Grown primarily in Europe, sage (Salvia officinalis) is a universal herb The peppery flavor has been popular as a seasoning all over the world for centuries, and many different cultures have found the herb useful for medicinal purposes as well as other purposes.

The Greeks used sage as a cure for stomach ailments; Egyptians used it to fight off the plague; Chinese made teas to cure sore throats and laryngitis; and the Romans and Native Americans used the herb in religious ceremonies, believing it provide longevity and banished negative energies.

Many of these cultures also valued sage as a tool to enhance wisdom and increase memory. Holistic practitioners and herbalists believed for centuries that sage has the ability to invigorate the nerves, and there is scientific evidence to support this theory.

Amazing how a common kitchen herb can actually aid in memory improvement and be so useful in other ailments.

A study conducted in 2003, and published in Pharmacology, Biochemestry and Behavior, involved 44 healthy adults – half taking a sage oil capsule and the other a placebo. A word recall test was then administered, and those taking the sage were able to recall more words, suggesting the herb’s reputation as a memory system booster was not an old wife’s tale.

From this study scientist were eager to go further and see if the herb would work on patients who are battling Alzheimer’s Disease (AD) and other forms of dementia. “This proves how valuable the work by the old herbalists is, and that they shouldn’t just be ignored because they were writing centuries ago,” says Medicinal Plant Research Center researcher, Nicola Tidesley. “The herb (sage) has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties that could slow the disease’s progress and alleviate existing symptoms.”

The exact cause of AD is unknown, but some physicians believe an accumulation of aluminum in the brain, or a defect in the production of a brain chemical called acetylcholine (involved with short-term memory) is the cause.   Sage is believed to bind to specific receptors in the brain and imitate the action of acetylcholine.

There are all types of memory training and dietary changes that can slow and even halt the progress of AD, but nothing has been proven to actually reverse the process.

Another study, published in the Journal of Clinical Pharmacy and Therapeutics (2003;28:53—9), suggests sage may lead to symptomatic improvement of AD, and people who take daily doses of may experience memory improvement, and decreased agitation.

In this study, 30 adults with mild to moderate AD, between the ages of 65 and 85, were randomly assigned to receive 60 drops per day of sage extract or placebo for four months. Two rating scales (Alzheimer’s Disease Assessment Scale and Clinical Dementia Rating) were used to measure the degree of impairment in cognitive functions such as memory, orientation, judgment, problem-solving, speech, and personal care. Higher scores suggest more severe impairment. Participants were assessed every two weeks for the duration of the study.

Those taking the sage extract, as opposed to those taking the placebo, showed significant improvements in cognitive functions in all areas after 16 weeks of treatment.   The Alzheimer’s Disease Assesment Scale findings increased in the placebo group by 22% (increased signs of AD deterioration), and decreased by 26% in the sage group. Agitation levels and frequency for the placebo group was higher than those of the sage group as well, indicating sage may also have a positive effect on moods.

With this evidence in hand, scientists are looking at sage, along with lemon extract and gingo-biloba as possible “brain food” or supplements to aid in the treatment of diseases that attack the memory system and age-related cognitive skills.

That would also mean the synonym for sage — wisdom, may not be so far off base!

 

Sources:

Memoryzine.com: For Memory Strength, Serve Up Some Sage – http://memoryzine.com/2010/07/22/for-memory-strength-serve-up-some-sage/

Annie’s Memories: Sage Salvia officinalis – http://www.anniesremedy.com/herb_detail52.php#1

New Age Information: Healing Herbs-Sage for Memory – http://www.newageinfo.com/sage-memory-herb.htm

ClinicalTrials.gov: Effects of Sage on Memory and Mental Performance in Alzheimer’s Disease Patients – http://clinicaltrials.gov/ct2/show/NCT00110552

Bastyr Center for Natural Health: Sage May Be Effective for Mild to Moderate Alzheimer’s – http://www.bastyrcenter.org/content/view/535/