I think sage is one of those mysterious herbs that most of us don't quite know how to cook with. It also seems to have this sort of luxurious mystique to it. For instance if you're out to eat and see "sautéed carrots with sage" on the menu, one might think to themselves... wow, how fancy! The reality is that a side dish like this is pretty darn basic, we just have to become more accustomed to using this herb regularly, as our ancestors have for thousands of years.
Sage not only adds a unique flavor to a variety of recipes, but it is also known to have healing benefits both internally and externally. In fact, the Latin name of sage, Salvia officinalis, is derived from a word that means "to be saved."
So what exactly can sage save you from?
One of the main benefits of sage is its anti-inflammatory effects. The rosmarinic acid found in sage actually alters the inflammatory messaging that goes on inside of your body, making your cells less likely to inflame. This property is released most efficiently when the leaves are steeped, made into a tincture, or just chewed on.
Inflammation contributes to many ailments and sage can help to give you relief from many of these including arthritis, bronchial asthma and gastritis (an upset stomach caused from inflammation of your intestines). Sage can also be used in a mouthwash to help treat gingivitis. Basically, any disease that ends in -itis (a medical term for inflammation) can be treated with sage.
The combination of flavonoids, acids, and enzymes found in sage also make it a great antioxidant. It attacks the free-radicals in the body and prevents them from creating oxidative stress in the cells. This action works to protect the heart, brain, organs, and just about every other aspect of the body. In this sense, sage may also aid in slowing down the aging process.
Blood & Bone Loss
Sage is very rich in vitamin K. In fact, just two teaspoons of sage contains 30% of the vitamin K you need on a daily basis. Vitamin K1, in particular, is a very important nutrient because it clots your blood. This is especially helpful if you are prone to bloody noses, paper cuts...or if you have poor knife-cutting skills while chopping veggies. Without vitamin K, your blood would not be able to clot when needed. In addition, vitamin K2 has been proven to reduce bone loss and prevent the risk of bone fractures by helping to direct calcium to the bones, instead of to other organs where it is not needed.
One of the most note-worthy benefits of sage is its impact on the brain. It not only enhances the memory, but it has also been proven to help in the treatment and prevention of Alzheimer's disease. In a double-blind study, patients not only saw an increase in cognitive function, but they also experienced less irritability [I]. That means that sage may also aid in the treatment of depression and other neurological disorders. It's no wonder a hot sage beverage has often been called "the thinker's tea".
Sage has been found to have antimicrobial properties and can therefore be made into a topical application for skin issues such as acne or eczema. Blemishes and inflammation can be soothed and reduced with a salve of sage.
Are you beginning to see why healers have been using this herb for centuries? Now let's get down to how to use it!
Culinary Uses for Sage
First off, sage is typically found in three forms for culinary purposes. The first is obviously the fresh leaves right off the shrub. These will be the most fragrant and give your dishes somewhat of a bite. You can also find a rubbed form which is made by rubbing dried sage leaves to create a light and fluffy mix. This form is less concentrated than ground sage, which is what you'll find on most people's spice racks. Ground sage is perhaps the easiest to come by but is of course, less flavorful because it's not as fresh.
Sage has a slightly peppery flavor, so it is best used in savory dishes. Sage pairs beautifully with cheese— I love to make a simple sage, feta and mushroom mix to cook in an breakfast omelette. Similarly to rosemary, sage is also wonderful with a roasted turkey breast, grilled pork chops or wild rice stuffing. It's definitely an herb that has a very autumn, Thanksgiving-time feel to it, but don't let that limit you!
Do you have any desserts or sweetly-inspired summertime recipes with sage? If you tried to get me to eat a scoop of homemade sage ice cream I wouldn't hesitate for a moment!
[I] Akhondzadeh S, Noroozian M, Mohammadi M, Ohadinia S, Jamshidi AH, Khani M. "Salvia officinalis extract in the treatment of patients with mild to moderate Alzheimer's disease: a double blind, randomized and placebo-controlled trial." J Clin Pharm Ther. 2003 Feb;28(1):53-9. Web. July. 2016. <http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12605619>.