Clary Sage ~ Salvia sclarea
Clary Sage has long been a plant companion for me. As a young woman in the late 1970s I spent many hours after school browsing in Culpeper and The Body Shop in Bath, England. I smelled the contents of tiny bottles, rubbed oils from little glass vials onto my wrists, studied labels and began to learn about what I now know to be Plant Medicine. It was here in these tiny apothecaries that I was first introduced to the heady aroma of Clary Sage.
The most common use for Clary Sage is the oil that's extracted from the flowers and flowering tips by distillation to make what is known as an 'essential oil.' For me Clary Sage oil has always been an essential oil, but moreover an essential plant. Bath time rituals would not be complete without a few drops of Clary Sage and Lavender oils in the water. It helps me to release the energies of the day so my mind is clear for rest and dreaming. It is known to induce dramatic and colorful dreams! These words are brought to my mind with Clary Sage: Clarity, Wisdom and Clairvoyance.
Many wonderful things are said about Clary Sage ~ a native plant to Italy, Syria and Southern France which brings images to my mind of beautiful gypsies, the Romany traveling people who were gifted with the knowledge of herbs and plant medicine. A plant that gives one courage to see the truth, makes a fine oil for the third eye and brow chakra, it dispels darkness and illusion, can assist during a healing crisis and invites one to expand one's vision. Spiritual clarity, intuition and open-mindedness can all be enhanced when using Clary Sage. It is valuable in treating asthma as it relaxes spasms in the bronchial tubes, and helps with anxiety and emotional tension. Clary Sage is a powerful tonic for depression and postnatal recovery, being both warming and relaxing.
However, for me there's much more - to grow and tend a plant in a garden creates a relationship and brings one even closer to its spirit and medicine. For several years I have grown Clary Sage, not to make essential oil, but as a familiar. It is a biennial, meaning it is a flowering plant that takes two years to complete its life cycle. In the first year you'll see only stems and leaves, low to the ground, but in the second year it bolts for the sky and produces an abundance of flowers and seeds before dying off in Winter. This year my plants were almost five feet tall, full and heavy with flowers, as you can see in the photo above. It is now mid-August and the stems and leaves are beginning to dry out, the first signs that she is in the autumn phase of her life.
Growing this plant in the garden is like having an old wise woman sitting in your midst. I didn't know my Grandmothers, Else Paschelke and Elsa Boyd, but I have been told how much they both loved to garden. When I walk close to the Clary Sage plant I sense an opening - a space is created between the worlds. I am halted immediately by the scent - it is strong, a pungent elixir for the senses, like incense being wafted through the aisles of an ancient chapel. It is somehow familiar to me; I am called to attention! When the leaves, stems or flowers are touched the scent lingers on the fingertips for hours. A spell is cast! When faced with difficult decisions I will often be found in her presence, sitting close by, asking for clarity and wisdom. I receive the answers to my questions, promptly. I trust this plant like no other. She is the guardian spirit, the wise woman of my garden, Hecate the crone.
I made a tea infusion from the flowers, even the colors are intoxicating! A watery blend of indigo, ultramarine, silver and woad, mauve and the palest pink. I used some as a refreshing eye bath and sipped the cool tea too. It has a strong flavor, earthy and herbaceous, good for when you need a tonic! A magical potion for changing perceptions, opening creative channels and clearing creative blocks. The loving, grand - motherly plant spirit of Clary Sage has encouraged me to learn how to use my divinely given gifts.
In winter these beautiful plants who have lived so close to me for the past two years will die back into the ground forever, but I already have more planted that will flower and bloom next summer, birthing a new cycle of Wise Woman energy into the garden, that I so often need.