Thursday, July 10, 2008

Unstudied Ally: Russian Sage

On the edge of my stone path there is this fragrant beauty. She doesn't grow as huge as the ones planted for borders at local office parks because I have weird soil. But she grows and I love her immensely. Her scent sends me into raptures of ancient memories of tribal spirit, interdependence, healing and medicine secrets. She is one of the few plants that I grow or work with that I realized yesterday I have never read about. I don't think she makes an appearance in any of my herbals and it never occurred to me to look her up on the internet. I never needed to.
Come to think of it, I don't even know her botanical name. "Russian Sage" say the nursery labels. Bah - no matter. She shines with green-silver glory as perfect as a summer full moon. When I pet her she coats my hands with her sticky sage resin, delighting my senses. Her feathered leaves remind me a little of Yarrow, and the ability to heal wounds. Her resin along with a woody lower stem is signature of the woody mints; Rosemary, Sage, Lavender. I am guessing she is a true Salvia; mint (those common names can be deceiving so I never make assumptions - but her traits claim that of the mints which are quite unmistakable). There is something, too, perhaps in the almost bitter nature, that reminds me of Wormwood even though that is an Artemisia. And I think of Juliette Levy's passion for Southernwood and feel akin. But similarities aside, her unique energy is that of a strong female, of long lineage, and of retaining tribal pride.....the blood of the Medicine Woman.
In a quest for some light on my rumored Russian lineage, I sent a quick email to my Dad, who promptly responded. Here is the account: (for your reading clarity I will tell you that "Jim" is my paternal Grandfather):

"Hi Dad, I know this is a strange question, but I am curious if you know any information about our lineage, specifically, that you once told me included a small amount of Russian blood?

"never really confirmed past rumours and I wish I HAD....but I heard that on Jim's (side), a couple or so generations back Jim's grandfather changed name from COHEN to CLARK and married a non-jewish girl. and I am fuzzy, but somebody was the chief gardener for the last Czar, a russian jew. that's all I know. -dad"

"Thanks - very interesting! Always wondered about that. I feel a strong connection to Russian Gypsies :). I'm feeling a need to uncover my lineage with more clarity, in hopes of gaining a stronger sense of self, roots, and belonging. I might go use the genealogy contraption at Borders. LoveA"

"your roots are in the Cosmic Mother and Divine Father"

(Aw! Love you Dad!)

And so it goes with my own self as an unidentified being......

The Russian Sage grows here (CT) better than the Rosemary, Sage, or Lavender; more hearty and larger, flowering more abundantly and both heat and drought tolerant, although she likes good rich soil even if it's rocky. I've taken my first small harvest, and in return will fortify her soil with good organic soil food. My instincts tell me to take care if using her internally, she is strong and somewhat bitter. But for external use she is a powerful effective healer, mending skin and healing rapidly. And so I decide to make a salve.

Into the little pot of warm olive oil she went, yesterday, and has been bathing in it all night. It's turning a gorgeous cloudy light green, just like my Salvia apiana does, indicating the good resins coming forth. The fragrance is sharp and full. Later, I will strain out the plant matter, and melt in some good wads of Pine pitch, making a dense and fragrant healing salve for all sorts of forest annoyances like mosquito bites, slivers, rashes, etc.

If she grows big enough next year, I will bind some stalks together with Lavender to make a special smudge wand. Or maybe I will buy a couple more plants. For now, I will just worship the ground she grows in.


tammy said...

"your roots are in the cosmic mother and divine father" that is so tender and beautiful. brought tears to my eyes. you are very blessed to have such an insightful dad. your salve sounds divine!

Mist said...

You may have already looked this up, but the genus for Russian sage is Perovskia rather than Salvia, I believe. Doesn't it seem to fit her despite the fact that she's not native to Russia? I've yet to use the plant, but she sure is gorgeous! And I'm enthralled by the fact that she has you contemplating your own ROOTS. :D

I can't quite get past your father's wonderful response to you. So very soothing to think of one's roots being in the "cosmic mother" and "divine father." You are blessed!

The Plant Whisperer said...

No, I didn't look it up actually, I was quite enjoying my blissful ignorance :). Perovska huh? Yeah I wondered about the accuracy of the common name - whether the plant was really native to Russia or not. Or really a Sage even. But none the less, she is similar to a sage, and similar to a Gypsy! lol
Yeah - my Dad's pretty groovy, love him to bits. I am blessed with an amazing father and an amazing step father too. best o' both worlds.
I'll keep you posted on the salve!

The Plant Whisperer said...

"Perovskia" with an 'i' :)

Kiva Rose said...

I love this one too, and also consider her a sage despite the different common name. She's a very common medicinal plants in different parts of Eurasia (including Uzbekistan), and there has been some research into the of the plant topically (with good results of course) and some varying reports on the safety of using the plant internally, although it has been used traditionally and I continue to work with the plant in this way.

It's a very common xeriscaping plant here in the SW, and I've been using it in salves for the last three and a half years. I can't always get the smell as strong as I'd like even in a warm infusion, but it's always wonderful and rich. And very healing for rashes, swellings and general woundcare. I haven't gotten as specific with my uses as I want so I'm thrilled you're exploring this plant as well.

plantainpatch said...

Thank you for this post! I have some Russian Sage in the garden that I haven't used at all yet. I have always been curious what I could/would do eventually. She is so beautiful and the bees love her. The bees may have to share her in the future.

Severa said...

I too sensed the power in this plant, and loved her fragrant scent. when I was first learning plants, I found her in the neighborhood but could not find a decent ID picture in any of my herbals and mistook her for vervain (oops!) but, no matter. The scent, taste, and "aura" dictated my use more than books: in small amounts as a bitter fortifier, and a pinch here and there to add a boost to magick potions. Good to hear others love this plant! Thanks for the suggestions on salve and smudging!