Rationale Species of Salvia (sage) have a long-standing reputation in European medical herbalism, including for memory enhancement. In recent controlled trials, administration of sage extracts with established cholinergic properties improved cognitive function in young adults. Objectives This randomised, placebo-controlled, double-blind, balanced, five-period crossover study investigated the acute effects on cognitive performance of a standardised extract of Salvia officinalis in older adults. Materials and methods Twenty volunteers (>65 years of age, mean = 72.95) received four active doses of extract (167, 333, 666 and 1332 mg) and a placebo with a 7-day wash-out period between visits. Assessment involved completion of the Cognitive Drug Research computerised assessment battery. On study days, treatments were administered immediately following a baseline assessment with further assessment at 1, 2.5, 4 and 6 h post treatment. Results Compared with the placebo condition (which exhibited the characteristic performance decline over the day), the 333-mg dose was associated with significant enhancement of secondary memory performance at all testing times. The same measure benefited to a lesser extent from other doses. There also were significant improvements to accuracy of attention following the 333-mg dose. In vitro analysis confirmed cholinesterase inhibiting properties for the extract. Conclusions The overall pattern of results is consistent with a dose-related benefit to processes involved in efficient stimulus processing and/or memory consolidation rather than retrieval or working memory efficiency. These findings extend those of the memory-enhancing effects of Salvia extracts in younger populations and warrant further investigation in larger series, in other populations and with different dosing regimes.