Salvia 101

Salvia 101

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Name: Salvia divinorum

Botanical family: Lamiaceae (mint)

Genus: Salvia (sage)

Other names: Diviner’s Sage, ska Maria Pastora, Sage of the Seers, Magic Mint, Sally D

Drug type: Salvia is a Psychoactive, a drug that temporarily alters brain function by acting on the central nervous system. Within that category, salvia is a hallucinogen, because it distorts thinking and sensory perception, and it is also an entheogen, a drug used for religious or spiritual rituals.

History: Traditionally grown and used by Mazatec shamans in Oaxaca, Mexico. Salvia is unusual in that it is a cultigen, a type of plant that is only found in its domesticated form, and not wild. Salvia was first written about in 1939, but it wasn’t until the 1990s that its psychoactive ingredient, salvinorin A, was isolated.

Chemistry: Salvinorin A is the strongest naturally occurring hallucinogen; also a unique vision-causing drug.

How to obtain it: While it’s still legal, salvia can be purchased online, either through sites like (which has a detailed user’s guide) or on eBay. It can also be found at some head shops. I bought a gram of 20X strength salvia for $60 from a local store. Average online prices range from $10 to $15 for a gram of the lowest strength, to $96.99 for a gram of salvia advertised as 40X. One website sells the dry leaves in bulk: a pound for $148.95 and $248.95 for a kilo. In addition, plants can be purchased from specialty nurseries, allowing you to grow it at home.

How to take it: Salvia comes in three forms: dried leaves, “extracts,” the most common form (dried leaves enhanced to different strengths with salvinorin A), and tinctures (salvinorin A in alcohol).

The most common way to take salvia is by smoking it in a pipe or water bong. The plain leaves are mild and it takes a fair amount to get any effect. Most people smoke the significantly stronger extracts.

Salvia can also be taken orally, causing milder effects that last longer. The only hitch is that stomach acids destroy salvinorin if it is swallowed, so the plain dried leaves must be held in the mouth like chewing tobacco. This allows the juices to be absorbed by the mouth. The same thing can be done with tinctures. Additionally, tinctures can be added to water or just placed under the tongue, but must be held in the mouth to be effective.

Warnings: So far, there is no sign that salvia is toxic or addictive, according to several scientific studies, but some people do find the effects unpleasant and there are numerous anecdotes connecting it with dysphoric and irrational behavior. It is best to take salvia with someone, and of course, never drive while on it.

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