Flavors with benefits: Sage, turmeric

Published: October 2011

Sage inhibits the breakdown of a chemical crucial for memory and thinking.
Photo: Photograph by Getty Images/Dorling Kindersley

In addition to adding flavor to your dishes, the spices sage and turmeric might help protect your brain. Sage inhibits the breakdown of acetylcholine, a chemical crucial for memory and thinking. A small trial published in 2003 found that taking capsules of sage oil improved attention and memory in people with Alzheimer's disease. And a 2010 study of healthy adults suggested that the pills boost cognition and mood.

Curcumin, the substance that gives turmeric its yellow color, might keep Alzheimer's disease from progressing by countering the accumulation of destructive brain proteins and curbing inflammation. A clinical trial currently enrolling participants at the University of California at Los Angeles will test curcumin's effect on memory in people up to age 90.

It doesn't make sense for the average person to take sage or curcumin supplements. But the research provides good reason to work the spices into your cooking and eating repertory—for example, by eating curried dishes, a good source of turmeric.


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