The name sage comes from the Latin salvere or salvation meaning 'to be in good health, to cure, to save.' Sage was a sacred ceremonial herb of the Romans. It was associated with immortality and was thought to increase mental capacity in ancient times, as referenced in the proverb, "How can a man grow old who has sage in his garden." Sage is found on many continents. The Chinese valued it for use in teas, and the American Indians used it for medicinal purposes.
Sage has square, downy stems that become woody after the second year. The paired leaves are 2 inches long and grayish green with soft, velvety hairs and pronounced veining underneath. Yellow blotches appear on old leaves. The deep-throated mauve-blue flowers grow in whorls. They are two-lipped, have a bee-shaped calyx, and are 1/2 to 3/4 inch long. The tiny ovoid seeds are dark brown.
Aromatic, cosmetic, culinary, decorative, and medicinal.
Sage is used for insect repellent and for fragrance in potpourris. It also is used for infusions to color hair silver and it stimulates the skin in facial steams, baths, and lotions. It flavors vinegars, herbal butter, omelets, soups, and poultry stuffings. Fresh sage is sometimes added to salads. Because it dries well, it is used in herbal wreaths (especially culinary) and nosegays. It can be grown in containers. It is said to have some medicinal qualities.
The common silver sage, the purple variety, and two variegated forms of sage were a major part of our garden. They filled out well, and their coloration provided great contrast. We harvested large quantities throughout the season, with a single plant producing more leaves than expected.