Sage MedicineApril 27, 2011 Written by JP [Font too small?]
Figures just released by the IMS Institute for Healthcare Informatics report that over 94 million prescriptions for Zocor (simvastatin), a cholesterol-lowering medication, were written in 2010. Crestor and Lipitor, two other statin drugs used to reduce lipids, registered sales of $3.8 and $7.2 billion respectively last year. Salvia officinalis or sage is unlikely to pose much competition to these powerhouse medications. However, a select group of integrative and naturopathic physicians are taking note that this common culinary herb may have much to offer as an alternative and/or complementary treatment option. (1)
In order for a familiar plant such as sage to garner medical clout, it must have compelling scientific evidence in its corner. More specifically, rigorously designed clinical studies involving human subjects need to be available for review in prestigious medical journals. That’s the language that speaks to many conventional physicians. It’s the proof they require in order to open their minds to natural remedies.
The current issue of the journal Phytotherapy Research provides exactly the type of data needed to forward the cause for sage as a medicinal candidate. A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial was conducted in 67 patients with high cholesterol. Over the course of 2 months, half of the participants were given a placebo and the remainder a 500 mg capsule of sage leaf extract twice daily. The findings of the study indicate that the sage group saw a decline in LDL (“bad”) cholesterol, total cholesterol and triglycerides. An elevation in the protective HDL cholesterol was also noted. No adverse reactions or signs of toxicity were recorded. A pilot study from September 2009 bolsters the current results. In that intervention, the use of daily sage tea similarly improved the lipid profiles of six healthy, middle-aged females. Some of the proposed mechanisms involved in these beneficial shifts in cardiovascular risk markers include: a) fat absorption inhibition; and b) the promotion of antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activity in the heart and liver. (2,3,4)
The list of the top ten selling medications of 2010 did not include any cholinesterase inhibitors (AChEIs). This class of drug is used to manage symptoms relating to Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia. The essential oils contained in sage have a long standing reputation as cognitive and mood enhancers in adults of all ages. The most recent study illustrating this can be found in the October 2010 edition of the Journal of Psychopharmacology. In it, 36 healthy men and women were given a monoterpenoid extract of sage or a placebo on separate occasions with a 7 day break in between. During the sage-treatment period, the test subjects demonstrated “improved performance of secondary memory and attention tasks” and “reduced mental fatigue and increased alertness”. Comparable findings have also been reported in senior populations – even in those diagnosed with mild-to-moderate Alzheimer’s disease. In addition, a decline in anxiety and “improved mood ratings” are common outcomes of the published clinical trials. What’s perhaps most surprising of all is that the mere inhalation of sage oil as an aromatherapeutic agent may provide similar cognitive and psychological benefits as the orally administered sage extracts. And while sage appears to support memory in a similar manner as prescribed AChEIs, the side effect profile thus far seems favorable. (5,6,7,8,9)
Sage Leaf Extract May Improve Alertness and Reduce Anxiety
Source: Neuropsychopharmacology (2006) 31, 845–852. (link)
A key characteristic that often differentiates herbs from synthetic medications is their ability to benefit health on multiple fronts. Let’s say your lipid panel is to your doctor’s liking and your memory and mood are enviable to all those around you. Fantastic! May that be true for every one who reads this. But even if that’s the case, you may still find use for sage in a completely unrelated manner. Sage extracts are now being employed to combat pathogenic bacteria that are responsible for bad breath, gingivitis, sore throats and tooth decay. In some instances, throat sprays and toothpastes containing S. officinalis have actually outperformed their conventional counterparts in terms of adverse reaction reports and symptomatic improvement. (10,11,12,13,14)
Before starting any medication, you ought to consider the likelihood and variety of side effects involved. The same is true when contemplating the inclusion of a new, medicinal herb or nutritional supplement. The majority of research published on sage suggests a strong safety profile. If anything, a protective effect is generally reported. However, one preliminary (animal) trial from 2007 raises the possibility that using sage along with certain medications may cause an unwelcome interaction. The concern stems from the potential of sage to interfere with a drug metabolizing enzyme known as cytochrome P450 (CYP) 2E1. The real world impact of this isn’t clear, as no human studies have yet been conducted. What’s more, when sage is combined with other herbal extracts, it appears to contribute antioxidant/protective activity in animal toxicity models. Nonetheless, if you’re taking any medication, discuss whether using sage supplements or tea is appropriate with an informed medical professional. (15,16,17)
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Tags: Alzheimer's, Cholesterol, Sage
Posted in Heart Health, Memory, Nutritional Supplements