Sage (Salvia) has a longstanding reputation in British herbal encyclopaedias as an agent that enhances memory, although there is little evidence regarding the efficacy of sage from systematized trials. Based on known pharmacokinetic and binding properties, it was hypothesised that acute administration of sage would enhance memory in young adult volunteers. Two experiments utilised a placebo-controlled, double-blind, balanced, crossover methodology. In Trial 1, 20 participants received 50, 100 and 150 microl of a standardised essential oil extract of Salvia lavandulaefolia and placebo. In Trial 2, 24 participants received 25 and 50 microl of a standardised essential oil extract of S. lavandulaefolia and placebo. Doses were separated by a 7-day washout period with treatment order determined by Latin squares. Assessment was undertaken using the Cognitive Drug Research computerised test battery prior to treatment and 1, 2.5, 4 and 6 h thereafter. The primary outcome measures were immediate and delayed word recall. The 50 microl dose of Salvia essential oil significantly improved immediate word recall in both studies. These results represent the first systematic evidence that Salvia is capable of acute modulation of cognition in healthy young adults.