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Everything Salvias: Sacred Sages

Over the course of history, numerous plants have become important in medicinal or spiritual ways. Some are now part of mainstream medicine; others are still used regionally by the peoples who discovered their curative properties long ago. One standout group is the Salvia genus, which is also known as the true sages. Scientists are currently exploring many species for their medicinal and otherwise useful chemical properties. Salvia comes from the Latin word salvare, which means to heal or save. Many species have a long and ancient history of use for their soothing qualities.

Please remember that the information presented on this site is for educational purposes only and is not a substitute for the advice of a qualified healthcare professional.

Sacred Sage: Salvia mellifera -- the Easiest California Native

Posted: Thursday, April 12, 2018

Long before the West Coast was colonized, California Indians used Black Sage (Salvia mellifera Greene) for food and medicinal purposes. Today, it often is bundled in smudge sticks used like incense during purification rituals. Another reason to consider Black Sage sacred is that, among the state’s native plants, it is one of the most important sources of nectar for pollinators. Nineteenth century botanist and clergyman Edward Lee Greene made the plant’s botanical name official in 1892 when he was the first person to publish it in a scientific journal. Among California's native Salvias, it is the easiest to grow in home gardens.

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Sacred Sage: Salvia coccinea -- An American Subtropical Treasure

Posted: Monday, February 27, 2017

Although it probably originated somewhere in Mexico, Tropical Sage (Salvia coccinea) existed in the American Southeast prior to European exploration of the New World, so it is considered an American native. It's also native to Central and South America and has naturalized in parts of Europe and Africa. Medical researchers think its phytochemicals may fight illnesses caused by inflammation and oxidative stress from free radicals.

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Sacred Sage: Menorah-Shaped Salvia hierosolymitana Bridges Cultures

Posted: Friday, December 18, 2015

Heading into the season of long, dark nights and candlelit holiday dinners, it is pleasant to think of the candelabra-shaped Jerusalem Sage (Salvia hierosolymitana) lit up with raspberry and pale pink flowers in spring. It's structure was likely an inspiration during Biblical times for design of the Jewish menorah. Jerusalem Sage grows well in moderate climates and has tasty leaves used in cooking. Historically and in culinary use, it bridges the Arab and Israeli cultures.

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White Sage

Posted: Friday, July 3, 2015

Bees and hummingbirds love the perennial subshrub Sacred White Sage (Salvia apiana) with its soaring spikes of white-to-lavender flowers that visually cool the landscape along with its large rosettes of lance-shaped, greenish-white foliage. Sacred White Sage is far more than a pretty native plant of California. Historically, it provided food and medicine for a number of Native American tribes along the Pacific Coast. Today, bundles of Sacred White Sage leaves are still tied together to create torch-like wands called smudge sticks for fragrant purification ceremonies far beyond the Native American community.

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Sacred Sage: Healing and Educating with Clary Sage

Posted: Tuesday, April 14, 2015
Synopsis: For American colonists, the home medicine cabinet was the kitchen garden just beyond the entry to their homes. Many of the plants in these 'dooryard gardens' were herbs used for multiple purposes, including serving as medicines. The New England Unit of the Herb Society of America notes that perennial Clary Sage (Salvia sclarea) was common in these gardens. Clary Sage can also be found in the colonial garden of Johnson Elementary in Natick, Massachusetts. The garden is located in the Johnson Outdoor Classroom, which is part of a nationwide movement -- No Child Left Inside -- to mandate outdoor education. June is national 'Leave No Child Inside Month' -- a time for learning through relaxing outdoor activities. But the entire growing season is a ripe opportunity for field trips to the garden.

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Sacred Sage: Relaxing, Beautifying and Cooking with Clary Sage

Posted: Monday, March 16, 2015
Synopsis: Today, Clary Sage (Salvia sclarea) is best known for its essential oil, which is used mainly in aromatherapy and is extracted from the plant’s aromatic foliage and flowers. Yet Clary, which was a favorite of the ancient Greeks and Romans, also has a long history in beauty care, cooking and healing. This article talks about all but its healing qualities, which will be covered in the second part of this series.

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Sacred Sage: Powerful, Pretty Salvia repens

Posted: Wednesday, May 21, 2014
Synopsis: Kruipsalie is the Afrikaans common name for the South African native Salvia repens, parts of which have long been used in folk remedies and for insect fumigation. Kruip refers to the way the plant creeps, or spreads, rhizomatically underground. Salie means Salvia. The scientific epithet repens also refers to the plant's creeping growth. With its fragrant foliage and long-blooming, lush flowers, Kruipsalie is the sort of perennial that we like creeping through our gardens. Medical researchers are particularly interested in this sage's antibacterial potential for fighting infections caused by bacteria including E. coli and Streptococcus.

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Sacred Sage: Annual Clary Sage for Full Sun Gardens

Posted: Wednesday, April 24, 2013
Synopsis: In June 1763, physician Jacob August Schubert oversaw the planting of a colonial medicine garden in the wilds of North Carolina. It contained medicinal herbs, including an annual form of Clary Sage called Hormium (Salivia viridis). Also known as S. horminum and Hormium Sage, it is one of the few annual species of Salvia. We grow it once a year, and it sells out rapidly.

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Sacred Sage: The Tongva Tribe & Coastal Sages

Posted: Sunday, February 10, 2013
Synopsis: Less than 250 years ago, Black Sage and White Sage also helped feed and heal the Tongvas and other Southern California native peoples. Here is their story.

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Sacred Sage: Pineapple Sage

Posted: Friday, October 26, 2012

Many kinds of Sage were considered sacred in ancient times due to their soothing, medicinal qualities. Pineapple Sage (Salvia elegans), which is native to Mexico and Guatemala, is still a highly regarded folk remedy for relieving anxiety, depression and high blood pressure. It is also one of America's most popular culinary sages and is a highlight of the USDA's National Herb Garden.

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Sacred Sage: Soothing Grape Scented Sage

Posted: Sunday, October 21, 2012
Synopsis: Salvias are well known for their aromatic foliage. However, Grape Scented Sage (S. melissodora) has fragrant blossoms as well that are edible. Both the plants leaves and flowers are used in soothing teas. The powerfully perfumed flowers have been described as smelling like freesia and lavender as well as grapes. In parts of Mexico, Grape Scented Sage is used in herbal remedies to treat diarrhea.

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Sacred Sage: Giant Bolivian Sage

Posted: Wednesday, October 10, 2012
Synopsis: Of all the mint family's more than 6,500 species worldwide, Giant Bolivian Sage (Salvia dombeyi) has the longest blossoms and tallest growth. Each tubular crimson flower grows up to 5 inches long and has a burgundy calyx at its base.The plant's bright green, heart-shaped leaves are equally long. In South America, the flowers are pollinated by hummingbirds with extremely long beaks. However, Giant Bolivian Sage don't need pollination to flower beautifully for many seasons if growing conditions are right.

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