For centuries European folklore has said that sage improves the memory. Now clinical trials are to get under way to test this and to find out if sage could be used in the treatment of illnesses such as Alzheimer's.
Last year researchers at Middlesex University found that sage blocks an enzyme thought to break down the neurotransmitters in the brain essential for memory. They will work with a Newcastle hospital to test this.
John Wilkinson, senior lecturer in phytochemistry and pharmacognosy at Middlesex University said: "The folklore dates back to the Middle Ages. We are now doing proper clinical trials. We have been trying to find the best sources of sage which have the best therapeutic possibilities. Sage from southern France is much better for our needs."
The researchers do not yet know if part or the whole plant is useful in combating memory loss.
"Unlike drug companies which screen for new enzymes within plants, we are focusing on the whole plant," said Dr Wilkinson. "It may be the important bit is from the sage oil and perhaps we should be using aromatherapy for treating Alzheimer's."