The closely related genera Perovskia and Phlomis are also known as sage; Russian Sage, (Perovskia atriplicifolia), native to the Crimea south to Afghanistan and Pakistan, is grown as an ornamental plant because of its blue-violet sprays of flowers and its adaptability to either sun or part shade. It has a pleasant smell and is also grown as a bee plant, but is not consumed by humans. Jerusalem Sage refers to Phlomis fruticosa and other species of Phlomis.
Some species of the unrelated genus Artemisia are also referred to as sages, a shortened version of sagebrush, which is a more appropriate term for them. They generally taste vile and are not used in food preparation, although many of them are used medicinally. Smudge bundles are made with various grey-leaved species of Artemisia and are misrepresented as "whitesage" smudges. The true whitesage is Salvia apiana, which has a delightful scent when burned.
Salvia species are used as food plants by the larvae of some Lepidoptera species including the bucculatricid leaf-miner Bucculatrix taeniola which feeds exclusively on the genus and the Coleophora case-bearers C. aegyptiacae, C. salviella (both feed exclusively on S. aegyptiaca), C. ornatipennella and C. virgatella (both recorded on S. pratensis).
The sage varieties used as herbs stem from the Mediterranean and Asia Minor and Sage has been grown in Central Europe since the Middle Ages.
The name Salvia derives from the Latin 'salveo', which means 'to heal'. Indeed this herb is highly regarded for its healing qualities. An ancient proverb states, "Why should a man die who has sage in his garden?". The ancient Greeks used it to treat consumption, ulcers and snake bites.
The Romans considered sage to be a sacred herb and concocted a whole elaborate ceremony just to pick it. A sage gatherer would have to use a special knife (not made of iron as it reacts with the sage), have to have clean clothes and clean feet and a sacrifice of food would have to be made before he could begin. The Romans would use it for toothpaste; they also believed it to be good for the brain, senses and memory.
The Chinese also were quite partial to this herb. 17th century Dutch merchants found that they would trade one chest of sage leaves for three of their teas .
Salvia apiana, White sage, California white sage, a perennial at home in the mountains of Southern California, sometimes found in the desert of southern Arizona
Salvia candelabrum, a blue-flowering scented sage
Salvia clevelandii, Blue sage, Cleveland sage, Fragrant sage, with a very strong scent, found either delightful or disgusting
Salvia clevelandii x pachyphylla x leucophylla Celestial Blue, Celestial Sage, Musk Sage. Hybrid between Cleveland Sage, Rose Sage, and Pozo Blue Sage
Salvia fulgens, Cardinal sage, Mexican red sage, a red-flowering perennial
Salvia greggii, Autumn sage, a red-flowered sage with a very strong scent
Salvia leucophylla, Purple sage, a drought tolerant perennial from Southern California.
Salvia lyrata, Lyre-leaved sage, Lyreleaf sage, Cancerweed, a purple-flowering perennial
Salvia officinalis, Common sage; this is the best-known species of sage. There are several varieties
Salvia pratensis, Meadow clary, Meadow sage, a blue-flowering species
Salvia sclarea, Clary (or Clary sage), a biennial sage with enormous (for sages) flower spikes, quite showy, used in teas
Salvia spathacea, Pitcher sage or Hummingbird sage, a magenta-flowering annual with huge leaves
Salvia verticillata, Whorled clary, Lilac sage, a white- or blue-flowering perennial with the scent of Clary
Salvia argentea, Silver sage, usually a showy-flowered biennial, named for the color of its foliage
Salvia azurea, Blue sage, Azure blue sage; this species has very big bright blue flowers
Salvia coccinea, Blood sage, a scarlet-flowered tender perennial
Salvia divinorum, Diviner's sage, a highly psychoactive variety
Salvia farinacea, Mealycup sage, grown as an annual in temperate climates will
Salvia guaranitica, grown as an ornamental plant and a bee plant, has brilliantly saturated blue flowers and is perennial. It is one of the sages often known as hummingbird sage.
Salvia horminum, (syn.: S. viridis) Painted sage, an annual with showy blue, pink or white flower bracts
Salvia patens, a blue-flowering annual
Salvia splendens, Scarlet sage, a red-flowering annual
Salvia x superba, a purple-flowering perennial
Salvia arizonica, Arizona sage, Desert indigo sage, a purple-flowering annual, native to Texas
Salvia carnosa, a blue-flowering annual, native to the Arizona desert
Salvia columbariae, Chia, Chia sage, California chia; a blue-flowering annual native to desert and chaparral of southwestern North America.
Salvia hispanica, the Chia of commerce.
Salvia polystachya, Chia sage, Chia seed
Salvia potus, Chia.
Several types of Salvia are used medicinally:
aromatic varieties (usually strongly scented leaves, also used as herbs)
non-aromatic varieties (not considered medicinal, but many still have a scent)
Divinorum (Diviner's sage) is drug used for spiritual and recreational purposes.
The aromatic sages strengthen the lungs and can be used in teas or tinctures to prevent coughs. Less aromatic species of Salvia are run-of-the-mill mint-family anti-inflammatories, which means that they can be used for pretty much any infection or inflammation, and will give at least some relief.
Common sage (Salvia officinalis) drunk as a cold tea will stop sweating, while the same tea drunk hot will produce sweating. Cold and hot teas will also either stop or enhance milk production. The essential oil is used in aromatherapy and medicine.
White sage (Salvia apiana) is a very strong general anti-inflammatory, used as tea or tincture. The tincture has a very nice scent and can be used as a perfume. This species is the famous whitesage of smudge sticks.
Pineapple sage (Salvia elegans, old: S. rutilans) is a tender perennial with pineapple-scented leaves. Medicinally, this is perhaps closest to the scented geraniums, a sweet-smelling Pelargonium species.
Red sage (Salvia miltiorrhiza) is used medicinally in Traditional Chinese medicine.
Chia sages. The seeds of these species are used as bulk laxatives, much like the seeds of Psyllium (Plantago spp.) or linseed. Chia has been important in the diet of desert Indians. It is still used for its mucilaginous qualities by Mexican natives.
Diviner's sage (Salvia divinorum) also called Yerba de la Pastora or sometimes just Salvia, is a plant that differs from all the other sages. It is a Mexican visionary herb and there is some evidence it is a true cultivar. It is known to have strong psychoactive properties.
Other useful herb information: Maca | Valerian | Shiitake | Lemon Balm | Allium | Lemon Verbena | Yerba
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