Also called COMMON SAGE, or GARDEN SAGE (Salvia officinalis), aromatic perennial herb of the family Lamiaceae (Labiatae) native to the Mediterranean region, cultivated for its leaves, which are used fresh or dried as a flavouring in many foods, particularly in stuffings for poultry and pork and in sausages. Most sage has been traditionally sourced from the former Yugoslavia. It is also available in Italy, Russia, Albania, Turkey, and Greece. The bushes grow about 2 feet (60 cm) tall and have rough or wrinkled and downy, gray-green or whitish green oval leaves, and flowers are coloured according to the variety: purple, pink, white, or red. Sage has slightly stimulating properties; tea brewed from its leaves has been used as a spring tonic for centuries. Sage was used during the Middle Ages to treat many maladies including fevers, liver disease, and epilepsy. The herb was used in England to make a tea that was considered a pleasant and healthful beverage. One common belief was that sage strengthened the memory, hence a sage, or a wise man, always had a long memory. In the 9th century, Charlemagne had sage included among the herbs grown on the imperial farms in Germany. During the 17th century, the Chinese exchanged three or four pounds of their tea with Dutch traders for one pound of European sage leaves. The name sage comes from the Latin salvere or salvation meaning 'to be in good health, to cure, to save.' Sage was a sacred ceremonial herb of the Romans. It was associated with immortality and was thought to increase mental capacity in ancient times, as referenced in the proverb, "How can a man grow old who has sage in his garden." Sage is found on many continents. The essential-oil content of sage varies up to about 2.5 percent; the principal components are thujone and borneol.
Sage is used for insect repellent and for fragrance in potpourris. It also is used for infusions to color hair silver and it stimulates the skin in facial steams, baths, and lotions. It flavors vinegars, herbal butter, omelets, soups, and poultry stuffings. Fresh sage is sometimes added to salads. Because it dries well, it is used in herbal wreaths (especially culinary) and nosegays. It can be grown in containers.
S. officinalis, which has many varieties, grows wild and is cultivated in many parts of the world. Dalmatian sage, held in high esteem, is warmly fragrant and slightly bitter. There are several other species of Salvia (q.v.) that are also known as sage.
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