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Memory study suggests sage may be aptly named

For at least 400 years, herbalists have recommended sage to improve memory, and the plant extract is in Chinese herbal medicines for age-related memory loss. Now British researchers have found that Salvia lavandulaefolia, or Spanish sage, has memory-enhancing benefits.

On a test of word recall, 44 college students who had taken capsules containing sage oil remembered more of the 15 words presented earlier in the day than those who took placebos.

The participants took the tests before taking any capsules and again at intervals of one hour and 2 1/2, four and six hours after taking different doses of the oil or a placebo. The most striking effect occurred one hour and 2 1/2 hours after a 50-microliter dose. Neither the lowest dose (25 microliter) nor the highest (150 microliter) improved results.

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Earlier research had shown that sage inhibits an enzyme that breaks down acetylcholine, a chemical messenger in the brain, and researchers at the University of Newcastle and University of Northumbria think this may explain the benefit.

The study was published in the August issue of Pharmacology, Biochemistry and Behavior.

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-- Dianne Partie Lange


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