The #1 Herb for Better Brain Health, According to Neurologists (2024)

In the pursuit of optimal well-being, cognitive health has become an important topic. We want to keep our brains young as we age. Several foods and supplements have been associated with a boost in brain power–in fact, there’s an entire diet dedicated to it.

When it comes to how you season your food, herbs can also be part of the conversation. In fact, there’s one that stands out due to its brain-boosting benefits—sage. Sage is more than just a flavorful herb; it provides several benefits for supporting brain health. Keep reading to learn more about why and how to incorporate more sage into your meals.

Why is Brain Health Important?

It’s a given that we want to safeguard our brains from cognitive decline. “Brain health is important because your brain has the ability to control every single aspect of your body and your life,” says board-certified neurologist Kimberly Johnson Hatchett, M.D. “Having a healthy brain allows you to live an optimal life on a daily basis, down to the second,” she says.

Maintaining a healthy brain is essential for cognitive function (your ability to think, learn and remember), emotional well-being, physical aspects of movement and balance, as well as sensory health (such as seeing, hearing, tasting). And maintaining brain well-being is also important for reducing the risk of neurodegenerative diseases like dementia.

Following an overall healthy lifestyle is the best way to keep your brain young, and that includes limiting or excluding alcohol, not smoking and reducing your intake of highly processed foods, says Hatchett. Getting enough sleep and finding time for regular exercise also fortify your cognitive capabilities. It’s not just one choice you make, but your overall habits that matter. That said, there are some foods and nutrients that are known to be good for your brain.

The #1 Herb to Support Brain Health

We know that nutrition can play an important role in brain health, but we often don’t focus on what culinary herbs can do. In addition to a diet rich in cruciferous vegetables, omega-3 fatty acids and whole grains, sage “helps us stay ‘sage’--literally,” says neurologist and herbalist Maya Shetreat, M.D.

Sage, scientifically known as Salvia officinalis, is more than just a flavorful herb used in cooking. It has long been recognized for its benefits to memory and brain health. Most of the research on sage involves taking it as an extract, a far more concentrated form than consuming the leaf in your cooking. For example, one review points out that studies show that sage extract helped boost performance on memory tests and mood compared to a placebo. Sage contains rosmarinic acid and carnosic acid, which have neuroprotective properties.

Rosmarinic acid is a potent antioxidant that helps to neutralize harmful free radicals in the body, safeguarding brain cells from oxidative stress and damage, which is linked to cognitive decline and neurodegenerative diseases. Rosmarinic acid also contains anti-inflammatory properties that reduce inflammation in the brain, which has been associated with various brain disorders. Carnosic acid is another powerful antioxidant that may help protect brain cells from damage.

The Nutritional Profile of Sage

Sage is a nutrient-dense herb that offers a variety of essential vitamins and minerals, such as fiber, vitamin K, iron, vitamin B6 and vitamin A. In addition to these vitamins and minerals, sage is rich in antioxidants, and various flavonoids, which play a crucial role in its health benefits. It’s important to note that we do not usually eat a lot of fresh or dried sage at a time, so these nutrients are present in small amounts.

Tips for Including Sage in a Healthy Eating Pattern

Incorporating sage into your daily diet is a great way to enhance the flavor of your meals and boost the nutritional value at the same time. You can use fresh or dried sage leaves to flavor dishes such as soups, stews, roasted vegetables and meats. Need some starter ideas? Steep some fresh leaves to make Sage Tea, chop it up for or use the herbs to dress up Trout in Sage Brown Butter with Hearts of Palm Salad.

The Bottom Line

Sage stands out not only for its culinary versatility but also for its health benefits, particularly related to brain health. Its rich nutritional profile, combined with potent antioxidants and neuroprotective properties, make it a great addition to your daily eating plan – even if the small doses used in your kitchen aren’t as significant as what’s used in research. By making sage a regular part of your diet, you can take a proactive step towards maintaining optimal brain health.

The #1 Herb for Better Brain Health, According to Neurologists (2024)
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