils with the addition of 100 proof vodka and a blender. This process has a few more steps but you will have a really excellent oil! The video is half an hour long and definitely worth your time. Enjoy!

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Calendula brings the Glow

calendula petals in oil

Cold, grey, and rainy today. I’m thinking about cozying up with one of my favorite plants, a golden beauty long associated with fire and the Sun, Calendula.

Calendula officinalis is her botanical name, but she has been known by many different names including Pot Marigold, Merrybud, Marygold, Summer’s Bride, and Ruddles.

Calendula’s petals, leaves, and stem contain carotenoids which are vitamin A precursors with antioxidant activity. Used topically, it’s excellent for all skin types, and especially good for sensitive, dehydrated / dry, chapped / inflamed skin, wounds and burns.

I use Calendula in one of my skin care blends for its ability to improve skin’s condition by refining pores and encouraging cell renewal.

Another effect more difficult to measure is how Calendula can cast a little warm sunshine onto cold, grey, rainy moods. Settling into a hot tub full of Calendula bath tea is one of my favorite ways to relax and soothe my skin and nerves.

‘Bathtub therapy’ seems not to be practiced by many people in the U.S. I saw a statistic go by recently saying 50% never take baths. Wow! No wonder everybody is so grumpy all the time. Don’t know how I’d manage without them.

If you’ve never made your own bath tea, I have directions and recipe ideas in this post. Give it a try. Take some time, slow down, have a nice long soak.

After the bath, massage a bit of Calendula oil into your damp skin. You’ll be refreshed, moisturized, glowing.

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Calendula is not (only) for you

calendula flowers

It’s starting to make me uncomfortable, seeing herbs described and defined by what they can do for us. And if we think they’re especially useful, they’d better watch out- we’ll hunt and gather them to extinction.

Plants were not put here for people, as the old story tells. They were living on this planet for eons before we came along and were keeping pretty busy without us.

Calendula flowers, for example, provide nectar and pollen for bees and butterflies. Calendula roots form active partnerships with fungi, benefitting the soil. The fact that Calendula has so many health and beauty benefits for people doesn’t mean that we have more rights to it than any other being.

I hope people can learn to think about plants in a bigger way. We’ve done so much taking. There’s a lot of giving back to do.

 

 

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Ready for Winter Downtime

Calendula still blooming in November garden

It is sad when garden time comes to a close. But we’re a bit tired after a long season and are looking forward to a little downtime.

The Hadley garden has already had frost. All that’s left are some greens growing under fleece, as well as a few Scotch Bonnet and Habanero plants still ripening their peppers under plastic cover. It’s getting cold now, though. We’re almost done.

The Northampton garden hasn’t had a frost yet. There are Calendula, Alyssum, and amazingly Nasturtium and Holy Basil flowering. Thank goodness! I’m still seeing honey bees.

That’s Calendula pictured above. Her orange-yellow color is so bright, it shines in my November garden like sunshine. This happy, pretty flower is one of the first to greet me in Spring and the last to leave in Autumn. I’ll miss hanging out with her in the garden.

Luckily, I’ve got a good stash of dried Calendula flowers to get me through the Winter!