Wild Harvesting White Sage And Local Sage Alternatives
White Sage, also known as Salvia apiana or as I'll refer to it in this post as 'sage,' grows native in the state of California, but it can be found growing wild in the dry, upland areas of South Dakota, Colorado, Nevada and Washington.
Variations of this sage can also be in many of the other Western states.
White Sage Sustainable Harvesting Guidelines
If you choose to wild harvest your own sage, make sure you follow these guidelines:
Find out where sage grows wild. Visit USDA Plants to find the native ranges of all sage species by entering the common name in the search bar. (hint: Salvia is the traditional Genus name of white sage, where Artemesia refers to sage brushes and European sages, like mugwort).
Find out where you can legally harvest. You can wild harvest in most public forests, in fact, the USFS has put out a sustainable harvest guide. Check it out.
Try to limit your harvest to the active growing season. This will give the sage plant time to recover from the stress of pruning before the dormancy period. Sage’s active growing season is May-September.
Snip new growth only. Plants are least stressed when you prune the newest growth. In addition, when you take just the newest growth, you’ll be snipping the most fragrant, potent part of the plant.
Snip, don’t rip! Use a sharp blade to harvest your sage. Jagged cuts and rips create pockets for bacteria to populate - meaning - plants, just like humans, have a higher risk of infection from jagged cuts. Keep sage plants healthy for future generations by clean cutting.
Never take more than 20%. More than 20% pruning, can increase the biological stress levels of the plant to an unsafe level. Think about it. If someone cut off more than your arm at any one time, would you be stressed?
This is the only spiritual part. Ask permission and give thanks. Ask for permission from the eldest plant of the area to harvest. When complete, offer your gratitude, show your respect and make sure to take some time honoring and exploring Sage’s home environment. You’ll be glad you did. Many wild harvesters find that if they simply sit with the sage, they receive, new insight for themselves as a thank you from the plant for honoring her.
These are the steps the horticulturist - medium’s guidelines for the ethical and sustainable harvesting of White Sage.
Now, before we finish, I want to share something with you, just to consider -
is there a White Sage harvesting Dilemma?
With white sage becoming more and more popular among mainstream spirituality users, there is a concern for over harvesting pressure on the plant, which could eventually lead to it becoming threatened status in the wild.
Sage does not have to become threatened because there are many alternatives to sage.
In fact, there is a sage type plant for every ecosystem. Meaning: there is a sacred, cleansing spiritual plant in every neck of the woods, prairie, mountain, forest, river, valley, and so on.
Plants evolve and adapt with humans and people carry their sacred plants with them as they travel from region to region or continent to continent.
For example, my descendent's main cleansing herb is Juniper and I now live on the East Coast.
Eastern Red Cedar, also known as Juniperus virginiana, is one of the most common trees there is around.
Juniper is North America's most common sage alternative. But there are others.
There are spiritually clearing plants native to all ecosystems in the entire world that act as equivalents to Sage and have done so, for thousands of years. Here are just a few for the United States, but there are many more.
North Eastern - junipers, birches, willows, apples
South Eastern - red cedars, pines, apples
South Western- mesquite species, Artemisia sages (sagebrush), eucalyptus
North Western- northern sweetgrasses, birch, Artemisia sages (sagebrush)
You can use each of these plants the same way you would use White Sage.
To help preserve White Sage and to get in touch with your native area, I suggest switching to the spiritual herb of your region... or growing your own.
If you do buy or harvest White Sage, make sure your source focuses on sustainable or a spiritually honoring harvest of the Sage plant.
I prefer to shop locally when I can, so you can find sustainably harvested sage that's what I'd say do, the localist being the grow your own, but if you don't have a local shop in your area or a dry enough climate, web-based companies such as Juniper Ridge or Mountain Rose are my preference when I can’t find a harvesting friend, locally.
Amanda Linette Meder
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