Salvia runcinata flower detailWhen crushing the leaves it is hard to pinpoint any familiar aromatic notes but a breakdown of the individual components gives you a better understanding of where they comes from. Caryophyllene is one of the compounds which contributes to the spiciness of black pepper, while Bisabol is the main component of German chamomile. Humulene is a chemical compound which contributes to the taste of Vietnamese Mint ,Persicaria odorata, which we all know smells like crushed bugs. My own conclusion is that the leaves of Salvia runcinata have the odour of cough medicine and that it is perhaps best not tested for culinary use. As the flowers are fairly insignificant, it will never gain a huge fan club amongst gardeners looking for a showy plant but it is still a wonderful gem to grow amongst thyme and oregano. For those living in Melbourne it can be found at the Royal Botanic Gardens:
One of the fascinating small aromatic shrubs I have growing in my herb garden is this Salvia species. It is indigenous to South Africa, growing over a wide area from Northern Gauting to the Free State, and has a long history of being used in traditional medicine as well as being burnt to fumigate houses. Research has been carried out on the essential oils found in this and other Salvia species pertaining to their antimicrobial properties. The major compounds found in Salvia runcinata are caryophyllene (18%), bisabolol (71.7%), humelene (2.1%) and cis-lanceol (6.2%).
Salvia runcinata at the Royal Botanic Gardens Melbourne