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A Sage Guide: Mythology, Uses, and Controversy

sage through the ages
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Culinary superstar, medical miracle, wise-woman – Sage remains one of the brightest and most versatile stars that exist. Most people spend their lives dreaming of greatness. Sage has always just been great, naturally. Long used for cognitive/memory support, Sage spawned the world’s most beloved and sought-after archetype – “the sage.” 

A proud senior citizen – “4,000 is the new 20!” – Sage proves that grandmas and pas are sexy, sassy, and wise. With a world-famous memory, Sage knows how to deal with the past. As the great poet Walafrid Strabo once said of Sage, if newer branches are left untrimmed, they will choke the older to death “in bitter jealousy.” Within Sage is “the germ of civil war.” 

Defying all labels and rules of conduct, she’s been the model for spiritual cleanliness while unapologetically making love with everyone and everything, from butter to turkeys. From saving the Virgin Mary and baby Jesus to her unforgettable appearance in the hauntingly beautiful “Scarborough Fair” opposite Parsley, Rosemary, and Thyme, Sage has achieved a level of success that only Oprah could relate to. 

Sage thought that her therapeutic career was far behind her. However, with the world grappling with ailments such as diabetes, Alzheimer’s and cancer, medicine beckons the superstar to come out of retirement. 

Shaking her soft, silvery mane, Sage pinches her fingers. “You’d think thousands of years would give you some legitimacy. Not anymore. In the words of J.W. Bush, ‘weird shit’ really sums up our current state of affairs.” 

A Visit with Sage

Walking up the cobblestone walkway to Sage’s bed and breakfast, you would never guess that a superstar would choose to live in such a remote location. But the limelight never interested Sage that much because, well, she’s always been there. After servicing so many gardens, there came a time when Sage decided it was time to take care of her own. So, she settled in a place where she felt she truly belonged – Connecticut.

“Strange where you end up,” Sage told us over the phone. 

Sage: A Country Crone at Heart

But Sage had a vision: to grow her own produce, to milk her own cows, to end up in Architectural Digest. She wanted a simpler life, not just for herself, but for the betterment of all. Sage opened a working farm on which sits her exclusive yet inclusive Bed and Breakfast modeled after a 13th-century monastery. It has been featured in Architectural Digest many times. Sage can check that off her bucket list, which she keeps for her personal amusement. “I’m immortal, my lists are endless,” she assured us.

At an undisclosed countryside dream location with spectacular views, the sound of chickens, a babbling brook, and laughing children create a melodious, pastoral soundtrack to the opening front door. The softest, freshest smile greets us, carrying with it memories of delicious meats and bubble baths. A beautiful crone – colorful, slender, tubular – she glows with the wisdom of both sides of the moon. Her eyes, however, reveal a dirty mind – classic Sage.

Leading us through her minimalist yet chic Bed and Breakfast, one feels immediately at home or jealous. The air wafts with the smell of baking bread, roasting parsnips and potatoes, and experimental desserts. With a cheery staff (“the family,” says Sage) dashing about with stacks of fresh white linen and dishes of piping hot foods, the atmosphere around Sage is one of impeccable service. 

“People mostly know my work to be delicious, but it’s much more medicinal than that.” Stopping to straighten a frame on the wall, she says, “As a tea, I’m fantastically therapeutic. As an essential oil, I’m undeniably beneficial. There are studies to prove it.”

Herbal Refreshment with Sage

Taking a seat in her bold yet understated library room, hydrangeas pink and blue bust out of white porcelain vases on either side of Sage. On her floor-to-ceiling oak bookshelves sit the classics: Women Who Run with the Wolves…Emily Dickinson: The Complete Poems…The Accidental Beauty Queen. Barely a Lady. The Cowboy Meets His Match. Virgin River. Gentle Rogue. The Quest for a Face and Dick. Passion on Park Ave. Call Me Saffron. The Flame and the Flower. One-Eyed Dukes are Wild. 

Sage lights an herbal cigarette. “I love a trashy novel…”

Sage and Grace Kelly Canoodling at the Cannes Film Festival.

For thousands of years, Sage has wowed the world with her ability to relieve pain, protect the body against oxidative stress, free radical damages, angiogenesis, inflammation, bacterial, and viral infections. So powerful is her medicine that she inspired the first medical school in all of Europe, in Salerno, Italy, to invent an axiom in her honor: “Why should a man die whilst Sage grows in his garden?” 

Not if Sage has anything to do about it. Death isn’t exactly her cup of tea; she always had a preference for immortality. As a symbol of eternal, sophisticated beauty, it is no wonder that Grace Kelly and Sage were the best of friends.

Herstory: Salvia Officinalis

One of the 900 species that belong to the Salvia family, Salvia Officinalis is an offshoot clan is the largest member of the beloved Mint family. Though all members of the Sage family bear the name Salvia, which comes from the Latin, “to save,” it is only Salvia Officinalis that saves us officially. The highest honor that medicine could bestow upon a plant, “Officinalis” refers to the official storage room in monasteries for herbs and medicine.

“Remember, these were the pre-Middle Ages,” Sage takes a drag of her cigarette. “Monasteries were the European hotspots for all the stars. Anyone who was anybody was at the cloisters.”

The Ancients Went Wild for Sage

The Ancient Egyptians loved and needed her, as a remedy for everything from infertility to the plague. She was even necessary to cross to the other side. Without Sage, the Pharaohs weren’t going to any paradise. “You shall not pass!” Sage exclaims in a fit of smoke and ashes her cigarette. “Lord of the Rings is my favorite.”

The Ancient Romans were in the know too. So holy was Sage to them, that collectors were required to clean their feet before picking her. “I’m in their official pharmacopeia,” Sage states. Even China went wild. “I was being used for joint pain, typhoid fever, kidney, liver issues–everything.”   

Sage’s Soft Spot for Politicians

Sage was famous for her affairs with politicians and poets, such as Charlemagne and Marcus Aurelius. Charlemagne, called “The Father of Europe,” loved Sage the most out of all the medicinal plants in the kingdom. By law, all state farms (mostly monasteries) were under strict orders to plant Sage. “Most men are intimidated by my power,” Sage blushes, “but not Charlie.” 

And no wonder. A tablespoon of sage has 43 percent of the daily recommended amount of vitamin K and a long series of active ingredients that play a key role in the treatment of many diseases and disorders. 

Stuffed with Health

For centuries and in many nations, Sage has been synonymous with health. She has shown to soothe menopausal symptoms, support weight management, lower plasma cholesterol, and inhibit angiogenesis in vivo. Most solid tumors are dependent on angiogenesis.

Sage stops and twists her modest heel into her enviable hardwood floors. “That tumor wants to produce new blood cells? Not on my watch.”

And the list of diseases goes on and on. 

With 44 million people in the world with Alzheimer’s, Sage wants to target this group first. By 1597, A-lister herbalists had gushed over Sage’s brain-boosting benefits to all those who would listen. For years, she has been supporting senior citizens with declining mental function. Studies have confirmed that Salvia, due to a large array of active compounds, “could enhance cognitive activity and protect against neurogenerative diseases.” In the throws of trying to find a solution to the massive problem of dementia, medicine is wondering if the ancients were onto something.

“There is still so much that we don’t know. I don’t even know what I can do. It might be worth a shot to find out though if drinking me turns you into Wiseman.” Sage raises a brow.

Salvia has always been brimming with antioxidants, which play an important role in protecting the body against oxidative stress and free radical infused damages. In other words, Sage could help with depression, ADHD, and diabetes type I and type II. In the case of type II, Sage has shown to be as effective as metformin, an oral anti-diabetic drug. 

Fuming with Controversy

But as they say, the higher they climb, the harder they fall. Sage has had her critics, especially for a brutal setback in her career in the Middle Ages. 

“In the Middle Ages, sage was one of the components of a concoction known as Four Thieves Vinegar, which claimed to offer protection against the plague. It didn’t…Parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme. Maybe those particular words just had the right cadence and rhyme to fit the song,” a critic wrote in “The Mystique of Parsley, Sage, Rosemary, and Thyme.”

Looking forlorn towards her rose garden, Sage keeps her chin up. “I wanted to save Europe, I really did, but I couldn’t. The plague almost destroyed us all. I’m still recovering from that experience.” 

Ceremony Celebrity

From the ashes, the Meditteranean beauty has risen like a phoenix back to the top of pop culture through what she calls “the woo-woo movement.” With the rise of plant medicine knowledge in the West, Sage has found herself yet again a commercial sensation. 

Then Sephora called. They, along with a host of companies, had plans of making Sage into an even bigger star. With commercial success on her heels once again, many are accusing Sage of selling out. Sephora wanted to put her in their “Starter Witch Kit.” Indigenous and witch communities were outraged. So was Sage.

The Christians even stepped forward with their pitchforks. In another article, “Avoid This Popular but Demonic New-Age Practice” the writer, Christian Crazy, shares his feelings on the subject: “Is it OK for Christians to sage their homes? No, it’s not OK.”

Sage takes a deep breath. “Here’s the thing. I’m not White Sage. My name is Sage Officinalis, not Apiana. That’s my cousin in the Americas. Now, all of a sudden, people are also burning me too and saying that they can. Being that I am world-famous for my memory, I think I would remember being burned as incense, but you never know. It’s not a bad idea; it couldn’t hurt. But I don’t think anyone would want their family being sold at Sephora. You know what I mean?”

Medicine Swoops In To Defend Sage

Big business moving in may threaten the reputation and identity of Salvia Officinalis, but medicine is coming up close behind them to back her up. 

With the rise of psychedelics and plant medicine, it seems that medicine is also turning to the plants, remembering that we’ve been using them for thousands of years for everything, more or less. Some of the most ordinary herbs at the supermarket have therapeutic potential beyond our current understanding. In recent years, knowledge about the miraculous medical benefits of Sage has begun recirculating. From the common cold to diabetes, Alzheimer’s, and cancer – medicine is turning to Sage once again to see if this household commodity could help us combat our ailments big and small. 

“Get me in a cup of tea, get into my oil. You will not be disappointed. Science says I could be used as an alternative to traditional antibiotics. I preserve food and I preserve you. So, basically, I protect all living things.

Sage puts out her cigarette,

“And I’m damn good in turkey.”


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    Maria is a writer, foreign language nerd, and aventurière based in New York. She is the Senior Writer/Editor at Reality Sandwich. Formerly, she served as the Culture Editor for Rogue Magazine. Outside the world of psychedelics, upcoming projects include a book about Second City original and legendary actress, Barbara Harris. A bonafide lover of travel, vintage clothes and gymnastics. If there is a plane, terrace, trampoline, or sale, Maria’s probably on it. instagram: @marmoch twitter: @mariaamocerino

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