Do you need a hand getting up after a long night's sleep? For most of us the answer is caffeine. Whether in tea, coffee or a fizzy drink, caffeine is the world's most popular drug - but is it really the most effective pick-me-up? The BBC's Trust Me I'm a Doctor set about testing caffeine against some unlikely sounding alternatives: including sage.
Professor Peter Rogers of the University of Bristol decided to run a caffeine experiment. For their experiment he recruited 20 people, half of whom never normally touch caffeine, while the other half were regular caffeine imbibers. Both groups were asked to abstain from caffeine for 12 hours before undergoing tests to measure mental agility, concentration and dexterity. They then received a drink with a good jolt of caffeine in it. The results, for coffee drinkers, were extremely disappointing.
"Overall", Rogers said, "regular caffeine consumers who had been without caffeine overnight were slower on the reaction time task, were sleepier and were less mentally alert than non-users." This finding is in line with other studies that he has done. Deprived of caffeine, regular users struggle, but when they got their fix their scores improved but only up to the levels that non-users had achieved without caffeine.
There have been quite a few studies that show the benefits of sage, including one with the delightful title Effects of Cholinesterase Inhibiting Sage (Salvia officinalis) on Mood, Anxiety and Performance on a Psychological Stressor Battery. This study involved a double-blind, placebo-controlled crossover trial involving 30 healthy volunteers. The researchers found that eating 600mg of dried sage leaf in pill form led to "reduced anxiety, increased alertness, calmness and contentedness".