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Salvia divinorum

salviadivinorumSalvia divinorum is Uncontrolled at the federal level in the United States. Nonetheless, it is illegal in many states.

Addictive Potential: None

Emergency Room Visits Yearly: Unknown

Mandatory Minimum Sentence: None

Mechanism of Action: Selective Kappa Opioid Receptor Agonist


Salvia divinorum, also known as Diviner’s Sage, Magic Mint, María Pastora, Sally D, Sage of the Seers, or simply Salvia (although the genus name is shared among many plants), is a powerful psychoactive plant, a member of the sage genus and the Lamiaceae (mint) family. It has long been used as an entheogen by the indigenous Mazatec shamans for healing during spirit journeys. The plant is found in isolated, shaded and moist plots in Oaxaca, Mexico. The Latin name Salvia divinorum literally translates to “sage of the seers”. The genus name Salvia is derived from the Latin salvare, meaning “to heal” or “to save”.

Flowering Salvia divinorum

Flowering Salvia divinorum

Salvia divinorum was first found in Oaxaca Mexico where it is used by the Mazatec Indians to facilitate visions and to treat diarrhea, headaches, and a magical disease called panzon de borrego, otherwise known as swollen belly. It was first recorded in print by Jean Basset Johnson in 1939 as he was studying Mazatec shamanism. He later documented its usage and reported its effects through personal testimonials. It was not until the 1990s that the psychoactive mechanism was identified by a team led by Daniel Siebert.

The history of the plant is not known, but there are three possibilities as to its origin. Since it is found in one small area and only one indigenous group uses it, it is either native to this area, is a cultigen of the Mazatecs, or is a cultigen of another indigenous group. Wasson theorized that this plant was the mythological pipilzintzintli, the “Noble Prince” of the Aztec codices. However, this theory is not without dispute. The Aztecs were extremely knowledgeable in plant identification, and their records report that pipilzintzintli has both male and female varieties. Salvia divinorum, however, is monoecious, meaning it produces flowers of both sexes on a single plant. Skeptics of this theory report that the Aztecs would have known the difference between male and female flowers. Wasson gains validity, however, as a number of Aztec historical accounts classify plants as male or female in a metaphorical, rather than botanically anatomical manner.

The primary psychoactive constituent is a diterpenoid known as salvinorin A. Salvinorin A is a trans-neoclerodane diterpenoid. Unlike other known opioid-receptor ligands, salvinorin A is not an alkaloid — it does not contain a basic nitrogen atom. Salvinorin A also has no actions at the 5-HT(2A) serotonin receptor, the principal target responsible for the actions of classical psychedelics. Rather, research has shown that salvinorin A is a potent and selective κ (kappa) opioid receptor agonist. It is active at doses as low as 200µg, which makes salvinorin A the most potent naturally-occurring psychoactive chemical known to man.

Regarding prevalence of use, the 2006 National Survey on Drug Use and Health found that about 1.8 million people aged 12 years or older used salvia in their lifetime, and approximately 750,000 used salvia in the past year. Furthermore, findings from the 2009 Monitoring the Future Survey revealed that 5.7% of 12th graders reported using salvia in the past year.

Trip Reports:

Substance Identification:

     Ultraviolet–visible spectroscopy          
Salvinorin A Absorbs light at 210nm

(Info provided by Nontell et al., 2010)

Side Effects and Adverse Reactions:

According to Erowid (2013), some of the negative effects reported by recreational users include:

  • overly-intense experiences
  • fear, terror, and panic
  • increased perspiration
  • possible difficulty integrating experiences
  • higher doses can cause inability to control muscles and maintain balance leading to falls
  • mild to moderate headache, which usual starts after the effects dissipate

Research has also found that Salvia divinorum users have greater odds of experiencing depression and substance use disorders.  In particular, Salvia divinorum users have been found to be 1.4 times more likely than past-year alcohol or drug users who did not use Salvia divinorum to experience depression. Salvia divinorum users have also been found to be about 3–4 times more likely than past-year alcohol or drug users who did not use Salvia divinorum to have an alcohol or drug use disorder (Wu et al., 2011).

25x S. divinorum extract

1/2 g. of 25x S. divinorum extract





The NeuroSoup Trip Guide – This e-book discusses: Set, Setting, and Preparation for a Trip, Tips for Tripsitters, Aspects of the Entheogenic Experience, Working with Difficult Experiences, and Integration. Adverse psychological reactions, like flashbacks and HPPD, may potentially be avoided with proper preparation before and integration after entheogenic journeys. Thus, this e-book serves the purpose of harm reduction education. For clarity, NeuroSoup does not advocate the use of illegal, quasi-legal, or legal drugs. All substances that affect the central nervous system (legal or illegal) can have side effects, adverse reactions, and negative interactions with other drugs. Abstinence is always the best way to protect one’s health.

Sage Spirit by Martin Ball – Salvia divinorum is a unique and profoundly powerful visionary herb from the Mazatec region of Mexico. Now widely available in the western world via the internet, but still little understood, this legal entheogen is becoming ever more popular among those who follow the shamanic path of plant based spirituality. In this work, artist, musician, writer and shamanic explorer, Martin Ball, navigates his way through the strange world of sage space, from Burning Man to overtone singing and cosmic serpents, bringing back guidance and advice for the use of Salvia divinorum as a true entheogen and ritual sacrament. Sage Spirit is bound to be a valuable resource for all those interested in exploring salvia responsibly as a spiritual catalyst and consciousness-expanding agent of personal transformation. Filled with personal accounts, practical advice and philosophical reflections, this book is a must for anyone wanting to learn more about this amazing visionary plant.

Recommended In-Print Books:

Salvia Divinorum: Doorway to Thought-Free Awareness

The Encyclopedia of Psychoactive Plants: Ethnopharmacology and Its Applications

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