Sage, the savior
Sage (Salvia officinalis) has an extensive history as a medicinal herb and has been used as far back as in ancient Egyption times to improve fertility. In medieval times it was known as “Salvia Salvatrix,” which means “sage, the savior.”
Traditionally sage has been used for the treatment of a range of problems including digestive and circulation disturbances, bronchitis, coughs, asthma, memory problems, angina, mouth and throat inflammation, depression and excessive sweating. Salvia plants are traditionally noted for their antioxidant effects and ability to enhance ‘head and brain’ function, improve memory, quicken the senses, and delay age-associated cognitive decline.
Today, sage is known for its high antioxidant capacity and many health benefits. The health benefits of sage are attributed to flavonoids, such as apigenin, luteolin and diosmetin, which are known for their antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Sage can also provide your body with rosmarinic acid, a polyphenolic compound with huge health potential.
What does the science say
Some studies have shown that sage can help boost memory in young and healthy adults.
A 2003 study by researchers from the Medicinal Plant Research Centre (MPRC), which was published in the journal Pharmacology, Biochemistry and Behaviour, tested 44 healthy adults aged 18 to 37. Some were given capsules containing between 50mg and 150mg of sage oil while others received a 'dummy' capsule containing none. The volunteers took part in a wordrecall tests at intervals between one and six hours later. Those who had taken the sage oil performed better across the board - on average recalling 8% more words than those on the placebo, in some cases more than 10%.
Research team leader Nicola Tildesley said: 'This research has serious implications for people suffering from Alzheimer's disease, as it will inform drug research and development.
'It could potentially be used on a much broader basis for anybody who wanted to improve their memory.'
A 2006 study linked doses of dried safe leaf to improved mood and cognitive performance in health young participants conducted by researchers at the University of Northumbria and a 2008 study found similar results in older participants.
A 2017 review published in the journal Drugs noted sage’s potential to “enhance cognitive activity and protect against neurodegenerative disease,” including Alzheimer’s and dementia.
Research suggests possible benefits against memory loss
Sage extracts have been shown to inhibit acetylcholinesterase, an enzyme that breaks down esters of the neurotransmitter acetylecholine, which plays an important role in the formation of memories.
Alzheimer's, the most common form of dementia which affects 700,000 Britons, is accompanied by a drop in acetylcholine. By protecting this chemical messenger, the herb appears to reduce memory loss.
Uk based Sibelius Natural products which started out as a bioanalytical lab identifying bioactive profiles of botanical ingredients has also found potential in sage's cognitive support potential. It has branded a sage extract called Sibelius: Sage which is standardized to contain 2.5% rosmarinic acid. There are currently two new studies underway investigating the cognitive benefits of Sibelius: Sage; one with 12-14 year olds and another with young adults aged 18 to 25 with results anticipated for the first quarter of this year.
Other health benefits of sage
- Helps lower cholesterol and blood glucose
A 2013 study published in Complementary Therapies in Medicine showed that participants given sage leaf extract had lower fasting glucose, total cholesterol, triglyceride and LDL ("bad" cholesterol) levels, but higher HDL (good cholesterol) after three months of treatment.
- Alleviates menopausal symptoms
In a 2011 study, researchers reported that taking fresh sage leaf tablets significantly decreased hot flush symptoms among menopausal women by 50% after just four weeks. After eight weeks, the hot flushes were reduced by 64%.
Please note that sage should not be eaten in large amounts; the most common type used for cooking contains thujone, which can be toxic in large quantities.