Skip to main content

Natural Awakenings Boston

The Sage Brain

May 29, 2020 04:07PM ● By Matthew Herrold

“How can I make myself smarter?" 
The release of Bradley Cooper’s blockbuster hit, Limitless, resulted in an eruption of “smart drugs” that promise genius, as seen in the movie. That question drives measurable economic trends in consumable products, including the current emphasis on omega-3 intake for brain health and other benefits. While the answer to maximize brain function and brain health is a bit more comprehensive than a pill, it is also very achievable. 

A personalized approach to nurture a keen brain will typically include plant medicines, such as sage, alongside regular exercise for the body, exercise for the brain, good sleep habits and a few other inputs. People that adhere to simple lifestyle habits and consume the correct plants for them experience success for maximum brain function.

This delightfully aromatic plant originates from the areas that surround the Mediterranean Sea.  Cultures have consumed the herb for thousands of years and medicinal lore says that sage has one of the longest histories of use of any medicinal herb. Both the Greeks and the Romans used it to reduce spoilage alongside ancient medicinal uses. Modern science now confirms its ability to do both through the study of terpenes that have been isolated from sage. 

What are terpenes? Terpenes are the aromatic compounds that give most plants their distinct smells. They have drawn particular attention from the scientific community recently through the rise of cannabis medicine which will benefit more serious attention to all plant medicines. Sage and cannabis are known to house high concentrations of terpenes as well as a wide variety of them.

Other compounds, such as flavonoids and phenolic acids, are also within sage’s beneficial offerings. According to a study on sage published in the Journal of Traditional and Complementary Medicine in 2014, the cause of brain dysfunction, weakened immune system, cancer, heart diseases, diabetes and more are oxidative stress and free radicals-induced damages. Compounds found in sage promote antioxidant and radical-scavenging activities in the body, a thumbs up for its ability to prevent those conditions. Persons with inflammatory conditions may experience relief from seasoning their food with sage.

Some food companies have considered the antioxidant qualities of sage and experimented with it to prolong the shelf life of cooking oils. Additionally, the flavonoids and phenolic acids in sage promote antibacterial activities. That combination is what the Romans and the Greeks took advantage of to help preserve their foods.

Sage has only recently begun to prove itself to scientists as a valiant aide to help brains thrive. Since 2003, there has been a steady trickle in new publications on various brain benefits produced by the herb. That includes uplifting results to treat and manage depression and memory disorders, like Alzheimer’s and dementia. 

In 2005, Nicola T. J. Tildesley and other researchers showed that when healthy, young volunteers consumed common sage their memory and cognition improved. By increasing dosage, the herb elevated the volunteers’ moods and increased their alertness, calmness and contentedness. Another study, authored by Maryam Eidi, Ph.D., and others in 2006, showed effectiveness to improve speed of memory.

There are several commonly enjoyed methods to use sage for the brain. Some of those benefits may be gained through the aromas of the essential oils, but not all. An ultrasonic diffuser will help preserve the integrity and quality of the oil with its low temperature, and while the smudging stick offers a popular ritual-based application, the burning of the sage will destroy some compounds.

To gain the full brain benefit of sage, it must be consumed orally. One option is to administer the essential oil sublingually, or under the tongue. Since sage can help with digestive health, and digestive health has a strong influence on brain health, ingestion may provide additional positive effects than sublingual consumption.

Regular, liberal usage in food seems to provide measurable brain boosting benefits so long as temperatures on the sage remain low enough to preserve the essential oils. Different varieties of sage essential oil consumed orally is the gold standard for most of the studies - it must be food grade.

People search for the secrets to happiness, and inherently a healthy brain is a happy brain. According to scientists, sage has some promise in helping treat depression and degenerative neurological conditions. For that reason, it is a worthwhile consideration for prevention of those conditions. The world looks eagerly for how to cultivate happier, healthier brains and more “sage brains” is part of that solution.

Matthew Herrold is a certified wellness program coordinator and currently helps to develop the Massachusetts marijuana industry through branding and education. Connect at [email protected]