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Salvia Divinorum Guide: Effects, Uses, Legality and Safety

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Table of Contents

Salvia divinorum is a perennial herb with psychedelic properties found in the mint family (Lamiaceae). This family contains many commonly-used edible herbs such as basil, rosemary, oregano, sage, thyme, and lavender. Besides simply “Salvia”, S. divinorum is known by many common names in the West, including Diviner’s Sage, Lady Salvia, Sally-D, and Magic Mint. 

Salvia is found around the world today, but it has been used traditionally for centuries by the Mazatec people in the Sierra Mazateca region of Oaxaca, Mexico. Here, the Mazatec shamans use the plant for divination and healing in ritualistic ceremonies. The Mazatec refer to the plant as “ska Pastora” or “hojas de la Pastora”, meaning “leaves of the Shepherdess.”

Since the early 90s, it has become available in the psychedelic culture around the world, commonly consumed by smoking the dry leaves and various extracts (5x, 10x, etc.).

Table of Contents

  1. Overview
  2. History
  3. Legality
  4. Pharmacology
  5. Effects
  6. Uses
  7. Salvia Today
  8. Salvia FAQ

1. Overview 

What is Salvia?

Salvia divinorum is a flowering plant endemic to the Mazatec areas of the Sierra Madre Oriental in Oaxaca, Mexico. It grows in the humid, high tropical mountains at an elevation between 300 and 800 meters.

Like the other large varieties in the mint family, the Salvia plant can grow to heights exceeding one meter. It’s characterized by large green leaves, hollow square stems, white flowers (which bloom rarely), and violet calyxes. The plant rarely sets viable seed and reproduces vegetatively. Because of its limited geographical habitat, it is one of the rarest psychoactive plants on Earth. However, today it is widely cultivated in the United States and around the world. 

Salvia Divinorum

The genus name of Salvia has its origins in the Latin word salvere, meaning “to be saved” or “to be well”, which reflects the wide array of medicinal properties found throughout the genus. The species name divinorum was given in reference to its traditional use in divination and healing. 

Salvia divinorum is loosely translated as “Seer’s Sage” or “Diviner’s Sage.” However, the Swiss chemist Albert Hofmann criticized the Latin name of the species. In a 1984 interview with the Czech psychiatrist Stanislav Grof, he stated, 

“It is a wrong name, bad Latin; it should be actually Salvia divinatorum. They do not know very good Latin, these botanists. I was not very happy with the name because Salvia divinorum means “Salvia of the ghosts”, whereas Salvia divinatorum, the correct name, means “Salvia of the priests”, But it is now in the botanical literature under the name Salvia divinorum.” 

As we’ll explore later, Dr. Hofmann (along with his wife Anita and the famous ethnomycologist R. Gordon Wasson) was among the first to travel to southern Mexico to collect S. divinorum specimens for identification purposes in the early 1960s.

Other Types of Salvia

There are over one thousand varieties of plants in the Salvia genus, but only S. divinorum possesses hallucinogenic properties. Many other salvia species are used for ornamental purposes or as herbal remedies. In this section, we will overview some of the other common Salvia species.

Salvia officinalis 

Salvia oficinalis is commonly known as Garden Sage. It is an aromatic, woody perennial shrub native to the Mediterranean region, but found in many places throughout the world. It has grayish leaves and blue to purplish flowers. Garden sage has a long history of medicinal and culinary use and is commonly used as an ornamental garden plant.

Salvia hispanica 

Commonly known as Chia, Salvia hispanica is a flowering plant endemic to central and southern Mexico and Guatemala. It’s an annual herb that grows up to 1.85 meters tall, characterized by clustered purple or white flowers. It is mostly known and grown for its edible chia seeds. 

Salvia greggii

Commonly known as Autumn Sage, Salvia greggii is an herbaceous perennial native to the rocky areas of Texas and Mexico. Despite its name, it blooms throughout summer and autumn and produces a wide variety of flower colors. For this reason, it’s commonly hybridized with other closely-related Salvia species for ornamental purposes.

Salvia leucantha

Salvia leucantha, commonly Mexican Bush Sage, is a perennial herb native to the subtropical and tropical conifer forests of central and eastern Mexico. This low-maintenance species has high ornamental value, producing beautiful velvety flower spikes from late summer to early autumn.

Salvia nemorosa

Salvia nemorosa goes by the common names of Woodland Sage or Violet Sage. It is a clump-forming, hardy perennial with striking blue-violet flower spikes. Caradonna is endemic to central Europe and Western Asia but grows easily in other parts of the world. It is widely used as an ornamental garden plant.

Salvia farinacea

Salvia farinacea, or Mealycup sage, is a clump-forming perennial salvia native to Texas and Mexico. The plant flowers from June to frost, and is characterized by shiny leaves and violet-blue spikes. It is commonly cultivated as an annual plant and will attract hummingbirds and butterflies. 

Salvia apiana

Salvia apiana, or white sage, is an evergreen perennial shrub found in the southwestern United States and northwestern Mexico. It has white, evergreen leaves that release oils and resins with a strong aroma when rubbed. White sage has been used for centuries in rituals and ceremonies. It is often burned in these contexts for clearing negative energy from spaces. 

Salvia coccinea

Known commonly as scarlet sage, Salvia coccinea has been used for generations for medicinal, ornamental, and culinary reasons. It is commonly cultivated in gardens around the world and is known by its whorls of red flowers around its spikes.

Ways to Consume Salvia

There are four main ways to consume S. divinorum: smoking, chewing the leaves, making salvia infusions, and using sublingual tinctures. 

Smoking Salvia

Smoking is the most common method of consumption in the West, given the commercial availability of extract-enhanced dried leaves. Smoking Salvia leads to an intense, short-lasting trip. It is the most effective way to absorb salvinorin A, the psychoactive compound responsible for its effects. 

Salvia extracts and dried leaves can be smoked in a cigarette, pipe, bong, or vaporized. Usually only pure salvinorin A is vaporized, as is sometimes done in clinical trials. The smoke is inhaled quickly and deeply and held for at least 20-30 seconds. One quarter to one half of a gram of dried leaves constitutes a mid-level dose. A lesser amount is needed for extract-enhanced leaves, depending on the strength of the extract (for instance, 0.1-0.3 grams for 5x extract). 

Traditionally, salvia is administered by the Mazatec shamans in two ways: chewing the leaves and making a strained juice preparation. In either case, only fresh S. divinorum leaves are used.

Chewing Salvia

The chewing method involves rolling fresh leaves into a ball or cylinder called a quid. The quid is then chewed slowly once every 10 seconds, and kept under the tongue between chews. The quid and juice are held in the mouth for up to 30 minutes, then spat out or swallowed. With this method, salvinorin A is absorbed through the mucus membranes of the mouth. 

Salvia Infusions

Strained juice preparations are an infusion made by grinding the leaves, squeezing out the juice, and drinking it mixed with water. This method is the least common way of consumption. This is because they require significantly more leaves (20-80 fresh leaves) and the preparation is very bitter. In addition, salvinorin A is not well-absorbed in the GI tract.

Salvia Tinctures

Salvia tinctures are a purified liquid containing concentrated salvinorin A. These are consumed sublingually and offer a quicker onset of action compared to the quidding or infusion method. Salvia tinctures can be purchased commercially depending on regional legality. They can also be made at home from ground leaf material extracted in high-proof alcohol. 

2. History 

Indigenous Uses

Salvia divinorum has been used for centuries by the Mazatec shamans (curanderos and curanderas) in the Oaxaca region of Mexico. Similar to psilocybin mushrooms, the shamans use the plant for spiritual purposes, divination, and as a catalyst for knowing the causes of illnesses and the adequate cures for their patients. 

Unlike all-night psilocybin mushroom rituals, the Mazatec Salvia ceremonies typically last two to three hours. The ceremonies begin with prayers and blessings to Christian saints, the Holy Trinity, and the Virgin Mary. They take place in total, quiet darkness because the shamans see the salvia spirit as a timid deer that is scared away by bright lights and noises. At lower doses, it has been used traditionally by the shamans as a diuretic, to treat diarrhea, anemia, headaches, rheumatism, and the magical illness called “swollen belly.”

The deep history of the plant is not well known. Everything that is known dates to post-Spanish conquest, which explains why the names of the plant by the Mazatec center around Christian ideas. It is still not known whether S. divinorum is a wild plant native to the Sierra Mazateca region, or a cultigen of the Mazatecs or another indigenous group.

Modern Day Discovery

For hundreds of years, Mazatec shamans were the only ones with intimate knowledge of Salvia’s psychedelic properties. That situation changed in the late 1930s when a group of anthropologists led by Jean Basset Johnson came to the Mazatec region to study their culture. They were the first to document the hallucinogenic use of Salvia by the Mazatec shamans, who would brew the leaves into a tea they called “Hierba Maria.” This infusion was named from the shared visions the shamans would have of the Virgin Mary during the trip experience. Still today, the plant is seen by the Mazatec as the embodiment of the Virgin Mary.

Later in the early 1960s, Albert Hofmann, his wife Anita Hofmann, and the ethnomycologist R. Gordon Wasson traveled to the Sierra Mazateca region in search of the plant. R. Gordon Wasson believed it was a sacred entheogen called pipiltzintzintli used by the Aztecs, but this has since been a matter of debate among ethnobotanists. Gordon and Hofmann verified the psychoactivity of Salvia themselves and sent samples for identification to Carl Epling, a botanist working in the botanical department of Harvard. Here, Epling determined from their samples that it was a new species of salvia, which led to its naming of Salvia divinorum.

Later, in the 1990s, the psychoactive constituents were identified by a team led by the ethnobotanist Daniel Siebert, one of the leading experts on Salvia. Daniel Siebert did the first extraction of salvinorin A and was the first person to have a typical smoked salvia experience. 

Interest in S. divinorum has accelerated in the last decade in Europe and North America, in parallel with legislative attention. In the 1990s, it entered the commercial market largely as a smokable extract. As we’ll see, the legality of salvia is a continually shifting landscape, and many states and countries have now banned it.

3. Legality

Up until the early 2000s, the legality of Salvia was not an area of focus for legislators. However, with the commercialization of Salvia came enormous online visibility, especially on the emerging world of YouTube where individuals would post their (often bizarre) trip experiences. In the wake of a scare campaign by the media, initiatives were proposed to ban it in numerous states and throughout the world. 

Laws Passed

Beginning in 2005, a number of states in the United States have banned or limited its sale or possession. Currently, S. divinorum and/or salvinorin A is illegal in 33 states and the territory of Guam. Other states are currently considering legislation to ban the sale and/or possession of salvia. A complete listing is available here

Internationally, Salvia is currently illegal in these countries:

  • Armenia
  • Australia
  • Belgium
  • Canada
  • Croatia
  • Czech Republic
  • Denmark
  • Germany
  • Hong Kong
  • Italy
  • Japan
  • Latvia
  • Lithuania
  • Poland
  • Portugal
  • Ireland
  • Romania
  • South Korea
  • Sweden
  • Switzerland.

Where is Salvia Legal?

Barring certain city-level laws, salvia is currently legal in these states:

  • Arizona
  • California (18 years and older)
  • Oregon
  • Washington
  • Idaho
  • Montana
  • Nevada
  • New Mexico
  • Maine (18 years and older)
  • Utah
  • New York
  • New Jersey
  • New Hampshire
  • Massachusetts
  • Maryland (21 years and older)
  • South Carolina
  • Tennessee (legal for aesthetic, landscaping, or decorative purposes)
  • West Virginia
  • Wisconsin (possession only)

Internationally, Salvia is currently legal in:

  • Austria
  • Cyprus
  • France
  • Indonesia
  • Myanmar
  • Malaysia
  • Netherlands
  • Serbia
  • Slovenia
  • South Africa
  • Spain (possession and use only)
  • Thailand
  • Ukraine

In Estonia, Finland, Iceland, and Norway, Salvia is treated as a medicinal herb that requires a doctor’s prescription.

4. Pharmacology 

Salvinorin A

The leaves of S. divinorum contain over a dozen unique chemicals, the most potent being the Salvinorin A, a diterpenoid that accounts for its psychedelic effects. Salvinorin A is the most potent naturally-occurring hallucinogen, approximately 10 times as potent as psilocybin and half as potent as LSD. In terms of dosing, a threshold dose of purified salvinorin A is 200mcg, while a full-fledged psychedelic experience will be produced at approximately 1000mcg (1mg). According to a study by Daniel Siebert, the plant content of salvinorin A can vary but averages 0.245% of dried leaf material.

In contrast to the classic psychedelics, which produce their effects via the serotonin system by binding to 5-HT2A receptors, salvinorin A is a potent and highly selective κ-opioid receptor agonist. Thus, in humans given the opioid blocker naloxone, Salvia produces very little to no effects. κ-opioid receptors are involved in many processes in the mind and body. This includes bodily perception, motor control, mood, depression, addiction, pain, and perceptual distortions.

Salvinorin A is commonly referred to as an atypical psychedelic. Typical psychedelics contain nitrogen atoms in the molecular structure, but salvinorin A is uniquely a non-nitrogenous psychedelic with no structural similarity to the others. In addition, it’s currently the only known psychedelic diterpene and naturally-occurring κ-opioid receptor agonist.

Toxicity

Research on the toxicity of Salvia divinorum and salvinorin A are sparse, so further studies are warranted. Only one animal study has been conducted to examine the toxic side effects of salvinorin A. In this study, rats were chronically administered high doses of salvinorin A (up to 6400mcg) for two weeks. The researchers found little to no differences between the salvinorin A-administered group and the control group in post mortem histological studies. They concluded that salvinorin A possesses “relatively low toxicity”, even at doses many times greater what humans are exposed to. 

Overall, there is no evidence to support long-term toxic side effects associated with the recreational use of Salvia. In addition to no reported overdoses on Salvia, it does not appear to be physically addictive (in fact, it seems to be anti-addictive).

Interactions

There are no known toxic drug interactions with Salvia divinorum. However, research is limited so it’s always best to exercise caution. While many people take regular medications alongside Salvia without problems, every individual reacts differently. Some combinations may lead to unexpected interactions, so it’s always best to start with a conservative dose and gauge the effects from there.

Safety 

According to preliminary research and anecdotal reports, Salvia is generally recognized as safe and with low abuse potential. No case of fatal salvinorin A poisoning has been documented, and the LD-50 (median lethal dose) is presumed to be extremely high. 

Moreover, multiple studies have found that consumption of Salvia is associated with little to no adverse side effects. One study from 2013 investigated the dose-related effects of inhaled salvinorin A in 8 healthy adults. The researchers found no evidence of persisting adverse effects at a follow up one month later. 

The biggest risk associated with the drug is improper set and setting. During the short-lived trip, Salvia is known to impair coordination and create a loss of connection with consensus reality. The fast onset and intensity can lead to problems if not prepared for. For this reason, Salvia should never be smoked while driving or operating heavy machinery. It is always best to experiment with salvia with an experienced trip sitter in a relaxed and safe environment (i.e. optimal set and setting). 

Salvia should be avoided in individuals predisposed to or with a history of psychosis. There have been case study reports of acute psychosis and paranoia that has lasted for days in individuals predisposed to mental illness. 

5. Effects 

Depending on the dose and route of administration, a salvia trip may range from a warm, italicized version of everyday reality to a full-blown mystical experience. 

How Long Does Salvia Last?

When smoked, a Salvia high is characterized by a near-immediate onset and a short duration. When salvia leaves or sublingual tinctures are orally ingested, the effects are more gradual and last longer. 


OnsetDurationAfter Effects
Smoked/vaporized30-180 seconds5-30 minutes30-60 minutes
Chewed10-20 minutes30-90 minutes30-120 minutes
Sublingual (tincture)10-20 minutes30-90 minutes30-120 minutes

Source: Erowid.org

The strained juice or tea infusions have the longest duration of effects, lasting up to 3 hours. However, this method is not very efficient because much of the salvinorin A that is ingested is deactivated by the GI tract before reaching the bloodstream.

Physiological Effects

Physiological effects of salvia may include:

  • Dizziness
  • Perspiration
  • Slurred speech
  • Decreased heart rate
  • Chills
  • Difficulty maintaining balance
  • Uncontrolled walking or standing

Psychological Effects

At low doses, psychological effects may include:

  • Increased body awareness (enhanced interoception)
  • Experiencing one’s body as safe and trustworthy
  • Increased emotional awareness
  • Enhanced presence of mind
  • Creative, dreamlike states of consciousness
  • Heightened introspection
  • General alterations in perception

At high doses, common psychological effects include,

  • Ego dissolution
  • Synesthesia
  • Dissociation
  • Depersonalization
  • Entity contact
  • Changes in feelings of body ownership (merging with objects, feeling heavy or light)
  • Vestibular hallucinations (flying and/or floating in space)
  • Tactile hallucinations (sensation of being pushed, pulled, or stretched)
  • Open and closed eye visuals
  • Loss of awareness of surroundings
  • A sensation of entering alternate realities or dimensions

Common Side Effects

Like other psychedelics, Salvia has the potential to produce negative side effects that last the duration of the trip. This includes:

  • Fear, terror or panic
  • Confusion
  • Agitation
  • Abdominal pain 
  • Difficulty speaking
  • Changes in body temperature (flushing and sweating)
  • Headache
  • Nausea

Confusing, difficult, or frightening experiences appear to be more common in Salvia experiences compared to classic psychedelics, especially when high strength extracts are used. In this case, many users infrequently use Salvia, or even just have a single experience and stop there.

Salvia vs DMT

Salvinorin A and DMT are both entheogenic compounds often used in ritualistic settings for consciousness exploration and healing. DMT and Salvia may both be smoked, and both have a short effect duration, plateauing within a matter of minutes. Like other psychedelics, neither DMT or Salvia leads to physiological dependence.

Mechanistically, DMT and salvinorin A act on very different neural pathways. Similar to the other classic psychedelics, DMT is a serotonergic alkaloid that binds to 5-HT2A receptors. On the other hand, salvinorin A is a non-alkaloid psychedelic, acting instead on κ-opioid receptors. This accounts for the differences in effects.

Both DMT and Salvia produce profound ego-shattering experiences, leading to mystical breakthroughs that result in loss of self, space, and time. With that said, the subjective effects are different. Salvia is described as more visceral, fragmented, and sometimes bizarrely disconcerting due to the tactile and vestibular hallucinations. Sensations of being pushed sideways, stuck, or becoming objects are more characteristic of a Salvia trip.

A DMT experience is reported as more lucid and revelatory, like being propelled into a timeless “cosmic” energy or returning to a home that has been forgotten. Many people report DMT experiences are easier to integrate than Salvia experiences.

Salvia vs Weed

Salvia and cannabis are both plants and are commonly smoked, but the similarities mostly stop there. For one, Salvia and cannabis sport very different mechanisms of action. Weed alters mood and cognition by interacting with CB1 and CB2 cannabinoid receptors. On the other hand, the salvinorin A in Salvia selectively binds to (you guessed it) κ-opioid receptors. 

Unlike weed, which is much more mellow and lasts anywhere from 1-4 hours, Salvia is an intense, short-lived psychedelic experience at commonly-used dosages. Weed will not produce full-fledged hallucinogenic effects such as ego dissolution experiences, intense visual distortions, extracorporeal sensations, and contact with external entities and realities. All of the above are part and parcel of a Salvia trip. 

At very low doses, Salvia may share some effects with being stoned. This may include heightened awareness of bodily sensations, increases in sensual and aesthetic appreciation, novel perspectives or insights on problems, euphoria, and laughter. 

6. Uses 

Recreationally

Traditionally, Salvia has been used in ceremonial settings like psilocybin mushrooms, peyote, and ayahuasca. However, as a result of its commercialization and online visibility, the plant has been increasingly used as a recreational drug, particularly among youth and young adults. In the 1980s, it was reported to be used recreationally among teenagers in Mexico to get high. Similar to what has been seen in the United States, the teenagers would buy dried Salvia leaves and smoke them as a marijuana replacement. Today, smoking extracts of salvia appears to be the most common way of consumption among recreational users.

Because Salvia is a legalized hallucinogen in many parts of the world, recreational users may be interested in Salvia as a legal alternative to illegal drugs. Of course, Salvia is not an appropriate drug for the party scene, given how highly introspective, self-reflective, and otherworldly the experience can be.

Medically

The κ-opioid receptor system is linked to a wide array of conditions. This grants salvinorin enormous therapeutic potential, but more human studies are needed. In animal studies, salvinorin A demonstrates anti-anxiety, anti-inflammatory, pain-inhibiting, and antidiarrheal properties

Long-lasting salvinorin A-derived agonists that don’t cross the blood-brain barrier could be a useful treatment approach for a wide variety of peripheral conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome, sciatica, arthritis, and degenerative joint disease. Salvinorin A-derived antagonists could be useful in treating mood disorders, seizures, dementia, schizophrenia, and HIV-related neuropsychiatric disorders.

Therapeutically

Salvia Shows Antidepressant Properties

There are clinical reports and case studies that suggest Salvia can be effective in treating depression. In 2001, the psychologist Dr. Karl Hanes published a case report in the Journal of Clinical Psychopharmacology that described the beneficial effects of low dose salvia on intractable depression in his patients. 

He reported that some of his patients would chew small doses of salvia (½-¾ grams of leaf material) 3 times a week and had complete remission from depression, as measured by clinical HAM-D scores. The effects were maintained for at least six months with no signs of relapse or adverse side effects.

Salvinorin A has anti-addictive effects

Salvia has been used for centuries by the Mazatec for treating addiction to alcohol, inhalants, and psychostimulants like cocaine. Relatively recently, research has shed light on how salvinorin A exerts its anti-addictive effects.

Drugs of abuse (psychostimulants and opiates) increase the “feel good” neurotransmitter dopamine in a group of brain regions known as the dopaminergic reward circuitry. Over time, this leads to compulsive drug use and drug-seeking behavior. Salvinorin A has been found to decrease dopamine levels in the reward circuitry. Mechanistically, κ-opioid receptors, the molecular target of Salvia, act in an opposing manner to dopamine in order to maintain homeostasis. 

At a different scale of analysis, addictive behavior results from disruptions in interoception. Interoception refers to the awareness of bodily sensations and how those sensations connect to certain emotional states. Drugs of abuse manipulate interoception by disrupting a cortical region called the insula, a central hub for interoceptive processing. As a result, the insula ‘overvalues’ bodily states associated with the drug and its cues and ‘undervalues’ bodily states while off the drug. Therefore, the drug begins to be the only thing that is pleasurable, resulting in cravings and compulsive drug use.

Human studies by Maqueda and colleagues have demonstrated that salvinorin A profoundly alters interoception by binding with high affinity to the insula. At low doses, salvinorin A increases interoception, making the body feel more safe and trustworthy. At high doses, salvia decreases interoception, making it more difficult to attend to bodily sensations and decreasing awareness of how these sensations are linked to emotional states. In this way, salvinorin A may help to loosen the grip that drugs of abuse have on maladaptive interoceptive processing.

Salvinorin A’s anti-addictive properties have also been established at low doses in animals. One 2009 study found that Salvinorin A reduces cocaine-induced drug-seeking behavior in rats. This was seen as fewer lever presses to self-administer cocaine in a conditioned place preference paradigm. 

As a result of these promising findings, synthetic analogs have been created from salvinorin A that also acts on the κ-opioid receptor system. These potential novel treatments for addiction can be tailored to last longer in the body, potentially alleviating drug use and relapse into drug-seeking. 

Spiritually (Developmentally)

As an entheogenic plant, Salvia opens up dimensions of the psyche that are otherwise inaccessible. Salvia induces visionary states of consciousness in part by inhibiting a part of the brain known as the claustrum. The claustrum connects cortical and subcortical regions and has been called the “conductor of consciousness” by Francis Crick. It is a densely connected structure that integrates various cortical inputs (color, sound touch) into one continuum of experience, rather than layers of singular events. Salvia can, therefore, be an incredibly insightful tool to explore consciousness, leading to significant personal transformation if the insights are attended to and integrated.

Many individuals find that Salvia trips can break down habitual thought patterns and expose old traumas that can be healed. This makes Salvia a potentially effective adjunct to psychotherapeutic practices. Low doses of Salvia can help foster new perspectives, help with attunement to feelings in the body, and enhance one’s connection with nature. In a 2015 interview, the prominent Salvia researcher Daniel Siebert stated, “Salvia is especially useful as a tool for gaining insight and clarity when one feels confused about one’s life path or relationships.” 

Salvia may also be used to enhance spiritual practices as well. In 2000, MAPS (Multidisciplinary Association of Psychedelic Studies) funded research into the use of low dose Salvia as an aid for long-time meditators. Within a group meditation setting, the researchers administered dried leaves in doses ranging from 0.5-2.0 grams. While 0.5g had little effect, the meditators found the 1g dose led to a clearer mind, less distracting thoughts, and easier concentration. The 1.5g and 2g doses were found to be too strong, producing dream-like states and time distortion that inhibited meditation.

7. Salvia Today 

Trends in Use Today

Initially, Salvia’s online visibility and ease of access in the early 2000s created a surge in popularity in the United States and throughout the world. According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, the lifetime prevalence of Salvia use grew 83% from 2006 to 2008, from 0.7% to 1.3%. The highest rate of users was between the ages of 18 and 25.

More recently, the trends in salvia use have been decreasing in parallel with legislative bans. From 2009-2015, past year salvia use decreased by 90%

Surveys of college students have shown that salvia remains somewhat of a fringe drug compared to cannabis and the classic psychedelics. In 2008, Lange and colleagues surveyed 1,571 college students and found that 4.4% of them reported using salvia once within the past year. A similar 2008 survey by Khey and colleagues found that only 22.6% of students have ever heard of Salvia divinorum. Among those that have tried it, 51% of them reported they would not try it again. 

Current Studies and Research

At Johns Hopkins University (JHU), Rolland Griffiths and colleagues conducted a study in 2010 on the effects of vaporized salvinorin A in 4 healthy adults. The study examined the subjective and physiological effects of salvinorin A across a wide dose range (0.375 μg/kg to 21 μg/kg). Similar to the classic psychedelics, salvinorin A produced mystical-type experiences, with higher ratings for higher doses. 

This was measured by a 32-item questionnaire (also used in psilocybin trials) called the Mysticism Scale. Interestingly, the researchers found several commonalities in the Salvia experience. In the participants, salvinorin A produced intense vestibular hallucinations, revisitings of childhood memories, cartoon-like imagery, and contact with entities. In addition, the study found salvinorin A to have a safe physiological profile, similar to the findings of previous research. 

A different lab at JHU conducted a study on sublingual salvinorin A. In this study, the researchers administered various doses (250-4000mcg) of sublingual salvinorin A and then measured subjective effects with multiple self-report scales. The researchers found a lack of effect across all doses. They suggest that sublingual bioavailability is low and future studies should use different routes of administration. 

Another ongoing study at JHU is looking into the effects of inhaled salvinorin A on brain function. Researchers are using functional magnetic resonance imaging to characterize brain activity and connectivity of 13 participants. 

At Yale University, an ongoing study is evaluating the effects of salvinorin A in 41 healthy individuals. This study is interested in parsing out the psychotomimetic (psychosis-mimicking) effects of salvinorin A.

Drug Testing Info

Neither basic nor extended drug tests can detect salvinorin A and its metabolites. Currently, salvinorin A can only be detected through the use of specialized lab tests.

Events and More

The American ethnobotanist Daniel Siebert lists Salvia-related events on his website. Daniel Siebert is one of the leading experts on Salvia divinorum, having studied the plant for over twenty years. A wealth of other information on Salvia is available at the link, including podcasts, interviews, scientific articles, experience archives, and much more.

8. Salvia FAQ 

Is Salvia Legal?

Salvia divinorum and salvinorin A are unlisted in the Schedules of the United Nations Drug Conventions. However, many countries have included S. divinorum and salvinorin A in their lists of controlled substances. 

An increasing number of states and countries are considering legislation to ban it. In some countries such as Iceland, Norway, Finland, and Estonia, the plant is controlled under drug legislation. Reference the “Legality” section for a detailed state-wide and international breakdown.

What Does Salvia Do?

Salvia divinorum has been used for centuries as a healing and divinatory herb, producing profound, visionary states of consciousness. Through its effects on the kappa opioid receptor system, the Salvia experience is characterized by ego-dissolution, changes in body ownership, dissociation, visual distortions, vestibular hallucinations, tactile hallucinations, and more.

How Long Does a Salvia Trip Last?

A Salvia trip typically lasts between 5-15 minutes. After effects may then last for an additional 20-40 minutes. Orally-ingested Salvia tends to come up more slowly and last longer, anywhere from 30 minutes to 1.5 hours. 

What Does Salvia Look Like?

Salvia divinorum looks similar to other salvias in the mint family. It can grow to over three feet in height, has hollow square stems, large green leaves, and white flowers with violet calyxes.

How Long Does Salvia Stay in Your System?

Compared to other drugs, Salvinorin A has a short elimination half-life. The detection window is thought to be approximately 12 hours, however, it only shows up on specialized drug tests.

Is Salvia Dangerous?

Salvia divinorum is considered to be low toxicity and without long-term adverse side effects. No fatal overdoses have been reported, and it’s not known to be addictive. The most dangerous aspect of Salvia is improper set and setting. Having an adequately-prepared trip environment (no hazardous objects) and being with a trip sitter is crucial for a safe experience. Salvia should be avoided if there is a history of or predisposition to psychosis.

Where to Buy Salvia?

Depending on regional legality, S. divinorum plants, leaves, leaf extracts, and tinctures can be purchased from internet vendors and head shops. 

Disclaimer: Salvia divinorum is potentially categorized as an illegal drug. Reality Sandwich is not encouraging the use of this drug where it is prohibited. However, we believe that providing information is imperative for the safety of those who choose to explore this substance.  This guide is intended to give educational content and should in no way be viewed as medical recommendations.

RS Contributing Author: Dylan Beard 

Dylan Beard is a freelance science writer and editor based in the beautiful Pacific Northwest. After finishing his physics degree and dabbling in neuroscience research at UC Santa Barbara in 2017, he returned to his first love: writing. As a long-term fan of the human brain, he loves exploring the latest research on psychedelics, nootropics, psychology, consciousness, meditation, and more. When not writing, you can probably find him on hiking trails around Oregon and Washington or listening to podcasts. Feel free to follow him on Insta @dylancb88.


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