5 Surprising Sage Brain Benefits

sage brain benefits

Sage is an herb with a variety of uses. People use sage in tasty dishes, for cleaning, and as a ritual object in spiritual practices. It’s available in oil, fresh, or dried forms – and has fantastic benefits for your brain.

Also known as common sage, Salvia officinalis, and garden sage. It’s one of the staple herbs in cuisines around the world.

If you ever tasted sage before, you know it has a unique aroma and flavor. And even though it’s only used in small amounts, you’d be surprised at how healthy and nutritious sage is.

In this post, I’ll explain 5 proven sage brain benefits – drawing upon scientific studies to show you how this herb supports your cognitive health.

1. Protects Brain Cells

Antioxidants are compounds that help your body fight off disease, stress, and aging. They work by neutralizing harmful free radicals that wreak havoc on your cells, including those in the brain. (1)

Sage contains 160 unique antioxidants. These include chlorogenic acid, caffeic acid, ellagic acid, rutin, and rosmarinic acid. (2)

These plant polyphenols are shown to improve memory and brain function, along with protecting your neurons from the wear and tear of aging. (3, 4)

2. Improves Memory

As we saw, sage protects our brain cells with its antioxidants. This effect by itself is beneficial for our memory.

However, sage also halts the destruction of acetylcholine (ACH). This is your brain’s chemical messenger that regulates memory and cognition. People with Alzheimer’s are shown to have low ACH levels. (5, 6)

Case in Point:

A study recruited 39 volunteers with mild to moderate Alzheimer’s. They split them into two groups:

  1. The first group took 60 drops (2 mL) of sage extract daily
  2. The second group took a placebo daily

The study lasted four months (120 days).

In the end, the results showed that those who took a sage extract saw improvements in their reasoning, memory, problem solving and general cognitive performance. Unlike the placebo group which saw no changes. (7)

3. Boosts Mood

Besides boosting up your memory function, sage is also shown to help with mood.

In one study, healthy adults who took low doses of sage quickly saw improvements in their memory. But then, once these people increased their doses, they also experienced a lift in their mood. Specifically, their alertness, happiness, and calmness all improved. (8)

happy african girl swinging outdoors

Now, sage also positively affects blood sugar and insulin sensitivity. This is important because blood sugar spikes lead to mood swings and energy crashes. By keeping your blood sugar levels stable, sage effectively keeps your mood stable too. (9)

And as per anecdotal evidence, sage can help you fall asleep faster as well. Many people use it successfully for insomnia.

4. High in Brain-Feeding Nutrients

As we briefly talked above, sage packs quite a punch. Just one teaspoon of ground sage (around 0.7g) will provide you with these nutrients (10):

  • Vitamin K: 10% of the RDI
  • Vitamin B6: 1.1% of the RDI
  • Manganese: 1% of the RDI
  • Iron: 1.1% of the RDI
  • Calcium: 1% of the RDI

This only comes with 2 calories, 0.4g being carbs, 0.1g protein, and 0.1 fat.

As you can see, there’s plenty of vitamin K in one teaspoon of sage. Which is fantastic, because “K” is important for brain health. Specifically, your brain needs it to make sphingolipids – fatty acids that cover your brain cell membranes.

5. Strengthens Focus

In most studies, sage consistently shows its ability to boost brain health and function. In both younger and older people.

Now, one study wanted to test the acute effects of a sage extract on mental performance. They took 20 people and split them into two groups. As usual, one group took a placebo, while the other group received four active sage extract doses: 166, 333, 666, and 1332 milligrams.

The 333mg dose proved to be the ‘sweet spot’ in terms of benefits. The study results showed that people who took this dose of sage extract saw a boost in their memory accuracy, as well as focus and attention.

People who took sage were able to concentrate better and stay focused on tasks significantly longer than the placebo group. (11)

The follow-up in-vitro analysis showed that sage extract inhibited acetylcholine breakdown in the brain. In other words, sage helped to maintain high ACH levels, which in turn positively affected the participant’s focus and concentration.

Sage Side Effects

Sage is generally a safe herb. I didn’t come across any reports about side effects in humans. (1)

However, some people ask if thujone, a chemical found in common sage, is harmful. Some rat studies show that it can be neurotoxic in high doses.

But evidence doesn’t show any negative effects of thujone on humans.

What’s more, you’d need to consume near impossible amounts of sage to reach the toxic levels of thujone.

sage tea

Still, ingesting sage essential oils or drinking too much sage tea – which you should avoid in any case – may be toxic. So if you want to be on the safe side, don’t drink more than 3-6 cups of sage tea per day.

If you want to avoid thujone altogether, then you can simply opt for Spanish sage instead. As it doesn’t have any thujone in it.

FAQ

How Much Sage is too Much?

There’s no defined rule for how much sage is too much. It also depends on the type of sage you use. Avoid ingesting sage essential oils or drinking more than 6 cups of common sage tea per day. You can also opt for Spanish sage which is a variant that is known to be even safer than common sage.

Is Sage Good For Anxiety?

It is. Sage helps to calm nerves and improve mood. It achieves this by stabilizing your blood sugar levels, along with supporting healthy brain chemistry.

Are Sage Tablets Safe?

This depends on what kind of tablets you buy. Sage tablets that come from reputable and established supplement companies are generally considered safe. Despite this, you should do a proper research and consult with your doctor before adding any kind of supplement to your lifestyle. Especially if you have or suspect a medical condition!

Anything Else?

Sage is an amazing herb with soothing and memory-boosting benefits for the brain. However, it’s worth noting that there’s no magical herb or pill that will solve everything for you.

You should always have your diet, sleep, and exercise on point before looking for other ways of ‘biohacking’. Along with consulting with your healthcare practitioner every once in a while if you have any questions.

Conclusion on Sage Brain Benefits

Sage is a popular culinary herb with some surprising benefits for your brain, and body.

Sage brain benefits include:

  • Improved focus
  • Stronger memory
  • Elevated mood
  • Improved sense of calm

Sage is packed with nutrients like vitamin K, which are great for your brain health. Plus, sage helps block the breakdown of acetylcholine, the brain chemical that regulates your memory and focus.

This green herb goes well with pretty much any delicious, savory dish. You can enjoy it fresh, dried, as a tea, as well as using sage essential oils.

What is your favorite ‘brain spice’? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.

Further Reading: Brain Food: 52 Foods For Peak Mood, Memory & Cognition

References
  1. Chronic inflammation and oxidative stress as a major cause of age-related diseases and cancer. (source)
  2. Polyphenolics of Salvia–a review. (source)
  3. Pharmacological properties of Salvia officinalis and its components. (source)
  4. Rosmarinic acid: modes of action, medicinal values, and health benefits. (source)
  5. Salvia officinalis extract in the treatment of patients with mild to moderate Alzheimer’s disease: a double-blind, randomized and placebo-controlled trial. (source)
  6. Salvia for dementia therapy: a review of pharmacological activity and pilot tolerability clinical trial. (source)
  7. Salvia officinalis extract in the treatment of patients with mild to moderate Alzheimer’s disease: a double blind, randomized and placebo-controlled trial. (source)
  8. Positive modulation of mood and cognitive performance following administration of acute doses of Salvia lavandulaefolia essential oil to healthy young volunteers. (source)
  9. Activation of the nuclear receptor PPARγ by metabolites isolated from sage (Salvia officinalis L.). (source)
  10. U.S. Department of Agriculture. (source)
  11. An extract of Salvia (sage) with anticholinesterase properties improves memory and attention in healthy older volunteers. (source)
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About Valentino Muza 53 Articles
Valentino is a nutritionist, author, spiritual practitioner, and health coach. He's been researching nutrition and brain health since 2015, and has launched Valentino's Naturals to help people maximize their cognitive performance. When he isn't writing, Valentino loves to travel around Europe, spend time recharging in nature, and research topics within his field of expertise. More...

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