5 Health Benefits of Sage (A Medicinal Herb of the Salvia Genus)
It is no coincidence that Salvia, the botanical name for the common kitchen herb we know as sage, is derived from the Latin word salvere, which means “to stay healthy”. Since antiquity, this aromatic herb has been touted for its extraordinary health benefits and healing properties. Over the centuries, herbalists and folk healers have used common sage (Salvia officinalis) and other related medicinal herbs of the Salvia genus to treat everything from headaches, digestive complaints and dysmenorrhea (painful menstrual periods) to sore throats, hot flashes and mental disorders such as impaired memory and depression.
In recent years, many of the purported health benefits of sage have also been backed by scientific evidence. Here’s a lowdown of some of the most interesting research done on the potential medicinal properties of this powerful healing herb:
In British folk medicine, sage has been touted as an excellent remedy for impaired memory and Alzheimer’s disease. Intrigued by this, a group of British scientists decided to scientifically evaluate the effects of acute administration of Spanish sage (Salvia lavandulaefolia) on memory in young adult volunteers. They set up two experiments utilizing a placebo-controlled, double-blind, balanced, crossover methodology. In the first experiment, 20 participants were given 50, 100 and 150 microliters of sage essential oil extract and placebo. In the second experiment, 24 participants received 25 and 50 microliters of the sage extract and placebo. The results were promising: in both trials, the 50-microliter dose of sage essential oil significantly improved immediate word recall in the study participants. In another placebo-controlled trial, a 333-mg dose of standardized extract of Salvia officinalis was found to enhance secondary memory performance as well as accuracy of attention in the study participants, all of whom were over 65 years old. Both of these studies suggest that the claims about the memory-enhancing properties of sage may in fact be more than just a myth.
Maximize the Effects: The unique flavor of sage harmonizes perfectly with seafood, but that’s hardly the only reason why you might want to season your salmon with sage – a recent study found that omega-3 fatty acids from seafood improved brain health and memory in older adults.
Positive Effects on Mood and Cognitive Performance
Sage tea has a longstanding reputation for lifting the spirits, and now there is even some scientific proof. In a double-blind crossover study, 30 healthy participants received different treatments (placebo, 300, and 600 mg of dried Salvia officinalis leaf) on three separate says, 7 days apart. On each day, mood was assessed pre-dose as well as 1 and 4 hours after each treatment. Both doses of sage resulted in improved ratings of mood on the Bond-Lader mood scales, with the lower dose reducing ‘anxiety’ and the higher dose increasing ‘alertness’, ‘contentedness, and ”calmness’. The benefits of sage extracts on mood and cognitive performance appeared to be linked to cholinesterase-inhibiting properties of S. officinalis. It should be noted, however, that when the study participants were subjected to Defined Intensity Stressor Simulation (DISS) multi-tasking activities, the anti-anxiety effects of the lower dose disappeared. In laboratory settings, scientists frequently use the DISS multi-tasking framework as a means to induce mild but measurable mental stress through increases in cognitive (mental) workload.
Good news for people with inflammatory conditions such as arthritis, asthma and inflammatory acne: sage contains powerful anti-inflammatory compounds, such luteolin and rosmarinic acid. Luteolin appears to have exceptionally strong inhibitory effects against TBK1, an enzyme that is believed to play a role in the development of inflammatory diseases. A study published in the journal Biochemical Pharmacology in 2009 reported that luteolin had the strongest inhibitory activity against TBK1 among the six tested natural compounds, all of which are known anti-inflammatory agents.
And rosmarinic acid? Well, turns out the rosmarinic acid in sage works its anti-inflammatory magic much in the same way as luteolin, that is, by inhibiting enzymes linked to inflammatory responses in humans.
Maximize the Anti-Inflammatory Effects: Combine sage with other anti-inflammatory foods such as such thyme, rosemary, salmon or capers.
Women, Take Note: Sage May Help Reduce Hot Flashes, Too
If the health benefits of sage listed above didn’t convince you to add this extraordinary culinary and medicinal plant to your herbal repertoire, here’s some more food for thought: sage may also reduce sweating and hot flashes in menopausal women. The use of sage as a natural remedy for excessive sweating and hot flashes has its roots in traditional folk medicine, but in recent years, also several scientific studies have investigated the potential benefits sage may offer to women (and men) suffering from night sweats and hot flashes. In such study, menopausal women with at least five daily hot flushes were treated with a daily tablet containing fresh sage leaves for about two months. The results were truly impressive: each week during the experiment, a significant decrease in both the total number and the severity of hot flushes was observed.
Maximize the Effects: Evidence suggests that also foods rich in vitamin E may help reduce hot flashes, so you might want to pair sage with foods like nuts, avocados or taffy fish, all of which provide tons of vitamin E.
Proven Cough-Suppressing Qualities
Sage tea is an age-old remedy for coughs, sore throat and a number of other ailments affecting the mouth and throat, including laryngitis, halitosis, pharyngitis, tonsillitis and throat ulceration. Eager to find out whether science can back up the traditional use of sage tea as a natural remedy for throat problems, researchers in a number of countries have carried out studies on the purported beneficial effects of sage on the throat. In one such study, a team of German researchers investigated the effects of sage on acute viral pharyngitis (viral inflammation of the pharynx manifested by a sore throat). The investigators assessed the effects of mouth sprays containing sage extracts against a placebo, and found that the spray that contained 140 microliters of sage extract effectively alleviated throat pain in the pharyngitis patients enrolled in this study.
Reap the Benefits: If you decide to give sage tea a try next time you have a cough or sore throat, sweeten it with a bit of buckwheat honey which has been shown to fight cough in studies.