A Castle Bromwich Herbiary - Sage.

Hello everyone and welcome to this latest Castle Bromwich Hall Gardens Herbiary entry. This time around we are featuring Sage:

I'm a rather fat feathery owl called sage,
I'm not at all happy in fact in a rage,
it's bad enough having ones home all upset,
but to make matters worse all my feathers are wet.


Sage was a character in FilmFair's memorable stop-frame animation series 'The Herbs', first broadcast in 1968 under BBC Television's 'Watch With Mother strand. The characters were created and the show written by Michael Bond (creator of Paddington Bear), and the series was particularly noted for its satirical adult edged humour disguised as children's entertainment. This aspect probably explains the shows continued appeal 45 years after it was first broadcast.

Sage was a loud, perpetually vile-tempered Owl who always appeared one step away from committing violence on whoever annoyed him (everyone), or on whatever prevented him from getting what he wanted (everything). An avian version of Verruca Salt, if you will. Sage particularly disliked losing his nest and / or getting wet. Needless to say, both incidents occured frequently.

Sage was voiced by the actor Gordon Rollings: No stranger to left-field humour himself (amongst his appearances he featured in Spike Milligan's post-apocalyptic film 'The Bedsitting Room'), his laconic deadpan delivery imbued the script with an unique.....


er, hang on a second folks...

Well, how was I to know??

Look if I start again nobody will notice, I mean who reads this stuff anyway?



A Castle Bromwich Herbiary - Sage

Hello everyone and welcome to the latest Castle Bromwich Hall Gardens Herbiary entry. This time around we are featuring Sage:

You say, O Sage, when weather-checked,
"I have been favoured so
With cloudless skies, I must expect
This dash of rain or snow."

See. Nobody noticed: Told you.

Native to the Balkan and Mediterranean, sage (Salvia Officinalis to you) is a member of the mint family and its bluish-purple flowers and greyish-green leaves are a familiar sight in many of our UK gardens. 

In favourable conditions in the garden, S. officinalis can grow to a substantial size (1 square metre or more), but a number of cultivars are more compact. As such they are valued as small ornamental flowering shrubs, rather than for their herbal properties. Some provide low ground cover, especially in sunny dry environments. Like many herbs they can be killed by a cold wet winter, especially if the soil is not well drained. But they are easily propagated from summer cuttings, and some cultivars are produced from seeds.

Named cultivars include:

  • 'Alba', a white-flowered cultivar
  • 'Aurea', golden sage
  • 'Berggarten', a cultivar with large leaves, which rarely blooms, extending the useful life of the leaves
  • 'Extrakta', has leaves with higher oil concentrations
  • 'Icterina', a cultivar with yellow-green variegated leaves
  • 'Lavandulaefolia', a small leaved cultivar
  • 'Purpurascens' ('Purpurea'), a purple-leafed cultivar
  • 'Tricolor', a cultivar with white, yellow and green variegated leaves

Sage can be found in Castle Bromwich Hall Gardens in various areas, usually in the borders around the Batty Langley Kitchen Garden.


Salvia officinalis itself has numerous common names. Some of the best known include sage, common sage, garden sage, golden sage, kitchen sage, true sage, culinary sage, Dalmatian sage, and broadleaf sage. Cultivated forms include purple sage and red sage. In Turkey, Salvia officinalis is widely known as adaçay, meaning "island tea". In the Levant its called Maramia. 

Salvia officinalis - Köhler's Medicinal - 1887

Salvia officinalis was described by Carl Linnaeus in 1753. It has been grown for centuries in the Old World for its food and healing properties, and was often described in old herbals for the many miraculous properties attributed to it. The specific epithet, officinalis, refers to the plant's medicinal use—the officina was the traditional storeroom of a monastery where herbs and medicines were stored. S. officinalis has been classified under many other scientific names over the years, including six different names since 1940 alone.

Common sage is grown in parts of Europe for distillation of an essential oil, though other species, such as Salvia fruticosa may also be harvested and distilled with it.

Sage Essential Oil: Although let's face it, it could have anything in there. The pic is Public Domain anyway.

How to Grow Sage:
  • Sunlight: Full Sun
  • Aspect: South-facing, West-facing, or East-facing: Sheltered or exposed
  • Cultivation: Grow in moderately fertile, moist but well-drained soil in full sun or dappled shade.
  • Soil: Moist, but well-drained; Acid, Alkaline, or Neutral; Sand, loam, or chalk.
  • Propagation: Propagate by softwood cuttings in spring or semi-hardwood in late summer.

Folklore and Early Uses:

Salvia officinalis has been used since ancient times for warding off evil, snakebites, increasing women's fertility, and more. Theophrastus wrote about two different sages, a wild undershrub he called sphakos, and a similar cultivated plant he called elelisphakos. Pliny the Elder said the latter plant was called salvia by the Romans, and used as a diuretic, a local anesthetic for the skin, a styptic, and for other uses. Charlemagne recommended the plant for cultivation in the early Middle Ages, and during the Carolingian Empire, it was cultivated in monastery gardens.[Walafrid Strabo described it in his poem Hortulus as having a sweet scent and being useful for many human ailments—he went back to the Greek root for the name and called it lelifagus.

The plant had a high reputation throughout the Middle Ages, with many sayings referring to its healing properties and value. It was sometimes called S. salvatrix (sage the savior), and was one of the ingredients of Four Thieves Vinegar, a blend of herbs which was supposed to ward off the plague. Dioscorides, Pliny, and Galen all recommended sage as a diuretic, hemostatic, emmenagogue, and tonic.

Sage is an unusual herb, in that much of the folklore relates to a specific variety. In general however, "sage" means a wise man, and this term comes from the belief that sage was thought to impart wisdom and improve one's memory. 

The English herbalist, Gerard wrote that, "Sage is singularly good for the head and brain, it quickeneth the senses and memory, strengtheneth the sinews, restoreth health to those that have the palsy, and taketh away shakey trembling of the members." .

Gardening folklore tells us that the wife will rule the household when Sage grows well in the garden. It also tells us sage will grow well or fail depending on whether the household's business prospers or fails. Put the two folklores together and make of it what you will!

Sage symbolizes domestic virtue, wisdom, skill, esteem, long life, good health, mitigates grief, and increases psychic powers. Apparently.

Medical Uses:

PLEASE NOTE that the information on this page is based on research from the internet, books, articles and studies and/or companies selling herbs online. This section is for entertainment purposes only, and medicinal uses have not necessarily been evaluated. They certainly should not be considered as medical advice. For diagnosis or treatment of ailments always consult your doctor. The use of any medication without professional advice may be dangerous, and Castle Bromwich Hall Gardens Trust will not accept any responsibility for any consequences arising from its use.

Sage should not be used by pregnant or nursing women or by people who have epileptic fits.
The plant is toxic in excess or when taken for extended periods, though the toxic dose is very large.
Sage should not be used to suppress perspiration in fevers.

The oils and tannins in Sage have astringent, antiseptic, and irritant properties. It is therefore an important herb in medications for mouth sores, mouth ulcers, and sore throat medications (make teas and use as a mouth rinse - try a tea with equal parts Chamomile and Sage). For sore throats, try mixing a Sage tea with apple cider vinegar and salt for gargling. Sage is reported to have moisture-drying properties, and can be used as an antiperspirant. It can also be used as a compress on cuts and wounds. Clinical studies have also shown that it can lower blood sugar in cases of diabetes. 

Incidentally, you will often see Sage medicines advertised as Clary Sage. This is just another form of Sage that originates in the Mediterranean but has the same medicinal properties as the other sages. 

As an astringent, Sage can be used as a refreshing after-shave, and there is some indication that an infusion of it can be used to subtly colour silver hair. As with many of the other herbs, Sage can also be tried in a tea for digestive problems and flatulence.

In an exciting new study done in 2003, Scientists at Newcastle and Northumbria found that Sage oil extracts in capsule form produced markedly improved memory function in test subjects, and it is possible that Sage may protect a key chemical destroyed in the brain by Alzheimer's disease.

Sage Tea or infusion of Sage is a valuable agent in the delirium of fevers and in the nervous excitement frequently accompanying brain and nervous diseases. It has a considerable reputation as a remedy, given in small and often-repeated doses. It is highly serviceable as a stimulant tonic in debility of the stomach and nervous system and weakness of digestion generally. It was for this reason that the Chinese valued it, giving it the preference to their own tea. It is considered a useful medicine in typhoid fever and beneficial in biliousness and liver complaints, kidney troubles, haemorrhage from the lungs or stomach, for colds in the head as well as sore throat, quinsy, measles, for pains in the joints, lethargy and palsy.  A cup of the strong infusion will be found good to relieve nervous headache.

The German Commission E approved internal use for mild gastrointestinal upset and excessive sweating as well as for external use in conditions of inflamed mucous membranes of the mouth and throat. Its antiseptic action is of value where there is intestinal infection. Rosmarinic acid contributes to the herb's anti-inflammatory activity.

Sage has an anti-spasmodic action which reduces tension in smooth muscle, and it can be used in a steam inhalation for asthma attacks. It is an excellent remedy for helping to remove mucous congestion in the airways and for checking or preventing secondary infection. It may be taken as a carminative to reduce griping and other symptoms of indigestion, and is also of value in the treatment of dysmenorrhoea. Its bitter component stimulates upper digestive secretions, intestinal mobility, bile flow, and pancreatic function, while the volatile oil has a carminative and stimulating effect on the digestion. It has a vermifuge action. There also seems to be a more general relaxant effect, so that the plant is suitable in the treatment of nervousness, excitability and dizziness. It helps to fortify a generally debilitated nervous system.

It is well documented that Sage leaf helps to reduce menopausal sweats. Sage has a strong anti-hydrotic action, and was a traditional treatment for night sweats in tuberculosis sufferers. 

Research has suggested that the presence of volatile oil in Sage is largely responsible for most of its therapeutic properties, especially its anti-septic, astringent and relaxing actions. Sage is also used internally in the treatment of night sweats, excessive salivation (as in Parkinson's disease), profuse perspiration (as in TB), anxiety and depression. Externally, it is used to treat insect bites, skin, throat, mouth and gum infections.

Cookery (Delia Smith has nothing on us!):

In Britain sage has for generations been listed as one of the essential herbs, along with parsley, rosemary and thyme (as in the folk song "Scarborough Fair"). It has a savoury, slightly peppery flavor. It appears in many European cuisines, notably Italian, Balkan and Middle Eastern cookery. In British and American cooking, it is traditionally served as sage and onion stuffing, an accompaniment to roast turkey or chicken at Christmas or Thanksgiving Day. Other dishes include pork casserole, Sage Derby cheese and Lincolnshire sausages. Despite the common use of traditional and available herbs in French cuisine, sage never found favour there.

For some wondrously fab recipes from none other that Hugh Fearnley-Wittingstall, click here.

So there it is. Sage.

Salvia officinalis L. | Blackwell pl.71 - 1737 

Not a fractious little owl at all. In fact, not back for a turkey-stuffing ingredent, what? I could do with some of that stuff myself, with my stupid memory.

Pease go and visit this little miracle worker next time you visit the gardens!

This article has been fabricated (apart from the TV show stuff) from several sources to whom grateful thanks are due:

Wikimedia Commons
Gardens Ablaze.com
The Guardian Online

Thanks are also due to:

Gordon Sammons
Chris Hitchcock
Brian Jennings

All photographs (unless credited elsewhere) are by Yvonne High, and are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 2.0 UK: England & Wales License


  1. Interesting article & comprehensive article. Just thought I'd check if you meant to state 'Castle Bromwich Hall Gardens Trust will accept any responsiblity for any consequences arising from its use' ?

    1. ...and that ladies and gentlemen, is why I need a decent proof-reader! :o) If anyone would like to help me out with such onerous duties, please email cbhallgardens@gmail.com. There's no money in it, but the honour (I can assure you) is considerable. Thanks for the heads up Gary: Horrific gaffe now fixed. Cheers.

  2. Hi there, I think it's wonderful that Castle Bromwich Hall Gardens has a herbiary and that you're writing about the herbs you grow. I wondered if you'd like some help with these articles on the medicinal side as it's difficult putting something together from other online sources if you don't use the plant yourself. e.g. I wouldn't use clary sage interchangeably with salvia officinalis, it's such a different plant. You also might be interested in one of my sage articles (called What to do with sage?) which can be found on my blog, Tales of a Kitchen Herbwife.

    1. Thank you for your kind words and your offer. I will certainly bear it in mind for future postings! In the meantime I thorougly recommend to our readership a viewing of 'Tales of a Kitchen Herbwife' which can be located at http://kitchenherbwife.blogspot.co.uk/

      Many thanks!