“How can a man grow old with sage in his garden?”
The above is an old proverb of forgotten origin, sometimes attributed to the Chinese and sometimes attributed to the English. It attests to the powers of the age-old herb as well as the value placed on it throughout history. In fact, the Latin name for sage, Salvia, means to cure or to save. The herb was considered a cure-all for ailments ranging from infertility to dementia. At one point, the Chinese even preferred sage tea over their own native crop, sometimes trading as much as three pounds of tea for every one pound of sage. So, what is it that makes this herb so treasured?
The word sage is not only a name for a culinary herb; it’s also the term for a person with wisdom born of a lifetime of experience. Although the two meanings have differing linguistic origins, the herb is coincidentally associated with wisdom and clarity of mind. Modern studies confirm that sage is good for the brain. In a double-blind placebo controlled study, sage extracts were shown to improve memory and cognition in patients with Alzheimer’s. Efforts are already underway to synthesize new Alzheimer’s medications from this herb. And sage’s mental boosting effects can be seen in healthy individuals as well. I like to make a strong cup of sage and rosemary tea when I need to focus.
I believe that sage is often overlooked. It’s not fancy like lavender or exotic like star anise, but it shouldn’t be shoved to the back of your spice cabinet. Why? Because sage has another secret that was known by the ancients; the combination of sage and onions can help one digest rich foods. Perhaps that’s why many Americans associate the herb with Thanksgiving. Even I have childhood memories of my mother picking fresh sage from the garden while preparing Thanksgiving dinner. This is also why it’s in our Evening Comfort tea, a great digestive blend with peppermint, fennel and alfalfa. From creamed onions to stuffing, there’s no shortage of sage-containing recipes.
One of my favorite easy ways to add sage is to make a sage and browned butter sauce. Melt 3 tablespoons of butter in a sauce pan over medium heat and cook for 3-4 minutes. When the butter starts to brown, add approximately half tsp. of dried whole sage and cook for another minute, shaking the pan occasionally. Remove from heat and add it directly to a dish before serving. I love the simplicity of this sauce! It’s perfect for flavored pastas because it doesn’t overpower other flavors.Whether you’re using it to stuff a turkey or you just want to buckle down and study for that big exam, reach for sage in your pantry. Our ancestors recognized its versatility and worth, so don’t hesitate to bring some ancient wisdom into your kitchen.
Meta-analysis study of herbal extracts (sage): www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3042794/