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What the Sages Tell Us

Blowing in the wind ... clary sage

The English saying 'He that would live for aye (ever), must eat Sage in May' echoes Hippocrates' saying: "How can a man die, when he has Sage in his garden?" Sage is truly an amazing plant and its medicinal properties have been known throughout the ages.

The botanical name of Sage, Salvia, comes from the Latin, salvare, meaning to save or to heal, as it was believed that Sage healed and prolonged life. It was considered a cure-all for whatever ails you.

The ancient Greeks and Romans believed that it conferred wisdom and enhanced their mental abilities. For them it symbolized wisdom, skill, longevity, good health and increased psychic powers.

In the Middle Ages, Sage was used to help those who had become forgetful, and infusions of it were given to cure fevers and intestinal problems. It was also thought to cure eye problems, liver disease, epilepsy and infections of all types.

If biting insects find you attractive, try rubbing crushed sage leaves over exposed parts of your body to deter bugs.

Clary Sage (Salvia Sclarea)

Clary Sage is one of approximately 1,000 different species of Sage. It is native to the northern Mediterranean and Syria along with some areas in North Africa and Central Asia. The plant has a lengthy history as a medicinal herb.

Theophrastus (4th Century B.C.E.) described the medicinal use of this plant while the Greek physician Dioscorides (1st Century C.E.), recommended Clary Sage for kidney troubles, ulcers, rheumatism, coughs and sore throats. He also used the leaves and stems to clean wounds and staunch their blood flow.

The names of the Clary Sage plant reveal an interesting history.

The Romans called it Sclarea, from claurus, meaning "clear or bright", because they used it as an eyewash. The English name Clary originates in the Latin clarus and was gradually modified into 'Clear Eye', generally explained by the fact that the seeds were used for 'clearing sight', clearing the eye of any small foreign body which might cause irritation. During the Middle Ages Salvia Sclarea was known as "Oculus Christi" the "eye of Christ". Scientifically, the sclera is what we know anatomically as the white of the eye.

The Rambam knew the plant as מרווה מרושתת ("marva merushetet" or "netted sage") and was also aware of its healing properties.

The calming effect of Clary Sage was known to the Welsh Physicians of Myddfai in the 13th Century. They would tell you that "if you would never be in an envious mood, drink as much as would fill an egg shell of the juice of the herb called wild Clary, you will not after fall into an evil temper."

German wine merchants added Clary Sage and elderflowers to Rhine wine so that it would imitate a good Muscatel. This was so common that Germans still call the herb Muskateller Salbei (Muscatel Sage).

In the 17th Century, Nicholas Culpeper wrote about Clary Sage:

"The seed, put into the eyes, clears them from small specks of dust and such like things gotten within the lids to bother them, and it also clears them from any white and red spots which may be on them. The mucilage of the seed made with water, and applied to tumors or swellings taketh them away. It also draweth forth splinters, thorns, or other things got into the flesh. The leaves used with vinegar, either by itself or with a little honey, help boils, painful infections around the finger/toe nails, and the hot inflammations that are gathered by their pains, if applied before it be grown too great. The powder of the dried root put into the nose provoketh sneezing, and thereby cleanses the head and brain of thin clear watery discharge and rot. The seeds or leaves taken in wine provoketh to sexual activity. It is of much use both for men and women that have weak backs, and helpeth to strengthen the kidneys, reproductive organs, lower back and body. The juice of the Clary Sage plant put into ale or beer, and then drunk, bringeth down women's courses and expelleth the after-birth."

Clary tea, the leaf juice in ale or beer, was recommended for many types of women's problems, including delayed or painful menstruation. Clary Sage is also a valuable remedy for complaints associated with menopause, particularly hot flashes.

In the 20th century, Clary Sage had little use except for its essential oil in aromatherapy. When bruised, the leaves release a deliciously pungent and refreshing smell of fresh grapefruit. It is used to relieve anxiety, fear and paranoia.

In the 21st century, Clary Sage has been "rediscovered" in Israel by Dr. Nativ Dudai at the Agricultural Research Organization (ARO) Volcani Center, which is at the cutting edge of agricultural research worldwide. His primary discovery was that the oil found in Clary Sage seeds is a very stable and healthy source of Omega 3, a fatty acid which is vital to the wellbeing of each and every cell in our body. This oil, when extracted by the cold press method, retains its original, natural, nutritional value as opposed to fish oil Omega 3 which must be chemically treated to maintain its structure throughout the production process.

In addition to the essential fatty acid of Omega 3, Clary Sage seed oil contains over 100 naturally occurring compounds such as Co-enzyme Q10, Vitamin E, phytosterols, antioxidants and antibacterial agents as well as anti-inflammatory compounds. Best of all, Clary Sage seed oil is safe for use at all ages. Please note that pregnant women should not use the clary sage herb as its effects are not known.

Point of clarification from Hannah Baum

I am thrilled to have my article about Clary Sage published in the ESRA magazine #177 and am happy to share some of what I have learned about this special plant over the last four years.

Unfortunately, the proximity of the last two sentences of the article appears contradictory and may mislead readers. I would like the opportunity to clarify this. The warning in the article was for using derivatives of the herb itself, i.e. leaves, stalk, flower and root. On the other hand, Clary Sage seed oil is on the FDA GRAS (Generally Regarded As Safe) list and there are no restrictions or objections currently being considered by the FDA regarding usage of the oil.

Additionally, Clary Sage seed oil has been found to be extremely beneficial during pregnancy and lactation for both mother and child. 



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Thursday, 18 July 2024

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