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Sage – a naturally smart answer to improved cognition

Wednesday August 19, 2020
Sage – a naturally smart answer to improved cognition

Photo caption: Sage has been well studied for cognitive health benefits. 

Sage is often considered a culinary staple in the kitchen but did you know this popular herb has a surprising number of health benefits including cognitive improvement? We uncover the therapeutic properties of sage and explore the research behind the brain boosting botanical.

What is sage?

Salvia officinalis is a perennial, evergreen subshrub with grey/green velvety leaves, and purple flowers. It is a member of the mint family Lamiaceae and native to the Mediterranean region. Interestingly Sage has been used since ancient times as a natural anti-septic, astringent and anti-inflammatory agent. In more modern times it has gained popularity for those suffering symptoms of the menopause as its also exerts phytoestrogenic effects. There are over 700 species of Salvia, but in particular Salvia offinialis and Salvia lavandulaefolia have been well studied for their cognitive health benefits.

What are the therapeutic properties of sage?

There are a large number of clinical trials which have been conducted on sage for its cognitive boosting properties. In vitro, sage has shown to possess cholinesterase inhibiting properties which in turn up regulates the neurotransmitter acetylcholine which is vital for nerve transmission and overall cognitive health[i]. It is believed to be the monoterpene and polyphenol content of sage extracts which act as the active components for cognitive health.

What has the studies shown?

In a randomised cross over trial, varying doses of sage extract ranging from 167mg to 1,332mg was given to healthy, older adults. Results indicated that compared with placebo, which exhibited a characteristic decline over the course of the day, intakes of sage extract over 333mg were associated with significant enhancement of secondary memory performance as well as accuracy of attention[ii].

A unique, patented sage extract containing Salvia offinialis extract at a 5:1 ratio alongside Salvia lavandulifolia essential oil has been clinically researched by the Brain Performance and Nutrition Research Centre at Northumbria University. In this randomized, placebo controlled, parallel and double blinded study reviewed 94 healthy active volunteers, 30 to 60 years old for 28 days. The results were measured at day 1 (2 hours post dose) as an acute measure and day 28 as a chronic measurement of supplementing with 600mg of the patented sage extract. The results showed the acute effects of this sage extract on cognitive performance, compared to placebo, with a +5.2% and +9.2% improvement respectively at day 1 and day 28[iii].

As well as benefiting healthy brain models, sage has also been studied in cognitive decline. In a systematic review of eight clinical trials assessing the pharmacological properties of both sage as Officinalis and Lavendulifolia on memory and cognition in cognitive disease states, it was concluded that both forms of sage exerted beneficial effects by enhancing cognitive performance on both healthy subjects and those with dementia or cognitive impairment.[iv]


This natural botanical has opened up the doors for those seeking improved brain function. Supplementation of sage extract may support memory and attention for both healthy young and older individuals seeking to increase their cognitive performance. When choosing supplements always read the label to check the source of the ingredients.  Choose high quality supplements which contain 100% active ingredients – no binders or fillers. Check the amount of active ingredient as this can vary.

For more information, we recommend visiting your local independent health store. Find you nearest one here:

Author: Aimée Benbow, BSc (Hons), MSc, ANutr. is Director of Nutrition at Viridian Nutrition.


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[i] Perry NSL, Houghton PJ, Theobald A, Jenner P, Perry EK (2000). In vitro inhibition of human erythrocyte acetylcholinesterase by Salvia lavandulaefolia essential oil and constituent terpenes. J Pharmacy and Pharmacol 52: 895–902.

[ii] Scholey AB, Tildesley NT, Ballard CG, Wesnes KA, Tasker A, Perry EK, Kennedy DO. An extract of Salvia (sage) with anticholinesterase properties improves memory and attention in healthy older volunteers. Psychopharmacology (Berl). 2008 May;198(1):127-39. doi: 10.1007/s00213-008-1101-3.

[iii] The acute and chronic cognitive effects of a sage extract: a randomized, placebo controlled study in healthy humans.

[iv] Miroddi M, Navarra M, Quattropani MC, Calapai F, Gangemi S, Calapai G. Systematic review of clinical trials assessing pharmacological properties of Salvia species on memory, cognitive impairment and Alzheimer's disease. CNS

Neurosci Ther. 2014 Jun;20(6):485-95. doi: 10.1111/cns.12270.


 The information contained in this article is not intended to treat, diagnose or replace the advice of a health practitioner. Please consult a qualified health practitioner if you have a pre-existing health condition or are currently taking medication. Food supplements should not be used as a substitute for a varied and balanced diet.


TAGS: Brain HealthSage, Nootropics


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