Name: Clary (Salvia sclarea)
Otherwise known as: Cleareye, Christ’s Eye
Habitat: A highly aromatic biennial member of the Labiateae family growing to about one metre in quite barren soil in Southern Europe and Russia. A large, fleshy plant with velvety, heart-shaped basel leaves that support thick stems of orchidaceous-like flowers, ranging in colour from pale pink to deep purple. The plant is an hallucinogen in combination with alcohol.
What does it do: The plant takes its name from the Latin ‘clarus’ meaning clear, which perhaps relates to the practice of placing a seed into the eye to form a mucilage to remove foreign bodies, a common habit among gardeners.
Parkinson, a colleague of Culpeper, says ‘Some brewers of ale and beer, that should know better, do put Clary into their drinks and do make it more heady, fit only to please drunkards who at once become either dead drunk, foolish drunk or mad drunk.’ There are definitely some strange compounds in clary that have an affinity for alcohol.
In herbal medicine, infusions are made which treat digestive disorders, flatulence, stomach cramps and diarrhoea and to inhibit excessive perspiration and treat menstrual disorders. In earlier times, poultices were made to treat external wounds and ulcers. Now Clary oil is used by aromatherapists to treat skin complaints such as acne, eczema and wrinkles. It is also used to reduce high blood pressure, to combat asthma and whooping cough, and relieve depression and stress.
The oil is used extensively in cosmetics, perfumes and detergents as well as featuring prominently in the food and beverage industries; it can be found in wines, vermouths and liqueurs. In Germany Clary Sage is mixed with elderflowers and used by vintners to form a muscatel.
Clary must be avoided when taking orthodox oestrogens and during the menopause, nor should the oil or tea be taken when uterine cysts, tumours or fibroids are present.
If Clary is taken in combination with alcohol it will induce horrible nightmares.
Clary grows easily in Cyprus at all levels and makes a handsome mid-bed plant that will swell the evening air with the most exotic aroma.