For several years I have seen a pretty purple flower with colorful leaves (purple in winter, green in summer) growing around my garden. It is my habit not to automatically pull plants if I don’t recognize them because of so many pleasant surprises. And for the fact that the Cherokee in this area identified and utilized 1500 kinds of plants with medicinal properties and benefits. I once just pulled ‘weeds’ with no care to them as important plants. But then I took a walk-around herb tour about 9 years ago with herbalist Patricia Kyritsi Howell up in the Blue Ridge Mountains of the Appalachian range, where she pointed out all the ‘weeds’ I had been pulling in my garden as powerful medicines. Changed my thinking completely.
However, for some reason this particular plant escaped all my research until almost by accident I found out I had 6 of them in pots on my nursery deck labeled Pear Leaf Sage.
About 8 years ago I spent 3 months researching 18th c medicine for a presentation for my Living History Society from which I wrote a book on the subject. But it wasn’t until someone later sent me a notice of an herb walk in Oconee State Park that I found out about this wonderful historical hospital and healing facility (now in ruins) which I hadn’t known existed when I did my research.
In the late 18th c a Philadelphia trained physician, Dr. Leslie Durham, came to the Oconee River area across from a mill with 800 employees, and built a hospital. He studied under native healers and learned their skills with native plant medicine. He was basically out in the wilderness with the exception of the mill, and he was known to cure such unheard of cures for Tuberculosis, venereal diseases and other serious illnesses (as well as regular hospital activities). As part of his wild curing medicine needs he set up a 13 acre herb garden where he supplied the hospital with the herbs only available if he grew them himself, as they were virtually unknown to the European based medicine of his time or usual apothecary medicines.
In our current era a small group of interested people in the Friends of Scull Shoals kept part of that garden in existence and later two of the women in the group gathered the ‘receipts’ (i.e. formulas and healing knowledge) from Dr. Durham’s papers and published a book. This is now available at the UGA Botanical Garden bookstore, which is where I purchased a copy. But because the names for the plants had changed over the years, I couldn’t use the information. So, I contacted the primary author, Debbie Cosgrove who gave herb walks for many years:
Mrs. Cosgrove invited me to visit what is left of the garden last summer where she generously dug up a number of the more abundant plants for my own herbal garden. I carefully labeled them all and brought them home.
A few days ago, while trying to once again identify the mystery plant, and just on the off chance that this particular plant was in the collection from Dr. Durham’s garden, I discovered this was my mystery plant. It had been sitting there for about 6 months! Happy Days.
It was labeled Pear Leaf Sage (according to Debbie and Dr. Durham in his book – page 51) “Dr Leslie Durham Receipts” by Debbie Cosgrove et al.
When I tried to find a plant with that name I found the current name for it which is Lyre Leaf Sage – Salvia lyrata. It is an amazing herb. I’m so glad I haven’t been pulling it up and that I now have a nice array of them to harvest as the need arises.
It’s got lightly hairy leaves, and in cold weather the veins and some of the leaf are brownish purple. The flowers range from light slightly violet color to bluish violet. The stem pokes up about 6” to 2 feet up from the whirl of leaves in a ‘basal’ formation (like how dandelions grow around a central point) and the flowers grow out from this stem without leaves, just the calyx (the part of the plant that holds the flower onto the stem). When the flowers finish blooming, the stem holds seeds which freely sow themselves. It can be invasive. I’ve been seeing small fields of it growing along the roads here in NE Georgia. It is a hardy perennial – the only sage native to North America. It likes light sandy or medium loam in well drained soil but will grow in dry and wet conditions.
It’s got square stems and is considered a ‘mint’ family plant. But it has been botanically determined to be a ‘sage’. This means it is very hardy. Both of these plant families are very strong. It can even be walked on and mowed without killing the plants. This might be frustrating if it has become invasive in your location, but beneficial if your health depends on it. Just don’t use if it someone has sprayed or poisoned the plants or soil. It handles almost all kinds of soil conditions, poor soil, eroded. This helps if you are trying to restore an area.
It grows in Zones 5-10 and can be found all over the country. It is a native but it can be grown as a low maintenance cultivated plant, and planted in rain gardens, shady woods and meadows.
As a Permaculture Designer, one of the precepts of this design science of the environment is that all elements in a design must have multiple uses. This is a perfect example of one of those permiculture plants that does its duty in multiple ways.
It is a wonderful pollinator attractor plant for bees, humming birds, and butterflies. My garden is a bee haven providing as wide a time period of flowering for our wild as well as domesticated bees. If bee keeping is one of your passions, this is something that can be planted almost anywhere – sun, partial shade, or edges. It is drought tolerant but should be soaked deeply during summer months occasionally.
It’s edible – the young tender leaves can be eaten in salads or cooked as a ‘pot’ herb cooked like spinach with a slightly minty flavor – even the older leaves. The seeds can be gathered, ground, and added with flour to make bread. It was considered a staple food traditionally by the Catawba and Cherokee peoples.
All parts of the plant are medicinal. Other names for it are Pear Leafed Sage, Cancer Weed, Meadow or Wild Sage – to name the most popular ones.
Medicinal properties include: diaphoretic (stimulates sweating, brings down fever), mildly laxative, anti-diarrhea and constipation, carminative (handles gas), anti-allergy, anti-anxiety, anti-wart, anti-cold and cough, and sore throats, nervine (calming, helps with sleep), stimulant, astringent (draws poisons, slivers using the seeds, and dries), antiseptic, anti-microbial, mild expectorant (loosens phlegm in the lungs), restorative (especially after recovering from serious illness, restores vital energy), anti-stress, and anti-cancer (particularly for early skin cancer).
The leaves, flowers, roots, seeds are all medicinal for specific use. The plant is known primarily for helping the health of Lungs, Skin Cancer, Colds, Anxiety, and Insomnia.
Here are some of the specific uses: (See below for specific recipes)
Many of the properties of common sage are present in this plant but very weak.
Warts – apply fresh leaves bruised directly on the skin.
Sores and Wounds, Burns, Cuts, Scrapes & Skin Irritations – make leaves and seeds into an ointment. The root too makes an excellent wound salve.
Mouth infections and sore throat – gargle a warm tea of the plant, or chew a few leaves.
Laxative for colds, coughs and nervous debility – drink a warm tea.
Allergies – mixed with other common herbs as a tea or tincture.
Insect stings – poultice of above ground parts on the spots.
Asthma – syrup of leaves.
Female troubles general tonic, PMS, Anxiety – tea or powder encapsulated, tincture.
Nervine and stimulant for sluggish disposition.
Astringent and Antiseptic – powdered seeds draw slivers, glass, poisons and venom, toxins, infections, poison ivy (quickly draws). Salves or ointments.
Expectorant – mild – for colds, flu, asthma, allergies, or combined with other powerful expectorant herbs for persistent coughs and sore throats.
Serious Illness recovery – teas or tinctures.
Stress – tea, baths (nervine – soothes the nerves)
Skin Cancer Lesions – early appearing red and black spots on skin – root salve.
Warnings – As with any medications or applications, if you are on a prescription or using other medicines, check with your health care professional for any interactions or contra-indications. This article is for educational purposes only, not intended as health care advice. Use at your own discretion.
Crush or bruise a handful or more of the rinsed herb one herb at a time. Place loosely in a glass jar (mason wide mouth works well) and cover with alcohol. Usually we use at least 80 proof (40% alcohol). We usually fill the jar at least half full with the herb. Tightly cover, label, and place away from direct sunlight. Shake daily. This a kind of ‘cold infusion’ in that no heat is used prepared at room temperature. In 4 to 6 weeks, strain out plant solids. Store in colored glass (repurposed colored wine bottles work well – with tight fitting cork or tight cap) in cool dark space. Lasts almost indefinitely. Label well with plant name including botanical name, date of harvest and making, medicinal properties and uses. If blending tinctures, it’s better if you make a record of which tinctures used, the ratios of them, and how they are used – i.e. for what conditions and dosages. If you are taking medications or pharmaceuticals, check for interactions. Check with your health care professional. Check warnings for pregnant or nursing mothers’ use.
Vinegar Tincture or Glycerol Tincture
Vinegar or glycerin can be substituted for alcohol for those who can’t take alcohol. These tinctures are less potent than alcohol based, as alcohol sometimes is the most effective solvent to remove the medicinal components of the herb. Glycerol (using glycerine) is usually for children. Make as above, include only one herb in each separate tincture and blend later in a separate container, keeping the individual tincture pure. It is stored in cool dark place tightly lidded with plastic for vinegar.
Tea (Infusion) or Decoction
When the components of a plant are dissolvable by water, there are two ways to extract them out of the plant cells and tissues. An infusion is usually made when the plant matter is tender such as leaves, flowers, or non-woody stems, or fruit. The water is boiled and poured over the plant matter, left to steep without the addition of further heat. A decoction is used when the plant matter is more dense and tougher such as roots, bark, woody matter, tough nut, woody mushroom, fruit hulls, or dense seeds. Water is brought to a boil, with the plant matter in a pot (or slow cooker), then the heat is lowered so the temperature is a simmer – gentle disturbance and steam arising – for some time, from 20 minutes to several hours depending on how tough the desired plant component is to release. Then the plant matters from both are usually strained out, the extract in water is then bottled in a colored glass and tightly lidded. The extract can be taken immediately or added with others for a formula or to make a lotion or otherwise processed. Usually the tea is drunk warm. Shelf life is limited – often only a few days or refrigerated a week or so. Sometimes water infusions are used to rinse a wound for their antibacterial action (LLS is antibacterial and can treat wounds) called a wash, or to protect a wound from drying out or from bug invasion. A fomentation is clean fabric soaked in an infusion and laid or tied onto the skin to help heal and keep moist.
This method is used when the alcohol extraction only partially removes the desired components, especially with mushroom medicine but with other decocted herbs. Make the tincture as above, then reserve the strained out plant material, place it in a pot with pure water to cover by an inch or two, and decoct it as if the plant material is new (as above). Initially boil it, then slowly simmer it and reduce the volume. Finally strain and add the liquid in with the alcohol tincture. The ratio is determined by the plants involved and might require some research as to intensity required. The shelf life on a double extraction (DX) is very long lasting as a tincture is a preservative method in itself.
Salves and ointments
Plant matter is infused either cold method (as in a tincture) usually in a sunny window to apply some heat, or slowly simmered for some time. Then it is strained, returning to a double boiler, adding bees wax to allow it to stay on the skin and provide some moisturizing effect to a desired consistency. Then any essential oils are added in, stirred, some kind of preservative added (such as lavender essential oil and/or vitamin E oil) and poured into small containers then refrigerated.
Massage or infused oils
In plants that provide healing but are rubbed into the skin, there is no need to add wax. The method is the same for cold or warm infused, adding a preservative, and bottled, labeled and refrigerated to be used directly. The carrier oil can vary according to the need to have the oil stay on the top of the skin (coconut oil, palm oil or other ‘hard’ oils), or pervade into the skin such as extra virgin olive, jojoba, sweet almond, argan, avocado, grape seed, arnica, rosehip, broccoli seed, flaxseed, grapefruit seed extract, magnesium oil, neem, sea buckthorn, organic sunflower, evening primrose oils. https://draxe.com/carrier-oils-for-essential-oils/ Avoid GMO oils such as cottonseed, soy, canola, sugarbeet, and corn oil as they accumulate toxins and are not natural. Some animal oils can also be used and traditionally have been used for ointments and salves such as pure organically grown lard, or bear (in survival situations). Oils have varying shelf life as they can grow rancid with time. Smell before using as they will tell you if they smell stale or unpleasant. You don’t want to rub into your body anything you wouldn’t want to eat.
Plant matter is crushed or bruised and applied to an area of skin because the components either heal the skin, close a wound, help staunch the flow of blood, or draw out toxins or objects. Usually this is covered with a cloth to keep it on the skin, then tied or taped on for some time depending on the reason it’s being used.
Allergies (Seasonal), Colds, Wet Coughs, Scratchy Throat and Anxiety
Combine and make a tea (see below for how to prepare)
1 part stinging nettle
1 part LLS (Lyre Leaf Sage)
1 part elder flower
Golden rod (optional – 1 part)
Red Clover (optional – 2 part)
For general colds, coughs and anxiety can use only the LLS.
Make an infusion (tea) of the aerial parts of the LLS best fresh but if not available dry.
This also helps bring down fever by causing the body to sweat.
Rub the plant (leaves, stem, flowers bruised) on the wart 2 times a day for a few days. Knocks out the virus causing them.
Sore Scratchy Throat – chew a few leaves, should clear up in a few minutes.
Drawing Powder or Poultice
Powder seeds of LLS and add a few drops of water – apply to splinters, glass bits, toxins, infections, poison ivy. It acts quickly.
Early Skin Cancer
Make a salve of the root, adding calendula to the oil while infusing the herbs. Crush the roots with a mortar and pestle or food processer, add into oil, add calendula flowers dried. Gently heat the herbs in oil such as extra virgin olive oil in a double boiler for 20 to 40 minutes. Cool, strain out plant material. Reheat just enough to melt some bees wax (usually ¼ the amount of wax to oil). Test for consistency with a cold spoon dipped in the oil/wax mixture till the right thickness is found. Then add a few drops of Lavender essential oil and Vitamin E E oil for preservative and additional medicinal properties. Pour in tins or jars, label, keep refrigerated between uses. Apply to the suspected skin cancers as often as possible.
Serious Illness Recovery
Harvest and either dry or use fresh the aerial (above ground) parts of the plant in a tea and drink often. Can sweeten with honey or Stevie (not sugar which lowers the immune system). Drink as often as is desired. This restores vital energy, soothes, heals.
Expectorant for clogged lungs and cough (Especially persistent coughs and sore throat)
Make a tea of Elecampane, Mullein Leaf, Marshmallow Root (chopped up and dried or fresh), Wild Cherry Bark (inner bark) an anti-jussive (cough suppressant). Fresh is best but dry will do. Cut herbs finely, 1 tablespoon per 1 8 oz. cup of boiling water. Steep 10 to 15 minutes, drink warm. Drink as often as desired. If sweetener is desired, use Stevia or honey but not sugar.
Forager’s Cough Syrup
1 parts marshmallow root
1 part elecampane root
1 part wild cherry bark (Cambrian layer)
3 part LLS leaves and blossoms
2 parts mullein leaf
Decoct (slowly simmer– don’t boil) roots and bark (2 oz. herb to 1 quart water) – place herbs and water in pan. Cover partly, simmer 20 to 30 minutes till the liquid is reduced by half, remove from heat. To this hot mixture add leaves, cover, steep (to not add heat) 15 minutes. Strain. While still hot add honey to taste. Cool, bottle, label, refrigerate. Lasts about 2 weeks. Can add ginger root for warmth or valerian root or California poppy for night time coughs. Dose: 1 full tsp 3x day and just before bedtime.
Wild Weed Tincture Allergy Remedy (from Alicia Wornieov)
(Fresh herbs if available, can substitute dry if needed)
2 parts leaves and blooms LLS
2 parts stinging nettle
2 parts goldenseal flowers and leaves
1 part lemon balm
1 part horehound
1 part angelica root
Till mason jar loosely with herbs. Cover with 100 proof Vodka or Raw Apple Cider Vinegar to the top. Cover with plastic lid or plastic wrap between lid and liquid. Store in cool dark place 4 to 6 weeks, shaking daily. Strain, bottle. Dose: 30 to40 drops 3x day. Don’t use if pregnant or nursing.
Lyre Leaf Sage Honey
For coughs, allergies, sore throats. This is basically a thick syrup.
Dry wilt fresh LLS leaves and blossoms for several hours, or overnight (or use dry). Best if chopped up. Fill Mason Jar loosely and include Lemon Balm or Thyme for flavor (and added medicinal properties – Lemon Balm for calming, Thyme for antibiotic and anti-viral actions). Cover with raw local honey. Place on warm sunny window sill 1 week, turning daily. Bottle (unstrained) and refrigerate for best shelf life. Take by the tablespoon-fuls needed.
Soothing. Use on minor cuts, bruises, burns, skin irritations, bug bites, early skin cancers.
LLS blends well with other skin healing herbs. If using fresh herbs, chop them up and allow them to wilt (loose moisture) for several hours or use dry herbs.
Chop LLS (handful cleaned) roots, calendula flowers, Echinacea root, plantain leaf and yarrow leaf. In double boiler using healing oil such as extra virgin olive oil, sweet almond oil, jojoba oil, avocado oil, or argan oil or a mixture of them as you wish or have available, and heat till simmering, but do not boil. Should just be a bit steamy but not bubbling, for 1-2 hours. This is called a warm infusion. Strain out plant material. Reheat oil mixture, add shaved bees wax and melt. Test for consistency by dipping cold spoon into wax/oil mixture, let cool, and test with your finger. Too thin, add more wax. Too hard, add more of the simple oil. Add 20 or so drops lavender essential oil and/or contents of one gel cap Vit. E into warm oil, mix. Pour into tins or pots, label, refrigerate. Use as desired. Should last up to 2 years in the frig.
Lyrata Leaf Tea
Calming for anxiety, sleeplessness, or sore throat.
1 Tbs. dried herb to 1 cup boiling water. Steep 10 to 15 minutes (best if covered). If desired, sweeten with stevia or honey but not sugar. Drink warm.
Farmer’s Poultice (folk medicine)
Use on early or mild stage skin cancer – red or black spots on arms and faces (not melanoma – check with your doctor). Mature root of LLS, crush so it feels oily, apply to spots. Use as needed. Can hold in place with bandage. Leave on a few hours, remove.
The Indians of this area used mature roots for salves for sores, teas for coughs and lung ailments.
Important Harvesting Notes:
Never harvest herbs within 50 yards of an active road (road toxins), or where the area has been sprayed with herbicides or other agricultural chemicals such as Roundup, or other toxic chemicals. The best places to harvest any herb is in your own organically grown garden where you know exactly what has gone into the soil or the air around your plants and soil. When harvesting wild plant medicine, be ethical and respective and never harvest more than 10% of a stand of any plant. If gathering aerial parts, leave the roots in place, and if possible only take a portion of the aerial plant. When gathering roots, if possible uproot, cut a portion of the roots, and replace the rest of the plant unless it is a very abundant source. Don’t be greedy. We have lost untold numbers of medicinal plants in the early years because people clear harvested whole areas which then went extinct.
In Summary – Lyre Leaf Sage plant is an abundant, in some areas, wild growing plant that could be considered a ‘super herb’ in that it has multiple benefits to the natural environment. Always wash off your harvested plants, and when making a medicine be sure to carefully label it for plant and other components, the dates of making, and the uses. This way, it won’t be used inappropriately and won’t disappoint. Use pure ingredients and where possible organically grown or created. Essential Oils should be therapeutic grade and of a reputable source. Your containers should be sterilized before use. We recycle our containers – usually glass. Tinctures and oils should be stored in colored glass as this protects the medicinal properties. If you are pregnant or nursing, check with your physician or health care person before use. If you are taking pharmaceuticals, cross check for side effects and interactions. If applying a salve or ointment to the skin or poultice, it is understood that you clean the skin with soap and water, dry with clean cloth, and use a clean stick to remove a portion from the pot to keep it uncontaminated. When making tea, use carefully filtered or pure water, not tap water which contains many toxins and energetic contaminants which will interfere with your good health and healing.
Diann Dirks 4-19-19