What Is Salvia Divinorum?

Salvia Divinorum Explained

A member of the mint family, salvia divinorum is native to the Sierra Mazateca Mountains of Mexico. In its indigenous region, native people have been using it as a tool for healing and religious rituals for many centuries. It has been likened to marijuana in that it has a psychoactive element that can produce mild to intense hallucinogenic effects.

Unlike marijuana, though, it has not yet been classified under any of the DEA’s drug schedules, though it has been imported to the US and is being grown in a few places around the country. In this overview, we will discuss a few details about this drug, what it is, and its history, as well as street names to help identify it and other information.

Drug Details – What Is Salvia Divinorum?

As we mentioned a moment ago, salvia divinorum is a member of the mint family. It also contains salvinorin A, a chemical that alters the user’s brain chemistry temporarily, causing them to hallucinate. The federal government has not yet made a decision on the legality of salvia, but due to its potentially intense hallucinogenic properties, the DEA has added it to the list of drugs of concern as a potential risk to the public. Also, some states have passed local laws banning its use.

Salvia can be used in a few different ways:

  • Drying and smoking the leaves, as with marijuana.
  • Chewing fresh salvia leaves.
  • Vaporizing dried leaves and inhaling the vapor.
  • Crushing the leaves and mixing them into a beverage.

A Brief History of Salvia

Though salvia divinorum has been used by indigenous people for centuries, the earliest recorded use was in 1938 by Jean B. Johnson, who had heard that Mazatecs were using the leaves of the plant in a tea to induce visions. Johnson and his father-in-law recorded the tea preparation, and in 1962 psychedelics researcher Albert Hoffmann and R. Gordon Wasson experimented with it. Hoffmann called it “a less desirable substitution” for tea made with psilocybin mushrooms.

Not much research was done with the plant beyond that until 2002 when it was discovered that it actually reacts with the brain’s kappa opiate receptor (KOR) site, which regulates human perception.

Street Names for Salvia Divinorum

Salvia divinorum is most commonly referred to as:

  • Shepherdess’ Herb
  • Salvia
  • Magic Mint
  • Sally-D
  • Diviner’s Sage
  • Diviner’s Mint
  • Sister Salvia
  • Lady Salvia

Side Effects of Using Salvia Divinorum

Some of the side effects of salvia that concern the DEA and other governmental entities include:

  • Dizziness
  • Nausea and/or vomiting
  • Loss of coordination
  • Slowed heart rate
  • Lowered blood pressure
  • Chills
  • Awkward speech patterns
  • Slurred speech

Although it has apparently been in use by indigenous people in Mexico for hundreds of years, there is not yet enough data to determine whether or not prolonged use of salvia will have any negative physical or mental health effects.

What Does the High From Salvia Feel Like?

Upon smoking or chewing salvia, users report having intense hallucinations in which they feel as though they are floating, flying, spinning, or even traveling through time and space. Users who ingest salvia by eating it or drinking it in a beverage have milder hallucinations, as the digestive system breaks down the active ingredient and any exposure to the salvinorin A happens in the mouth and esophagus.

Whatever the method of ingesting the drug, it seems that visual hallucinations caused by salvia can be ended by interrupting them with light and noise.

Though salvia is technically legal in much of the United States, that may not be the case for much longer. The DEA will continue to research this drug to determine if it is a risk to the public and/or if it should be placed in one of their drug schedules.

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