Sage, Clary

Botanical Name : Salvia sclarea
Family: N.O. Labiatae
Synonyms: Clary. Horminum. Gallitricum. Clear Eye. See Bright.
(German) Muskateller Salbei.
Parts Used: Herb, leaves, seeds.Parts Used—The herb and leaves, used both fresh and dry, dried in the same manner as the Garden Sage. Formerly the root was used, dry, in domestic medicine, and also the seeds.
Habitat: The Common Clary, like the Garden Sage, is not a native of Great Britain, having first been introduced into English cultivation in the year 1562. It is a native of Syria, Italy, southern France and Switzerland, but will thrive well upon almost any soil that is not too wet, though it will frequently rot upon moist ground in the winter.
Gerard describes and figures several varieties of Clary, under the names of Horminum and Gallitricum. He describes it as growing ‘in divers barren places almost in every country, especially in the fields of Holborne neare unto Grayes Inne . . . and at the end of Chelsea.’

Salmon, in 1710, in The English Herbal, gives a number of varieties of the Garden Clary, which he calls Horminum hortense, in distinction to H. Sylvestre, the Wild Clary, subdividing it into the Common Clary (H. commune), the True Garden Clary of Dioscorides (H. sativum verum Dioscorides), the Yellow Clary (Calus Jovis), and the Small or German Clary (H. humile Germanicum or Gallitricum alterum Gerardi). This last variety being termed Gerardi, indicates that Gerard classified this species when it was first brought over from the Continent, evidently taking great pains to trace its history, giving in his Herbal its Greek name and its various Latin ones. That the Clary was known in ancient times is shown by the second variety, the True Garden Clary, being termed Dioscoridis.

Another variety of Horminum is given in The Treasury of Botany, called H. pyrenaicum, and described as ‘a tufted perennial herb, with numerous root-leaves, simple almost leafless stems and purplish-blue flowers which grow in whorls of six, all turned the same way. It is a native of the temperate parts of Europe, on the mountains.’

Description: The Common Garden Clary, is a biennial or short-lived perennial herb in the genus Salvia, native to Europe east to central Asia. It grows to 1 m tall, with opposite leaves 10-20 cm long and 6-12 cm broad, with a thick woolly texture. The flowers are white to pink or pale purple. Its strong and unusual odour is considered unpleasant by some, while others find it very attractive.its square, brownish stems growing 2 to 3 feet high, hairy and with few branches. The leaves are arranged in pairs, almost stalkless and are almost as large as the hand, oblong and heart-shaped, wrinkled, irregularly toothed at the margins and covered with velvety hairs. The flowers are in a long, loose, terminal spike, on which they are set in whorls. The lipped corollas, similar to the Garden Sage, but smaller, are of a pale blue or white. The flowers are interspersed with large coloured, membraneous bracts, longer than the spiny calyx. Both corollas and bracts are generally variegated with pale purple and yellowish-white. The seeds are blackish brown, ‘contained in long, toothed husks,’ as an old writer describes the calyx. The whole plant possesses a very strong, aromatic scent, somewhat resembling that of Tolu while thck to see the picturee taste is also aromatic, warm and sightly bitter.

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According to Ettmueller, this herb was first brought into use by the wine merchants of Germany, who employed it as an adulterant, infusing it with Elder flowers, and then adding the liquid to the Rhenish wine, which converted it into the likeness of Muscatel. It is still called in Germany Muskateller Salbei (Muscatel Sage).

Waller (1822) states it was also employed in this country as a substitute for Hops, for sophisticating beer, communicating considerable bitterness and intoxicating property, which produced an effect of insane exhilaration of spirits, succeeded by severe headache. Lobel says:
‘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 parts of the country a wine has been made from the herb in flower, boiled with sugar, which has a flavour not unlike Frontiniac.
The English name Clary originates in the Latin name sclarea, a word derived from clarus (clear). Clary was gradually modified into ‘Clear Eye,’ one of its popular names, and from the fact that the seeds have been used for clearing the sight.

Sometimes we find the plant not only called ‘Clear Eye,’ but also ‘See Bright’ and even ‘Eyebright,’ though this name belongs to another plant – Euphrasia officinalis.

Cultivation: Clary is propagated by seed, which should be sown in spring. When fit to move, the seedlings should be transplanted to an open spot of ground, a foot apart each way, if required in large quantities. After the plants have taken root, they will require no further care but to keep them free of weeds. The winter and spring following, the leaves will be in perfection. As the plant is a biennial only, dying off the second summer, after it has ripened seeds, there should be young plants annually raised for use.

Constituents—Salvia sclarea yields an oil with a highly aromatic odour, resembling that of ambergris. It is known commercially as Clary oil, or Muscatel Sage, and is largely used as a fixer of perfumes. Pinene, cineol and linalol have been isolated from this oil.

French oil of Clary has a specific gravity of 0.895 to 0.930, and is soluble in two volumes of 80 per cent alcohol. German oil of Clary has a specific gravity of 0.910 to 0.960, and is soluble in two volumes of 90 per cent alcohol.

Medicinal Action and Uses:
Antispasmodic, balsamic, carminative, tonic, aromatic, aperitive, astringent, and pectoral.
The plant has been used, both fresh and dry, either alone or with other herbs, as an infusion or a tincture. It has mostly been employed in disordered states of the digestion, as a stomachic, and has also proved useful in kidney diseases.

For violent cases of hysteria or wind colic, a spirituous tincture has been found of use, made by macerating in warm water for 14 days, 2 OZ. of dried Clary leaves and flowers, 1 OZ. of Chamomile flowers, 1/2 ox. bruised Avens root, 2 drachms of bruised Caraway and Coriander seeds, and 3 drachms of bruised Burdock seeds, adding 2 pints of proof spirit, then filtering and diluting with double quantity of water – a wineglassful being the dose.

Culpepper says:

‘For tumours, swellings, etc., make a mucilage of the seeds and apply to the spot. This will also draw splinters and thorns out of the flesh…. For hot inflammation and boils before they rupture, use a salve made of the leaves boiled with hot vinegar, honey being added later till the required consistency is obtained.’ He recommends a powder of the dry roots taken as snuff to relieve headache, and ‘the fresh leaves, fried in butter, first dipped in a batter of flour, egges, and a little milke, serve as a dish to the table that is not unpleasant to any and exceedingly profitable.’
The juice of the herb drunk in ale and beer, as well as the ordinary infusion, has been recommended as very helpful in all women’s diseases and ailments.
In Jamaica, where the plant is found, it was much in use among the negroes, who considered it cooling and cleansing for ulcers, and also used it for inflammations of the eyes. A decoction of the leaves boiled in coco-nut oil was used by them to cure the stings of scorpions. Clary and a Jamaican species of Vervain form two of the ingredients of an aromatic warm bath sometimes prescribed there with benefit.

The distilled essential oil is occasionally found in specialty stores such as natural food stores and “scent shops”. The odour is sometimes described as “sweaty”, spicy or “hay-like”. Clary seeds have a mucilaginous coat, and so old herbals recommended putting a seed into the eye of someone with a foreign object in it, to adhere to the object and make it easy to remove.

The leaves have been used as a vegetable in cookery. Clary was used as a flavouring in ales before the use of hops became common, and also in wine, notably muscatel. It is also used as a flavouring in some tobacco products. Clary can be used as a tea or in aromatherapy, and is supposed to have a calming effect.

It is also the primary ingredient in Norambrolide, an ingredient claimed by the herbal-supplement industry to promote fat catabolism and therefore weight loss.

The information presented herein is intended for educational purposes only. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplements, it is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider.


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