Could Sage Extract Improve Mental Performance?

Sage (Salvia) is an aromatic herb from the mint family and it has around 900 species all over the world. Historically, since Ancient Greece and Rome, it has been one of the most popular and widely used herbs for medicinal purposes.

Traditional medicine prescribes it for a number of health problems, including digestive issues, impaired circulation, bronchitis and throat inflammation, cough, asthma, angina, and even for depression and excessive sweating.

Some species of sage, however, like Salvia officinalis and Salvia lavandulaefolia, have been recognized as having a powerful nootropic function and improving mental performance, as well as protecting against age-related cognitive decline. 

These properties have sparked the interest of a group of scientists from France, who have conducted a mouse model study in order to examine the nootropic effects of the two Salvia species.

Previous Findings

The demands of the modern world can sometimes put a strain on people’s cognitive abilities, and on top of that is the possibility for cognitive impairment related to aging. These are situations where memory and attention stamina are very much necessary.

The positive benefits of the two sage species on mental performance have been backed by evidence from a number of previous pre-clinical and clinical studies. 

The pre-clinical studies found that Salvia officinalis extract had an effect on memory retention and that Salvia lavandulaefolia interacts with the neurotransmitter acetylcholine.

The clinical studies were performed on healthy adults and older participants, and they have further confirmed the beneficial effects that sage extracts had on cognition. Among the changes observed were immediate word recall, delayed word recall, and word and picture recognition.

One interesting fact was that supplementation with sage extracts also improved cognitive function in Alzheimer patients in one 16-week trial.

The Method

While the previous studies focused on the acute effects after a single oral intake, this study aimed at assessing both the acute (short-term) and chronic (long-term) administration of Salvia officinalis and Salvia lavandulaefolia to understand how they impact the memory of healthy adult mice.

The study lasted for two weeks, and it involved observing the behavior of the mice while they went through two different performance tests, namely the Y-maze and the Morris water maze test.

The mice were divided into four groups, one of which was the control group, while the other three were administered either Salvia officinalis extract, Salvia lavandulaefolia extract, or a combination of both, each day in the morning.

The acute effects were assessed on the first day of the trial using the Y-maze model, while the chronic effects were observed at the end of the two weeks using the Morris water maze model. 

The Results

The results of this study were in line with the results from the previous studies mentioned above regarding the positive effects on cognition, namely:

  • Acute Salvia supplementation improved short term memory in the mice
  • Chronic Salvia mix supplementation improved long-term memory
  • Chronic Salvia mix supplementation influenced the mice’s spatial memory; more specifically, the mice developed two types of spatial strategies during the tests 
  • It was also observed that while chronic Salvia mix supplementation didn’t impact the growth of nervous tissue, it did increase the protein enzyme which is key in neural plasticity, and mediator of learning and memory.

    The Conclusion

    Both Salvia officinalis and Salvia lavandulaefolia, together and separately, have demonstrated notable beneficial effects on spatial memory, as well as short-term and long-term memory.

    The findings on the nootropic effects of sage shouldn’t be ignored. These scientists encourage further investigation into the positive effects on cognition that sage may have on humans, for possible regular use in the future.

    In the end, it remains to be seen what future clinical trials may demonstrate about Salvia extracts.



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