Sage Essential Oil Researched For Mood And Memory Improvement

Published: 26th October 2010
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Essential oils are well known for a great variety of healing actions: antibacterial, antiviral, ant-inflammatory -- even anticancer. But did you know they're proven to make you smarter as well? There's actually a growing body of evidence confirming the use of certain essential oils can improve mental performance in a variety of ways. Some studies have even indicated they improve mood at the same time. So what are these oils and how can you use them?

One can imagine it would be a more stimulating essential oil that might enhance mental acuity. Sort of like a cup of coffee in an aroma. Deeply inhale a brighter, not-too-sweet scent and it sort of lights up your brain. Well, it turns out this isn't just a reaction to the scent alone, but something more is going on.

In the October 11th, 2010 online version of the Journal of Psychopharmacology, a study was published evaluating the use of sage essential oil for cognitive and mood enhancement. Using rigorous control methods, researchers set out to test if a single dose of the essential oil would produce statistically significant changes in their subjects performance of tasks involving mental acuity. The researchers begin their abstract by noting that essential oil of sage has "previously been shown to...improve cognitive function", this being the impetus for further investigation.

The results of the study are very interesting for several reasons. First, it was the single use of just a drop of sage essential oil that produced significant improvement in mental tasks one hour after ingestion. This same amount of oil can easily enter the bloodstream by either inhalation or topical application. Second, the researchers describe improved mental function with regards to memory-intensive tasks at one-hour, at reduced mental fatigue and improved mood at four hours after ingestion. Not only did a very small amount of oil work, but it worked for quite a long time.

What many of the mental performance enhancing essential oils seem to share is an ability to inhibit the action of an enzyme called "acetylcholinesterase", which breaks down the neurotransmitter acetylcholine. So a dose of sage essential oil effectively increases the amount of acetylcholine (primary information-handling neuro-chemical ) in the brain. Increasing the amount of acetylcholine has been known to improve mental acuity when performed by other means as well, such as ingestion of choline, vitamins, or "smart drugs" such as piracetam. Whether this is the source of "reduced mental fatigue" has yet to be revealed.

Also of interest is that it seems to be an entire class of chemicals, called "monoterpenes" that have this action. They contribute to bright, high notes in aromas. They're found in citrus oils as well, particularly in lemon essential oil. And lemon has been the subject of similar research (as that done with sage), with similar results. And as the sage study noted, these natural chemicals that act as aromatic stimulants when inhaled act as mental stimulants when ingested as well. (It's unclear whether peppermint, for example, enhances cognitive function through ingestion, though it has been shown to do this through inhalation).

The science seems to be saying that generally, scents that could be considered stimulating have the potential to improve cognitive function and mood. The great thing about this generalization is it is just that: very general. Many oils seem to have this mentally stimulating property, however they're used. Which is wonderful in the way that this implies you can choose your favorite stimulating oil, and use it in your favorite way.

For more, visit The Ananda Apothecary and Synergy Oils.

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