Collecting the folklore and uses of plants


1. [1940s] Sage leaves were used to decorate geese which had been prepared for the Christmas market. This used to be my job as a small girl and the leaves would be arranged into flower decorations [Tregaer, Monmouthshire, October 2013].

2. Sage tea – taken to help cancer – a few fresh leaves daily in hot water [Natural History Museum, London, July 2003].

0333. I can recall many things of the First War in 1914-18.
Headaches, etc. – sage tea: wash the leaves well and boil them 10-15 mins, leave to cool; not too bad to take; we certainly were cured [Pocklington, York, December 1996].

4. In 1950 I was in extreme pain because my milk would not dry up, and my baby was eight months old … We were living in rooms and the elderly landlady was concerned for me, but many years earlier she had experienced the same painful condition when she had a stillborn baby … One old gypsy woman saw what her problem was and suggested she sleep with a bunch of fresh sage under each armpit!! It had worked for her and as she had sage in the garden she offered some to me. At that stage I was desperate to try anything, so kindly accepted her offer and passed a very uncomfortable night trying the cure. I was astonished to find that by the following morning the milk had disappeared and I was free of the frightful pain and discomfort [Fareham, Hampshire, November 1996].

5. Wash and crush a sage leaf to put on mouth ulcers like a little poultice. It will ease the pain, disinfect and soothe and very quickly heal [Leckhampton, Gloucestershire, September 1996].

6. Sage: a leaf with thick vein removed will relieve sore gums if put between dentures and gum. Leaves seeped in water then used as a gargle will relieve sore throats [North Litchfield, Hampshire, October 1993].

7. As the sage bush flourishes so does the family [Plymouth, Devon, January 1993].

8. The gypsy ‘toothpaste’ in the 40s and 50s was chopped sage and salt in an equal parts mix, rubbed on the teeth with Irish linen [Barnstaple, Devon, May 1991].

9. Boil sage leaves, drink water for arthritis [Llanuwchylln, Gwynedd, April 1991].

10. Teeth: clean with fresh sage leaves [Stockport, Greater Manchester, April 1991].

Images: main, cultivated, Hillside Gardens Park, London Borough of Lambeth, March 2015; inset, cultivated, Brandy Hole Lane, Chichester, West Sussex, June 2015.