Salvia (sage) plants are a perennial plant that belongs to the Lamiaceae or mint family of plants. The most well known of these plants is possibly Salvia officinalis, which is also called common sage or garden sage. Salvia plants tend to grow to about 1 meter in height and possesses hairy leaves and a long stem that often possesses purple or lavender flowers. Salvia plants have a widespread distribution being found in both tropical and temperate region, and are often grown in gardens. Many of the plants in this group are aromatic. The aromatic nature of this group of plants comes from the presence of an essential oil in the plant tissues. These plants are often used in cooking because of their distinctive taste properties. Salvia species of plants have been used for a number of medicinal effects, For example, the aerial parts of Salvia officinalis is used as a blood sugar lowering agent, Salvia sclare is used as a tonic, Salvia macrosiphon is used as an antimicrobial and Salvia aegyptica is used as an anti-inflammatory.
However, some of the salvia plants may have beneficial effects in the treatment of anxiety. For example, in one study, the neurochemical effects of lilac sage (Salvia reuterina, also called whorled clary) was investigated using animal models. Administration of lilac sage resulted in significant reductions in the anxious behaviour exhibited by mice when they were exposed to experimental stress. In addition, mice administered lilac sage also displayed significant reduction in movement, suggesting that the herb was an effective sedative. The mood elevating effects of Salvia has also been investigated in humans. In one study, human subjects were administered essential oil extract from Salvia lavandulaefolia. The results of the study showed that at 50 μL dose, the essential oil significantly improved the memory of the subjects. The same researchers also showed improvements in memory with 25 and 50 μL doses of Salvia officinalis and improvements in alertness, calness and centrentedness in the 50 μL dose group.
In another study, the effects of Salvia officinalis (garden sage or common sage) were investigated on the mood, anxiety and under-stress performance of healthy young subjects. Subjects were administered 300 or 600 mg of sage leaf and their mood was then evaluated on the Bond-Lader mood scale and the State Trait Anxiety Inventory. At both doses, administration of salvia officinalis led to improvements in mood. At the lower dose the herb was effective at reducing anxiety and at higher doses increasing alertness, calmness and contentedness. However administration of stress to the subjects did modify these effects, as might be expected. The researchers showed that the sage leaf extracts were able to inhibit acetylcholinesterase in the tissue cultures. This suggests that one of the mechanisms by which sage may work is through the inhibition of the enzyme that breaks down acetylcholine. This may increase acetylcholine levels in the brain, producing elevations in mood and memory.
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