Bruinsalie, Geelblomsalie, Sandsalie (Afr.); Brown Sage; Beach, Dune or Golden Salvia (Eng.)
Salvia is from the Latin salvere which means to heal or to save. Africana means from Africa and lutea is yellow. This gives Yellow African Sage
Classification & Taxonomic Relationships
A Southern African member of the widespread Salvia genus and Mint family, it is closely related to Salvia africana-caerulea or Blue Sage. Ignoring modern botanical taxonomics, these two plants could be thought of as one plant with a male and female expression: Blue sage being the masculine plant and Brown Sage being the more luscious-looking feminine plant. This may have bearings on their medicinal uses. This type of classification is known for the Monardas (also Lamiaceae) of North America by certain indigenous peoples there.
A large bushy shrub of an aromatic sage, it occurs naturally on the Western, South Western and South Eastern coasts of South Africa. It is hardy, never grows far from the sea, is drought- and wind- resistant and prefers full sun. The leaves are silvery-grey green and the typical labiate flowers start off as yellow buds deep in the enlarged calyces. As they mature, extend outwards and open near the end of winter, they turn a light milk-chocolate-brown colour, giving the bush a startling brown and silver appearance especially in low angle sun. The flowers are said to look withered when mature (Hedge 1974) and may take on rusty orange, russet or reddish-brown hues. In the Western Cape it seems to flower in late winter through into spring and is a significant source of nectar to insects, particularly butterflies and bees as well as sunbirds. Once the flowers fall away, the calyces persist and become papery, assisting in the dispersal of the 4 ripe nutlets at its base in the strong summer winds of the Cape.
The highly aromatic leaves and brown flowers of this medicinal plant illustrate the idea that medicinal plants display distortions from the normal plantplan. In this case the flower principle of scent descends into the leaves and a root quality (brown; earth) is found in the flower region. The flower bud starts out yellow but browns as it matures and extends beyond the prominent brown calyx. The persistent calyces which remain after the flowering of this plant, give a wonderful appearance of it being covered in a mass of luscious, full, brown African lips all chattering away to each other. Like an African plant version of Salvador Dali’s ‘Mae West’s Lips’ sofa. This would appear to be an exaggeration of the general lip-forming tendency of the Labiates. This vivid oral-vocal signature points to the use of this plant in treating mouth, throat and laryngeal problems, particularly upper respiratory tract infections such as the common cold, pharyngitis and laryngo-tracheitis. Combining this signature with the excited state prevalent in Mint family medicines, it may be a medicine for excitable, chattering or loquacious speech or perhaps helping people to find their voice and be heard above the crowd or to help a group of people speak together with one voice. It has definite applications for public speakers, perhaps for ‘clergyman’s sore throat’ i.e. soreness or hoarseness from overuse of voice, particularly in an excited manner such as after a sports match or inspired lecture.
The 4 nutlets in the bottom of the calyx are reminiscent of the tonsils and adenoids at the ‘root of the mouth’, making this a potential medicine for tonsillitis and enlarged tonsils.
The dilapidated and slightly wilted lower lip of the flower, with its unusual texture, hangs in such a way as to be reminiscent of the labia minora, giving the whole flower also the impression of a vagina with a pronounced clitoral hood. These signatures of the female organs point to potential uses in female genital and sexual problems. This does fit with the feminine full luscious lips signature of the persistent calyces, however, when taken with the ‘old leather’ smell, the mature brown, wilted flower does give the impression of aging and laxity and as such may perhaps be more suited to problems in older women, particularly postmenopausal conditions such as loss of vaginal tone and vaginal dryness, dyspareunia and similar problems. This sage has the potential for use in leucorrhoeas and vaginal infections.
Seems to fit well with the signatures: Coughs, colds, bronchitis and female ailments (Roberts 1990).