In the vegetable gardens, sage begins to appear, with its tender and fragrant leaves, it is a real joy for the palate! But it is not just a matter of taste, sage is also a precious source of health properties, already known for centuries. In fact, in one of its writings the Salerno medical school, the most famous medical school of the Middle Ages, said, what should a person who grows sage in his garden die of? Not to mention the vinegar of the four thieves ... in fact, a French legend wants that, in the seventeenth century, in order to escape the plague and continue their raids, four thieves developed a potion, prepared with vinegar, thyme, rosemary, lavender and, precisely, sage. Over the years, several scientific studies have been focused on sage, demonstrating its beneficial properties ranging from a digestive and tonic action on the stomach to the fight against free radicals. So let's try to understand the effects of sage and its side effects. In the following we will limit ourselves to talking about salvia officinalis and its use in the kitchen, referring to other articles for further information about topical applications of sage.
Sage, scientific name salvia officinalis, contains calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, but also vitamins A, C, group B and also vitamin K, which is important for the proper blood clotting and the health of bones (USDA Food Data Central Database). Sage boasts valuable antioxidant and anti-radical properties since it contains more than 160 types of polyphenols, including quercetin, kaempferol and rosmarinic acid, just to name the best known (Lopreste et al, Drugs R D, 2017). Not only that, this plant is considered capable of increasing brain function, improving memory and slowing any age-related cognitive decline. In fact, it has been observed that aqueous extracts of salvia officinalis have reduced the activity of aceticolinesterase, which is an enzyme that degrades aceticolin, a neurotransmitter. This mechanism is at the basis of the functioning of the drugs currently used against Alzheimer's. Sage also improves mood, increases calm and attention, is antiviral, anti-inflammatory and protects the liver (Lopreste et al, Drugs R D, 2017 - Eidi et al, Nutrition, 2006). Sage shows anticancer properties, since, as observed in several scientific studies, it is able to inhibit angiogenesis, that is the production of new blood vessels that would have the task of bringing nourishment to diseased cells (Hamidpour et al, J Tradit Complement Med, 2014). And that's not all, sage helps reduce hot flashes and excessive sweating in menopause. Finally, sage works by reducing blood sugar, is carminative and antispasmodic, and improves the functionality of the stomach and intestines (Abu-Darwish et al, Biomed Res Int., 2013).
Sage, uses in cooking
Sage can be added to various culinary preparations, on meat, fish and in sauces. The pasta seasoned with pesto prepared with mixed herbs, including sage, is excellent. You can find the recipe in the Healthy Food section under the title Pasta with aromatic herbs. Sage is also found in the soup of lentils and pasta and in pizzoccheri pasta with tasty vegetables, in short, there is plenty of choice! Another idea is to add a few sage leaves directly to the bread dough, then divide it into small pieces and cook them according to the usual recipe in order to obtain delicious and healthy sage small breads. It is also possible to make sage tea. Bring a cup of water to a boil, remove from heat and add a teaspoon of dried sage. Leave to infuse for five minutes, then filter and drink after meals to benefit from the tonic and digestive action, or before going to sleep against anxiety and insomnia.
The intake of sage, especially if in small doses such as those typical of a healthy and varied diet, is generally considered safe and well tolerated. However, as with any other food, you should never overdo it. In fact, sage contains thujone that, if ingested in high doses, can be neurotoxic. In any case, this contraindication refers only when excessive use of sage essential oil is made. In fact, up to 6 mg of thujone per day are considered safe (Lopreste et al, Drugs R D, 2017). To better understand how this limit cannot be reached using sage as a flavoring in cooking or as an infusion ingredient, just consider that an infusion prepared with two grams of dried plant in 150 ml of water, left to infuse for five minutes, has been shown to contain 0,3 mg of thujone per cup (Walch et al, Chem Cent J, 2011). Finally, the consumption of sage is not recommended during pregnancy and breastfeeding as camphor and thujone, both present in sage, can be toxic to the child (Ghorbani et al, J Tradit Complement Med., 2017).