Ah sage, is it a mere accident of linguistics that sage is contained in the word “assuage?” I cannot think so, since sage assuages so many ills, and even the sniffing of it can ease a troubled soul. You might ask which is my favorite, and it would have to be white sage (Salvia apiana), its potent smoke a vehicle that brings me closer to God within. And then I do love pitcher sage (Salvia spathacea) with its oversize colas of bright pink visited by hummingbirds and phoenix moths, the fruity stickiness of this plant so unlikely as to make it otherworldly. Kashmir sage (Salvia hians) surprises with a blossom outsized to the plant, creating a bright red root that we have come to associate with medicinal potency. I bet my wages on sages.
Thymes are equally important to sage, and these too we grow with abandon. Tulsi, the holy basil of tea fame, is now represented by 5 different types, and honestly at this point I rest my case—we have covered the diversity of form—I am finally satisfied! Valerian accompanies me each night when head sinks to pillow, and I do know there are those that say it gives not only somnolence but nightmares. I, jaded perhaps by a life of seeking the strange, find valerian dreams quite nice, and entertaining. Other herbal heavy-hitters in this category include wood betony (Stachys officinalis), nettles (Urtica dioica), Saint John’s Wort (Hypericum perforatum), Stevia (S. rebaudiana), Sweet Violet (Viola odorata) and Yarrow. It’s as diverse as a good herb garden or a walk through the North Carolina woodlands. How is it possible that so much herbal goodness crowds the end of the alphabet?
Those looking for something a bit more on the edge will find herein wilde dagga (Leonotis leonurus), an East African ditchweed that makes a flower so garish even the bees blush. Yerba mansa (Anemopsis californica) is a paleoherb that thrives to this day. Look deeply into its reptilian eye and you may catch a glimpse of ancestors who had more time to do less and were wiser for it. Finally we do have plants of Yage (Banisteriopsis caapi), a tropical liana that holds the key to heaven and hell in its grasp. Play here only if you dare.