Common Sage, or Kitchen Sage (Salvia officinalis), Family: Labiatae. Synonyms: (Old English) Sawge. Garden Sage. Red Sage. Broad-leaved White Sage. Narrow-leaved White Sage. Salvia salvatrix ('Sage the Saviour').
The Common Sage, the familiar plant of the kitchen garden, is an evergreen undershrub, its natural habitat being the northern shores of the Mediterranean. It has been cultivated for culinary and medicinal purposes for many centuries in England, France and Germany, being sufficiently hardy to stand any ordinary winter outside.
Sage generally grows about a foot or more high, with wiry stems. The flowers are in whorls, purplish and the corollas lipped. They blossom in August. All parts of the plant have a strong, scented odour and a warm, bitter, somewhat astringent taste, due to the volatile oil contained in the tissues.
Sage is found in its natural wild condition from Spain along the Mediterranean coast up to and including the east side of the Adriatic, being found mostly where there is a limestone formation with very little soil. When wild it is much like the common garden Sage, though more shrubby in appearance and has a more penetrating odour, being more spicy and astringent than the cultivated plant.
The name of the genus, Salvia, is derived from the Latin salvere, to be saved, in reference to the curative properties of the plant, which was in olden times celebrated as a medicinal herb. This name was corrupted popularly to Sauja and Sauge (the French form), in Old English, 'Sawge,' which has become our present-day name of Sage.
Throughout the Middle Ages it was in high repute: 'He that would live for aye, Must eat Sage in May.'
In the Jura district of France, the herb is supposed to mitigate grief, mental and bodily, and Pepys says: ‘We observed a little churchyard where it was customary to sow all the graves with Sage.'
"...and thymes that grew in bushes, or with their woody creeping stems mantled in deep tapestries the hidden stones; sages of many kinds putting forth blue flowers, or red, or pale green; and marjorams ..." [Back to Herblore]