Sage is native to countries surrounding the Mediterranean Sea and has been consumed in these regions for thousands of years. In medicinal lore, sage has one of the longest histories of use of any medicinal herb.
The Greeks and Romans were said to have highly prized the many healing properties of sage. The Romans treated it as sacred and created a special ceremony for gathering sage. Both civilizations used it as a preservative for meat, a tradition that continued until the beginning of refrigeration. What these cultures knew from experience, that sage could help to reduce spoilage, is now being confirmed by science, which has isolated the herb's numerous terpene antioxidants.
Sage's legendary status continued throughout history. Arab physicians in the 10th century believed that it promoted immortality, while 14th century Europeans used it to protect themselves from witchcraft. Sage was in so much demand in China during the 17th century, appreciated for the delicious tea beverage that it makes, that the Chinese are said to have traded three cases of tea leaves (camellia sinensis) to the Dutch for one case of sage leaves.
And the esteem with which sage is regarded has not faded. In 2001, the International Herb Association awarded sage the title of "Herb of the Year."