Salvia Divinorum Diviner's Sage

Salvia divinorum
Scientific classification
Order: Lamiales
Binomial name
Salvia divinorum
Salvia divinorum (also known as diviner's sage or simply salvia) is a psychoactive plant, a member of the sage genus. The plant is grown by the Mazatec indigenous people of the Oaxaca mountains in isolated, moist and secret plots. It has been used by their shamans for centuries for healing during spirit journeys. The active chemical, Salvinorin A (there are also B and C forms), is unique in that it is an agonist of neuroreceptors largely ignored by other known drugs. It is extremely powerful, but controllable.

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Table of contents


Most people perceive a small dose as clearing the mind and impairing coordination. Many find a small dose useful for meditation or simply being in the world. Consciousness is retained until the very highest doses, but body control, awareness of externalities, and individual personality disappear at modest ones. Large doses have more dramatic effects. Taking a moderate to large dose (which requires smoking an extract of Salvinorin-A) induces a trancelike state, in which the user may experience fully formed visions of other places, people, and events. "Bad trips" are rare but do happen. The effects do not last long relative to other recreational drugs, with the main parts lasting only 5 minutes. Salvia seems to not effect about one in ten people.

The active constituent is believed to be a chemical called salvinorin-a, C23H28O8. Its presence in the body is not detectable by current drug tests. It appears not to habituate. In fact, with experience, some gain a reverse tolerance, where less is more.

Salvinorin is best taken as a vapor using a very small quantity of leaf through a vaporizer, but only if the potentcy of leaf is known and the leaf can be accurately weighed. Otherwise, the dried leaves may be smoked in a water pipe - three strong hits, held as long as possible within three minutes. A butane torch lighter is preferred, as the activation temperature required to release salvinorin from the plant cells is very high. Extract of highly concentrated salvinorin may be taken sublingually or smoked. This drug is not to party or socialize or get high; in fact, while under the influence most people tend to find external stimuli distracting. Salvia can be a very powerful tool for exploration of spiritual elsewhere and elsewhen.

Salvia seems to have somewhat of a dissasociative effect, and like other dissasociatives, hallucinations are percieved most often only in a dark room or closed eye environment.

Legal status

Until the late 1990s, not many people knew about salvia. The advent of the Internet and the realization that the plant was not as of yet scheduled engendered numerous Internet mail order businesses who sold dried salvia leaves, sometimes for exorbitant prices.

The general public became increasingly aware of salvia in 2002. As of June 1, 2002, Australia became the first country to ban salvia and salvinorin. [1], [2] In late 2002, Rep. Joe Baca (D-California) introduced a bill in the United States House of Representatives to schedule salvia as a controlled substance, and the DEA has indicated on its web site that it is aware of salvia and is evaluating the plant for possible scheduling. Civic and government action to ban salvia is often characterized as a knee-jerk reaction to what they perceive as yet another evil drug coming along to steal the minds of the innocent, gullible youth. Press accounts of efforts to ban salvia often quote law enforcement and government officials who exhibit a grossly inaccurate knowledge of the drug's effects, and frequently characterize the "high" as "chewable marijuana", or as identical to LSD and PCP [sic]. [3], [4]


Unlike other sages, Salvia divinorum produces very few seeds, and the seeds it does produce seldom sprout. It appears to have very little histocompatibility variation, so the pollen from a plant genetically identical to the style fails to reach the ovule. It is propagated by cuttings and by falling over and growing new roots.

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Q. What is Salvia divinorum?
A. Salvia divinorum is a plant used for its psychoactive effects. Given the right dose, individual, set and setting, it produces a unique state of  'divine inebriation' which has been traditionally used by Mazatec healers. This inebriation is quite different from that of alcohol. Salvia divinorum is both similar to, and different from, other drugs that affect the brain and behavior. In many ways Salvia divinorum is a unique 'magical' herb. Salvia (and the salvinorin it contains) is very difficult to categorize pharmacologically. It does not fit well into any existing pharmacological class. Louis Lewin, the father of psychopharmacology called vision inducing drugs 'phantastica'. Let us dust off this venerable term and recycle it by calling Salvia divinorum a 'phantasticant'.

Q. Does Salvia divinorum have a history of traditional use?
A. Salvia divinorum is used as a sacred medicine by indigenous shamanic healers living in the mountainous Sierra Madre Oriental in the northeastern corner of the Mexican State of Oaxaca. In Spanish, these specialized healers are referred to as curanderos; in Mazatec these people are called cho-ta-ci-ne ("one who knows"). Salvia divinorum is primarily used in situations where the curanderos feels it is necessary to travel into the supernatural world in order to discover the true cause of the patient's trouble. It is used in a ceremonial manner to induce a visionary trance state, within which it is possible determine the underlying cause of disease and to learn what steps should be taken to remedy such disease. It is also used in cases of theft or loss to determine the circumstances and whereabouts of missing objects. The leaves are always used fresh and are consumed orally; either by chewing the leaves or drinking an aqueous infusion of the crushed-leaf juices. Sometimes it is given to the patient, sometimes it is taken by the curandero and sometimes both take it together.

Most reports describe the use of this plant by Mazatec shamans, and although it is just barely touched upon in the anthropological literature, it is also reportedly used by their immediately contiguous neighbors, the Cuicatecs and Chinatecs. Given that the plant is quite easily propagated, it is surprising that such an extraordinary herb is only known of in such a geographically limited area. It seems quite probable that it would have found its way to other neighboring tribes through sharing and trade. Perhaps its use is still concealed from the outside world by other groups of indigenous Mexican Indians who still prefer to keep such a sacred plant secret.