The Medicines: Sage

Cultural Uses

Sage is an important medicine to many First Nations cultures. It is generally employed as a means of releasing troubles from the mind and removing negative energies. Sage is used most commonly for smudging. It is believed to be potent cleanser for homes and sacred items.

In addition to its ceremonial use, Sage has many medicinal properties. Sage tea promotes moon times (menses), as it is a uterus stimulant. As such, pregnant women should not consume sage. Women who are breastfeeding should also be warned, as sage will stop the flow of milk. Similarly, it will also reduce salivation, yet increase the flow of bile. Sage leaves also contain tannin and thujone, causing it to be an effective astringent. It is also an antiseptic, useful for healing wounds.

Sage has also been known to benefit the stomach, intestines, kidneys, liver, spleen and reproductive organs. It is generally a medicine to cure all ills. In addition, Sage contains high amounts of calcium, potassium, vitamin B1 and Zinc. Moderate amounts of magnesium, iron, vitamin A and B complete, niacin and sodium can also be found in sage. Small amounts of phosphorus, manganese, silicon, sulphur, sodium and vitamin C are also present in sage, as well as trace amounts of selenium. As you can see, sage is full of vitamins and mineral, and is quite healthful.

As with anything, sage should be used in moderation. Due to the high amounts of nutrients, sage should be ingested with discretion. The sage plant itself is exceptionally hardy, and can survive periods of intense heat and drought, but can also withstand low temperatures of -20 degrees Celsius (-4 degrees Fahrenheit).

Potential damage

Moist and wet soils will likely cause sage to develop root rot. To avoid this problem, make sure the soil is well drained. High humidity can also be problematic, as it may cause a decline in foliage.

Initial Stages of Planting

Sage can be grown in all temperature zones; however, it requires full sun. It is an upright perennial sub-shrub, up to 1.2 m/4 ft tall with a 60 cm/2ft spread. Sage needs little water and well drained soil. It does well in poor to average soil. There are two common methods for growing sage, though cuttings or seeds.

Propagation by seed

Germination rate is only about 15%.

  • Sow seeds in the spring, when the soil has warmed to at least 7 degrees Celsius/45 degrees Fahrenheit. Use a very sandy soil.
  • Prepare the seedbed by digging over the soil to one spade depth, then rake the soil and firm it down.
  • There are two techniques for sowing seeds, by broadcast and in drills:
    • Sowing by Broadcast: Sprinkle seeds thinly and evenly on the seedbed and lightly rake them into the soil. Make sure to water the seeds well in this beginning stage.
    • Sowing in Drills: Using either a trowel tip or the corner of a how, dig shallow drill holes 8-15 cm (3”-6”) apart. Place seeds in the holes then firmly cover with soil.
  • Water seedlings regularly until roots have developed. Germination is, on average, 14 days.