Years ago clary was used as an alternative to hops in the brewing of beer. It made a much more intoxicating drink! In France, it was used in the making of perfumes.
Clary, salvia sclarea, is an aromatic biennial garden herb growing up to 2ft (61 cm) high. The large wrinkled leaves are covered with soft hairs. The little flowers are pale blue or white and are set in whorls in the axils of the small upper leaves, the whole supported on reddish-coloured stems. All parts of the plant have quite a strong sweet scent. Clary belongs to the sage family of plants, but its scent is milder than that of any other sage. The taste is warm and slightly bitter. It is commercially grown in several countries for its oil, which is lavender-scented.
Clary is a pretty plant to have in the garden, and it grows easily in a light well-drained soil in a sunny position. Sow the seed in spring in a seed bed and transplant the seedlings to their flowering position in September, leaving a handspan between each plant. The plants die off in the second summer after flowering and the roots can then be dug up for drying and storing.
The leaves, roots and seeds are the parts of the plant used in the home. In the first winter and spring the young leaves are at their best. The seeds are collected for drying in August or September of the second year. Both roots and seeds are dried and stored in the usual way.
Cold extract of clary will help draw out thorns and splinters and reduce inflammation.
* To make an extract: Bruise or crush the seeds and soak them in water for 5—10 minutes to produce a jelly-like substance. Strain.
An infusion can be taken in small doses on an occasional basis for mild stomach upsets.
* To make an infusion: Pour a cupful of boiling water over 2 teaspoons of fresh leaves and leave to infuse for 5 minutes before straining.
* The dried roots, crushed and powdered, can be used like snuff to clear the head and ease a headache.
An ointment made with clary leaves will help to draw out inflammation and bring boils and spots to a head.
* To make clary ointment: Fill an enamel saucepan with crushed fresh clary leaves and cover them with vinegar. Cover the pan and simmer over a low heat for about an hour. Strain off the vinegar, discard the leaves and repeat the process using a fresh lot of crushed clary leaves. Simmer gently for a further hour. When cold press all the vinegar out of the leaves and add sufficient thick honey to the vinegar to make a soft ointment.