An extract of Salvia (sage) with anticholinesterase properties improves memory and attention in healthy older volunteers

Abstract

Rationale

Species of Salvia (sage) have a long-standing reputation in European medical herbalism, including for memory enhancement. In recent controlled trials, administration of sage extracts with established cholinergic properties improved cognitive function in young adults.

Objectives

This randomised, placebo-controlled, double-blind, balanced, five-period crossover study investigated the acute effects on cognitive performance of a standardised extract of Salvia officinalis in older adults.

Materials and methods

Twenty volunteers (>65 years of age, mean = 72.95) received four active doses of extract (167, 333, 666 and 1332 mg) and a placebo with a 7-day wash-out period between visits. Assessment involved completion of the Cognitive Drug Research computerised assessment battery. On study days, treatments were administered immediately following a baseline assessment with further assessment at 1, 2.5, 4 and 6 h post treatment.

Results

Compared with the placebo condition (which exhibited the characteristic performance decline over the day), the 333-mg dose was associated with significant enhancement of secondary memory performance at all testing times. The same measure benefited to a lesser extent from other doses. There also were significant improvements to accuracy of attention following the 333-mg dose. In vitro analysis confirmed cholinesterase inhibiting properties for the extract.

Conclusions

The overall pattern of results is consistent with a dose-related benefit to processes involved in efficient stimulus processing and/or memory consolidation rather than retrieval or working memory efficiency. These findings extend those of the memory-enhancing effects of Salvia extracts in younger populations and warrant further investigation in larger series, in other populations and with different dosing regimes.

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Acknowledgement

Funding for this study was provided by a grant from Oxford Natural Products Ltd. The company (which no longer exists) had no further role in the study design, collection, analysis, and interpretation of data and writing of the reports. Specifically, the company was not involved in the original concepts and systematic review of existing trial evidence, the design, the choice of investigators, the control of allocation schedule, the conduct of the trial, the collection and monitoring of data, the analysis and interpretation, and the writing and approval of the report. The authors are grateful to the Newcastle branch of the Alzheimer’s Society for assisting the involvement of volunteers.

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Correspondence to Andrew B. Scholey.

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This study formed part of a Ph.D. funded by Oxford Natural Products Ltd.

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Scholey, A.B., Tildesley, N.T.J., Ballard, C.G. et al. An extract of Salvia (sage) with anticholinesterase properties improves memory and attention in healthy older volunteers. Psychopharmacology 198, 127–139 (2008). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00213-008-1101-3

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Keywords

  • Salvia
  • Sage
  • Memory
  • Cognition
  • Cognitive decline
  • Acetylcholine
  • Cholinesterase
  • Attention
  • Age-related memory decline
  • Alzheimer’s disease