Generalized Anxiety Disorder and Sage
The herb sage has a long history of use in food and medicine. In Mediterranean cultures it was used internally to treat excessive menstrual bleeding, increase fertility, aid memory, reduce symptoms of arthritis, and reduce breast engorgement during weaning. It was used topically for treatment of wounds, sprains, and muscle injuries, and as a gargle for sore throat, hoarseness, and cough.
Effect of Sage on Generalized Anxiety Disorder
Sage has many purported beneficial effects, anxiety treatment qualities among them.
Research Evidence on Sage
In a double-blind, placebo-controlled study, either placebo or sage essential oil was given to 24 healthy people using a crossover design.2 The results showed possible improvement in some, but not all, aspects of mental function, but the design of the study was such that the results are difficult to trust.
The same was true for another small study involving 20 older healthy subjects who took various doses of sage extract. Short term benefit was seen at a dose of 333 mg per day.13
A similar sized study (with similar flaws) found weak hints that sage leaf might improve mood and reduce anxiety level.12
Side Effects and Warnings
As a widely used food spice, sage is thought to have a relatively high level of safety. However, comprehensive safety studies have not been performed. Sage essential oil contains the neurotoxic substance thujone. Maximum safe doses in young children, pregnant or nursing women, or people with severe liver or kidney disease have not been established.
- Tildesley NT, Kennedy DO, Perry EK, et al. Positive modulation of mood and cognitive performance following administration of acute doses of Salvia lavandulaefolia essential oil to healthy young volunteers. Physiol Behav. 2005;83:699–709.
- Kennedy DO, Pace S, Haskell C, et al. Effects of cholinesterase inhibiting sage ( Salvia officinalis) on mood, anxiety and performance on a psychological stressor battery. Neuropsychopharmacology. 2005 Oct 5 [Epub ahead of print]
- Scholey AB, Tildesley NT, Ballard CG, et al. An extract of Salvia (sage) with anticholinesterase properties improves memory and attention in healthy older volunteers. Psychopharmacology (Berl). 2008 Mar 19.