Used as a medicinal and preservative for as long as any other herb, sage was highly revered by the Greeks and Romans, who even devised a special gathering ceremony. Arabian healers of the 10th century believed that eating it would grant immortality, and Europeans four centuries later used it to ward off witchcraft. Three cases of tea leaves reportedly were traded for one case of sage leaves by 17th century Chinese because they appreciated sage tea.
Sage usually comes in one of three ways: fresh, ground, and “rubbed.” Rubbed sage literally comes off the leaf almost like a powder and is extremely light and fluffy. Fresh is the most flavorful and fragrant, making the most pungent recipes. When fresh isn’t readily available, perhaps your best bet is ground sage, although it tends to lose its strength after a year or so. It’s best stored in a cool, dark place, in a glass jar with a tightly fitted lid.
Sage pairs well with cheese. Sprinkling roughly chopped sage leaves near the end of caramelizing onions or mushrooms, egg bakes, omelets, and even tea are other delicious ways to use this herb.
Sage is known for its natural antiseptic, preservative and bacteria-killing abilities in meat. Medicinally used for muscle aches, rheumatism, and aromatherapy, these oils also contain ketones, including A- and B-thujone, which enhance mental clarity and upgrade memory, as evidenced by clinical tests comparing tests scores with and without the use of sage. This knowledge has been extremely useful in treating cognitive decline and patients suffering from Alzheimer’s. It’s interesting that this herb has been prized for that purpose for over 1,000 years.