The Sages are in the process of blooming themselves right to sleep, every single one of them covered in masses of flower – blue, red, purple, all of them. The spp. in the picture is lovely South American native S. coccinea, that grows as a perennial in our pots and as an annual in the garden. It grows easily from seed and flowers with amazing brilliance all season long. It, like many other Sages, is traditionally used as a nervine, digestive aid and blood mover. Unlike the well known Garden Sage, it has a mild, slightly stinky smell with none of its relatives’ intense resinous aromatics. It works well as a tea or in a salve. I haven’t tried the tincture yet. Don’t forget that Sage’s blood moving properties make it an emmenagogue, pain reliever and useful for other stagnant blood issues.
This Summer I discovered a new red flowered Sage growing in damp rock crevices above the river. I still haven’t ID’d it, though it looks very similar to S. henryi but with narrower, grayer foliage. It has an amazing mint-bergemot-sage scent that is incredibly strong, as strong as White Sage but very different. It dries well and makes an excellent smudge. The tincture feels profoundly euphoric and centering to me, but can be a bit giddy feeling to others. It has an intensely cooling effect on the lungs even when taken as a tincture. It’s both relaxing and stimulating, and gives a somewhat less than subtle high to a good majority of those who’ve tried it. I haven’t tried smoking it yet, but expect it to be exceptional for such a use. I do hope to get pictures of it before it stops blooming and hopefully someone can help me identify my new friend.
The dark blue flowered Sawtooth Sage (S. subincisa) that I’ve so frequently written about, is nearly at the end of its season. It’s small for a sage, and has a distinctive skunky odor that easily distinguishes it from the S. reflexa that often grows next to it. This is my favorite spp. to use as a profound nerve tonic, especially for those with chronic shakes or tremors. It’s bitter and green tasting, and the tincture is my favorite preparation.
The lighter blue flowered Chán (S. reflexa) is another native Canyon sage. It grows anywhere remotely moist: on the riverbank, among the Ragweed, in the garden and under the Alders. A cheerful, bergemot scented herb, I use it for various belly upsets and as a mild nerve tonic, especially for children. The tincture is nice, but I like it best as a tea.
Another light blue but much larger flowered spp. is Blue Sage (S. azurea). It’s bitter and nervine, though the flowers have an amazing scent that defies all description. I’m just beginning to work with this species, but the Mexican consider it to be a cure-all and I have, thus far, found it to be another excellent nerve tonic for deep nerve trauma.
Autumn Sage (S. greggii), a leggy, resinous red flowered Sage native to Texas is great for everything that Garden Sage is nice for, from sore throats to teeth problems to hot flashes to belly trouble to wounds.
Garden Sage (S. officianale) is the classic Sage of all Western herbals. I love it in food and as a beverage especially combined with Rose petals. This is the Sage I most often use for children, and I often make it into a sweet elixir combined with Chán for various tummy upsets. It’s also a fine nerve tonic, much underused for this purpose, but not as strong as Sawtooth Sage.
White Sage (S. apiana) is the well known smudge of Southern California. It’s a lovely plant and when of my first choices for wounds of any kind, especially combined with Elderberry and Rosehips. It’s gotten a recent reputation for its usefulness internally for BPH, though it’s range of expertise is far larger than what is currently popular. It can be used in the same ways all the other Sage can, though it is more anti-infective and less astringent that some other species.
I’ve never met a Sage I didn’t love and I hope to meet many more in the coming years, certainly a distinct blessing of living in the Sage rich Southwest.