Genus Salvia, commonly known as sage, is the largest genus in the Lamiaceae family. It comprises many species traditionally used as brain-enhancing tonics. In vitro and animal studies have confirmed that several Salvia species contain a large array of active compounds that may enhance cognitive activity and protect against neurodegenerative disease. In this review, the active constituents in plants belonging to the genus Salvia are summarised, and their influence on pharmacodynamics pertinent to cognitive activity are detailed. In particular, the effects of plants belonging to the genus Salvia and their constituents on cognitive skills including memory, attention and learning are detailed. Their potential effects in dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease, are also examined. Completed human trials are summarised, and factors influencing the potency of Salvia plants are covered. Finally, directions for future research are proposed to enhance our understanding of the potential health benefits of Salvia plants. Key Points Salvia plants and their constituents can influence several biological mechanisms associated with cognition including their effects on amyloid-β, cholinergic activity, neurotrophins, oxidative stress, inflammation and anxiolytic/antidepressant behaviours. Several studies have confirmed the many Salvia species have promising, cognitive-enhancing effects in human adults. Further research is required to examine the longer-term cognitive-enhancing effects of Salvia species on cognition, memory and the treatment of neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease.