Common names: garden sage, common sage, or culinary sage
Salvia belongs to the order Lamiales and to the mint (Lamiaceae) family. They are evergreen subshrubs with deep and branched roots. The stems are 50-80 cm tall, becoming increasingly branched, the branches have a typical rectangular cross section. The leaves are oblong-lanceolate, the lower ones are petiolate and the upper ones are sessile with crenate margins. Sage leaves are covered with tiny hairs on both sides. The inflorescences are pseudo-racemes composed of 2-3 flowers consisting of 5-8 pseudo-whorls. The corolla is white, violet or pink. It blooms from July until late May.
Sage is native to the northern coast of the Mediterranean Sea. The plant loves heat and tolerates well the drought. It can be efficiently grown in well-ventilated soils of medium consistency, which warm up quickly. During long, cold winters without snow, frost can cause considerable damage to the plant.
Sage is one of the most versatile medical plants being known from the ancient times. Ancient Greeks and Romans originally used sage to preserve meat but also for medical purposes.
Meadow sage (Salvia pratensis) is often used in folk medicine although this species contains far less active substance.
Salvia lasts up to for 5-6 years in one place. It can be propagated as seeds or by seedlings. The best time for sowing is in late October and early November. Because of the slow initial growth, the most commonly used planting method is by seedlings. In this purpose, the best period is the second half of September or early October. In general, the distance between rows should be of 60-70 cm, the distance between stems of 30-40 cm. Sage stems growing from the seedlings planted in autumn can be cut once during the following year and twice or three times in the following years. Each time, the stems should be cut above the wooden parts. If the purpose is to extract essential oil, sage is collected when the flowers are in full bloom.
The active substance are in the dried sage leaves (folium Salviae) and in the essential oil (aetheroleum Salviae). The plant contains 1 to 2.5% essential oil, its main components being the alpha-thujone, beta thujone, borneol, cineol, camphor and pinene. In addition, sage also contains tannins, glycosides, flavonoids, resins and bitter substances.
The plant has anti-inflammatory effects, reduces perspiration but also has anti-diarrheal, astringent and antibacterial properties, due to which it is widely used. Sage is recommended in case of excessive sweating due to hyperthyroidism or imbalances of the nervous system. It can be used as a tea or mouthwash for inflamed oral mucosa, in case of gingivitis or sore throat. The alcoholic extracts are used to rinse the throat. In dentistry, sage often appears as an ingredient of toothpastes. It is often used to treat diarrhea and bloating. It increases the appetite, slightly strengthens the stomach, and aids digestion. It can be added into medical baths to treat hemorrhoids.
In case of prolonged or excessive use, the thujone contained in the essential sage oil can cause poisoning symptoms such as palpitations, dizziness or epileptic seizures. These side effects occur especially by essential oil consumption, because it contains larger quantities of active substance.