Sage extract shows cognitive boosting activity during tiring exercise: Study

By Stephen Daniells

- Last updated on GMT

The Cognivia ingredient is a combination of extracts from Salvia officinalis and Salvia lavandulaefolia.   Image © Stieglitz / Getty Images
The Cognivia ingredient is a combination of extracts from Salvia officinalis and Salvia lavandulaefolia. Image © Stieglitz / Getty Images

Related tags Cognitive health Cognitive function sage Botanical supplements

A combination of sage extracts may improve cognitive function even during a fatiguing endurance cycling exercise, says a new study using Nexira’s Cognivia ingredient.

The combination of extracts from Salvia officinalis​ and Salvia lavandulaefolia ​was associated with significant improvements in perceived exertion, working memory, and reaction time for both fresh and fatigued individuals participating in a double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled, cross-over trial.

“Most effects were observed independently of the time point (before, during, or after a fatiguing cycling exercise),” ​wrote scientists from the Université Bourgogne Franche-Comté and Nexira in Frontiers in Nutrition. “It is therefore suggested that Salvia effects are not negatively or positively affected by the exercise performed. Salvia demonstrated universal effects in fresh or fatigued conditions.

“It has a potential impact in the context of sport performance and more generally in the context of physical activity but requires more real-world exercises and cognitive tasks.”

The study was funded by the Centre d'Expertise de la Performance at the University of Bourgogne.


The study adds to the growing body of science supporting the cognitive benefits of sage extracts. Earlier this year, scientists from Northumbria University in England and France’s Nexira reported that two weeks of supplementation with the Cognivia ingredient led to a “consistent, significant benefit of the sage combination” ​for working memory and accuracy task outcome measures (Nutrients​, 2021, 13​(1), 218​).

Commenting on the new study, Damien Guillemet, Nexira Scientific Director, told us: "Cognivia was already supported by a first clinical study conducted on healthy volunteers​. This first study has demonstrated an acute and chronic effect of Cognivia and an overall benefit on working memory function. The second clinical study was conducted during intense physical activity. ​Here again, Cognivia has confirmed an acute and chronic effect and an increase in working memory. In addition, and this is really interesting for athletes and e-gamers​, Cognivia has demonstrated a reduction in reaction time and a decrease in perceived exertion."​ 

Study details

The new study included 26 people with an average age of 26 randomly assigned to either a single dose of the sage supplement (600 mg) or placebo (maltodextrin) two hours prior to an exercise session. The participants were then tested during a warm-up, in the middle and at the end of fatiguing cycle exercise, and once more after a five-minute recovery at the end. The participants repeated the process seven days later when they crossed over to the other group.

The results showed that, as expected, the rating of perceived exertion (RPE) was greater during the fatiguing exercise than during warm-up and recovery.

“At first sight, this outcome could appear trivial in sporting situations, but it is of paramount importance,” ​explained the researchers. “Indeed, the central nervous system is well-known to play a very important role in the fatigue process. For instance, numerous studies have demonstrated the negative impact of mental fatigue in sport-specific situations such as decision making in team sports or reaction time.

“Considering this psychobiological approach, the lower RPE observed with Salvia clearly suggested that supplementation could positively impact performance during fatiguing exercises.”

In addition, the data from the cognitive tests indicated that while reaction time did not change during the exercise it was significantly shorter with after sage supplementation, compared to placebo.

Results of the digit span memory test also showed that sage supplementation led to better scores.

“We can conclude that an acute supplementation with a combination of ​S. officinalis and ​S. lavandulaefolia is beneficial on some cognitive function outcomes in the context of an endurance cycling exercise,” ​they wrote.

Source: Frontiers in Nutrition
30 November 2021, doi: 10.3389/fnut.2021.771518
“Acute Effects of ​Salvia Supplementation on Cognitive Function in Athletes During a Fatiguing Cycling Exercise: A Randomized Cross-Over, Placebo-Controlled, and Double-Blind Study”
Authors: N. Babault et al.

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