Weather change in Texas is constant and we had some cold snaps, for me heralded by extreme migraines, and this is one of the oils that got me through it all. Its really a shame that such a great little plant gets so little lime light, especially when it has so many uses. Plants of the sage family were all highly prized for medicinal and culinary uses in ancient times, but just common sage in cooking is what most people are used to. Clary sage is different than common sage in smell and taste, and appearance not to mention uses.
Known as Clear Eye, or Eye Bright, for its seeds which produce a mucelagenous goop that is good for removing debris from the eyes. It is from this that it gets its full Latin name Salvia sclarea which sclarea is derived from clarus which means clear.
Clary sage was a well known addition for some traditional ales, frequently added to make a brew more potent. Marsh rosemary and other herbs were used for the same reason, prior to many hopped beers. Large amounts of Clary sage (like Seer’s sage) added to alcohol can be hallucinogenic, and leave you with an equally potent headache in the morning. One writer wrote of clary sage –
“Some brewers of Ale and Beere doe put it into their drinke to make it more heady, fit to please drunkards, who thereby, according to their several dispositions, become either dead drunke, or foolish drunke, or madde drunke.”
In some Rhine wines in the early times were adulterated with elderflower and clary sage to make them imitate the taste of Muscatel wines, and the common German name still is Muscatel Sage. This would have also added to the wine’s intoxicating properties, and possibly added to the wine hangovers too.
If you are a home-brewer, and I hope you are because its awesome, you can make your own medicinal beer with clary sage. Just use a cheesecloth or a muslin bag to hold about 2 ounces of the herb and suspend this in your first fermentation but remove it for the second, or only leave it for about 6-7 days if you are a one stage fermenter. Clary sage was used in brewing for bitters, so a little goes a long way here, and in food recipes since it can quickly get too bitter to consume. If you aren’t a home brewer here is a fairly easy recipe, pretty much foolproof, to follow for an Ale.
- 4 pounds malt extract
- 2 pounds brown sugar
- 4 ounces fresh clary sage
- 4 gallons water
Bring the water to a boil, add 2 ounces sage, simmer one hour. When cooled to 160F, strain over malt extract and sugar in fermenting vessel. Stir until sugar and extract are well dissolved. Cool to 80 F. Add yeast, you can purchase brewers yeast from most home brew supply stores, regular bread yeast will do but you may have a different taste than you are used to in beers. Add final 2 ounces of sage to fermenter in cheese cloth or muslin bag. Ferment for 6-7 days, and remove. Transfer beer to a new container (carboy or bucket). Ferment in second stage for a week. Prime (if you don’t know what that is go here), bottle, & cap. Ready to drink in 2 weeks, but I suggest letting it sit for a month before drinking to let all the flavors fully meld.
I have not attempted to mull wine with this herb but I have found a recipe for Clary Wine that intrigues me and will attempt to make sometime soon. If you are interested here is the recipe, let me know how it turns out!
- 10 gallons water
- 35 lb loaf sugar
- 12 eggs
- 2 pecks of clary blossoms
- 1 pint good new yeast
Mix sugar, water and well-beaten egg whites. Let boil gently for ½ hour, skimming until the mixture is quite clear. Let stand until cold. Pour into a cask, add 2 pecks of clary blossoms stripped from the stalk and 1 pint of yeast. Stir the wine three times a day for five days. Stop it up, and let stand for twelve months. It may be bottled at the end of six months if perfectly clear.
Besides its ability to intoxicate, beers and wine with clary sage can be useful for painful or infrequent menstruation since it imitates female hormones, and works on muscles to ease spasms. The amounts listed in these recipes are not enough to cause hallucinations and should not cause a residual headache the next morning. I personally like the idea of a cramp medicine that comes with a nice flavor, and a mild kick of alcohol to help deaden the pain. But remember all alcoholic remedies are only good in moderation, drinking too many or too much negates any of its beneficial properties.
Relaxing muscles is what clary does best, in my opinion, and this is one of the main reasons I love clary sage so. It soothes muscle spasms quite effectively with topical application, and brings near instant relief in some cases. It also eases the nervous system into relaxation, without sedation, so its great for daily stress and tension headaches where you need to stay awake and lucid. You will almost always find its most commonly used to treat lady cramps, but it works great on all cramped and tight muscles.
Clary Sage Massage Oil – Plain Jane Version
- 1 oz Carrier oil
- 20-30 drops Clary Sage oil
Mix well and store in dark container, massage into abdomen for lady cramps, and into temples, neck and/or shoulders for migraine or tension headache relief. Really this can be massaged anywhere (except sensitive areas) where a muscle spasm or pain is.
The relaxing properties of this plant goes beyond just helping with spasms and their associated pains, but it also helps to settle the stomach. I don’t know if everyone suffers this, but with my migraines the extreme amount of pain can lead to intense vomiting. Which means that oral pain medications don’t always get a chance to work, and not to mention its not very fun to chunder with a migraine. Clary sage comes to the rescue though, with a double punch of relief and stomach settling goodness. Used with other things like peppermint, chamomile, or lavender it can really be an effective way to treat the pain, or just get everything settled enough to keep the pain medications in you long enough for them to do their thing.
Clary Sage Massage Oil – Pukey Migraine Version
- 1 oz Carrier oil
- 10-15 drops Clary Sage oil
- 10 drops Lavender oil
- 10 drops Chamomile oil
- 10 drops Peppermint oil
- optional – 10 drops Valerian oil (if you want to sleep), Frankincense (for more pain relief), Skullcap (for migraine relief), etc, etc…
Mix and store in a dark bottle, and you can rub this into temples, neck, and shoulders. Because it has peppermint oil avoid sensitive areas like eyes or delicate skin.
You can make a strong infusion using the leaves and use it for a relaxing bath, or to wash wounds as it helps in wound healing, not to mention its great for your skin!
Clary Bath Tea
- 4 tablespoons Clary leaves
- 4-5 oz Boiling water
Draw a bath as warm as you can stand and add the tea to the bath, soak for 20-30 minutes for pain and to help relax the body and mind. This can cause you to have some intense dreams, so if you don’t want them 🙂 don’t use this bath too close to bed time.
For a tea to drink it is best to use the essential oil, much safer and even doses with this and none of the bitter funk. If you want to use fresh leaves you can use about a teaspoon dried and you want to use the newer leaves as the larger older ones will be the most bitter.
Clary Oil Tea
- 1-2 drops Clary Sage Oil
- 8 oz near boiling water
You can also use milk, or a milk substitute, as well to take this or add it to your favorite herbal or otherwise teas. Just add the drops and drink it down! Easy!
Clary sage has many uses as you can see, and definitely helps to release muscles, ease the stomach, and relax nerves. But it also has a really pleasant smell. Like a sweeter, more pleasant German chamomile, with some nuttier notes. It was frequently used in perfumes and is great for skin and is found even in skin creams and salves today, like the well known Burt’s Bees skin products. There is some mention that it can produce euphoria and lift the spirits, and I can say the smell is very nice and it does make a horrible migraine day not so bad. But I can’t say I have felt “euphoric” from topical use.
As I said before medicinal food is great! And there are a lot of Culinary uses possible with this plant. You can use clary sage in place of any common sage in a recipe. The flowers are also edible, and are great in teas, salads or on their own just make sure to remove the greenery first. Fritters is a common historical manner of consuming them, the only historical recipe for medicinal food with clary I have found is Culpepper’s which is –
“The fresh leaves dipped in a batter of flour, eggs, and a little milk, and fried in butter and served to the table, is not unpleasant to any, but exceedingly profitable for those that are troubled with weak reins [kidneys], and the effects thereof.”
An easier way to read this recipe I found on this site and copied here –
Clary Sage Fritters
- 4 oz flour
- ½ tsp salt
- 2 Tbsp sunflower oil
- ¼ pint warm water
- 1 egg white
- 12 clary sage flowering brackets
- 12 clary sage leaves
- fresh oil for deep frying
- caster sugar
- 1 Tbsp clary sage flowers removed from the bracts
Make the batter well before you need it: sift the flour into a bowl, add the salt, stir in the oil and mix with enough warm water to give the consistency of fairly thick cream. Leave to stand, covered with a damp cloth or saran wrap, for one to two hours. Just before using, beat the egg white in a clean bowl until it is stiff and fold it into the batter. Rinse the clary sage flower bracts and leaves. Gently shake them dry, then dry them on some kitchen towel. Roll a flower bract in each leaf and dip into the batter one at a time. Shake off any excess batter and drop into a large pan of oil, heated to 360°F. Do not allow them to touch each other in cooking. When done, drain on paper towel and place on a warmed serving dish or hot plate. When all the fritters are cooked, dredge with sugar, sprinkle on the flowers and serve immediately. (Good Enough to Eat)
You can also mix the flowers or leaves into an omelette (add about 2 tablespoons fresh or dry) to your normal omelette mixture, or other foods. Finally a jelly recipe for you to put on your toast, mmm medicinal toast! From the same above mentioned site.
Clary Sage Jelly
- 3 tsp clary leaves
- ½ cup boiling water
- 1 ½ cup apple juice (unsweetened)
- 2 tsp lemon juice
- 3 cups honey
- 1 bottle liquid pectin
Make infusion of clary and water. Strain and add enough water to make ½ cup. Combine with apple and lemon juice and honey in large saucepan. Bring to full rolling boil and add pectin, stirring constantly. Boil hard for 30 seconds and give sheet test for jellying point. Remove from heat and skim. Pour into hot, sterilized glasses and seal. Add yellow food coloring if desired while jelly is boiling.
Remember to do your research for yourself, and do your own trials to see what works best for you. Always check for reactions or interactions on sites like WebMD, anything that has an affect on the uterus you should not use during pregnancy. As always, any doubts mean you should ask a professional!