Salvia divinorum

Salvia divinorum is available for purchase in the online smartshop.

What is Salvia?

Salvia Divinorum Salvia divinorum is a soft-leaved green plant, native to Southern Mexico, which contains a powerful psychoactive chemical known as Salvinorin. Salvia divinorum has been used traditionally in Mexico for healing and divination and became available in the underground psychedelic culture around the world starting in the early 1990's. There are many species and varieties within the genus 'Salvia' and plants commonly found in garden stores are almost certainly not Salvia divinorum unless specifically labelled as such.

Strong effects can be difficult to attain from smoking dried leaf, but extracts and potency-bred leaves can cause special and sometimes completely enfolding entheogenic mind-states.


Salvia divinorum is a psychoactive plant in the Labiatae family (sometimes called the 'mint family'). So far as is known, it is endemic only to the Mazatec region of the Sierra Madre mountains in Oaxaca, Mexico, also known as the Sierra Mazateca (Ott 1996). Some Mazatec curanderos and curanderas (medicine men and women, frequently referred to as shamans) use Salvia divinorum as an aid to prophecy in healing rituals. The plant’s species name, divinorum, is said to mean "of the seer", (Ott 1996) and refers to its traditional use in medicinal divination (learning the cause or identification of an illness).

Interestingly, Dr Albert Hofmann, who along with R. Gordon Wasson originally brought a cutting of the plant out of Mexico in 1962, remarked: "... Salvia divinorum... is a wrong name, bad Latin; it should actually be 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'." (Grof & Hofmann 2001).

However, Salvia divinorum was named by the botanist Carl Epling, who probably had a better handle on Latin than Albert Hofmann. Hildegarde of Bingen’s "Liber divinorum operum", translates as "The book of divine works". Although there was a rush to publish the identity of the plant, the naming debate is more of a trivial footnote than a substantive problem with its botanical name.

Salvia divinorum was first recorded in Western literature in 1939 by Jean Basset Johnston while studying psilocybin mushroom use in Mexico among the Mazatecs. R. Gordon Wasson continued to document its use between 1951 and 1962 and confirmed its psychoactivity on himself. The use of Salvia divinorum likely dates back far into early Central American history, but documentation is so far very slim. Salvia remained an obscure entheogen until the mid-1990s when Daniel Siebert and others began self-experimentation and sales of the leaf began over the net.


Salvia divinorum is a type of sage. Generally, sages belong to the genus Salvia. There are about 900 different Salvia species, including many ornamental garden sages and Salvia officinalis, the common cooking sage. Salvia is a genus in the mint family (Labiatae) Salvia divinorum is literally the sage (Salvia) of the diviners (divinorum). The plant has a characteristic weak 'mousy-but-minty' aroma. It is a native of a small area in Oaxaca, Mexico, growing in mountainous lands where the Mazatec Indian people dwell.


Salvinorin A and salvinorin B are naturally occurring chemicals which are not structurally similar to any other common psychoactives.
Of these only salvinorin A is found psychoactive. It works on the kappa-opioid receptor system.


Salvia divinorum produces unique effects that are difficult to accurately describe by comparing them to those produced by other psychoactive plants or drugs. The primary psychoactive chemical in Salvia divinorum is salvinorin A, but there may be other minor chemicals that affect its action. Effects range from very light, at lower doses, to overwhelmingly strong at higher doses. Also the method of ingestion influences the strongness and duration of the effects. While Salvia divinorum's effects are usually grouped with other visionary-class psychoactives such as smoked DMT, its effects are so radically different that such comparisons can often just lead to misunderstandings. Some effects that have been reported are:

  • Loss of physical coordination
  • Uncontrollable laughter
  • Visual alterations or visions
  • Experiencing multiple realities
  • A contemplative sense of peace
  • Sense of profound understanding
  • Dream-like veneer over the world
  • Sense of total confusion or madness
  • Seeing or becoming part of a tunnel
  • Loss of sense of awareness as an individual
  • Experiencing a "non-Euclidean" geometry
  • Sense of flying, floating, twisting, or turning
  • Feeling of being immersed in an energy field
  • Feeling of being connected to a larger "whole"
  • Feeling of being underground or underwater
  • Appearing to travel to other places and/or times
  • Becoming inanimate objects (a wall, stairs, a couch, etc.)
  • Viewing patterns or shapes that are tube-like, snake-like, or worm-like

Daniel Siebert made a S-A-L-V-I-A Experiential Rating Scale that shows the variety of effects that can appear when using salvia.

Level - 1 "S" stands for SUBTLE effects. A feeling that "something" is happening, although it is difficult to say just what. Relaxation and increased sensual appreciation may be noted. This mild level is useful for meditation and may facilitate sexual pleasure.

Level - 2 "A" stands for ALTERED perception. Colors and textures are more pronounced. Appreciation of music may be enhanced. Space may appear of greater or lesser depth than is usual. But visions do not occur at this level. Thinking becomes less logical and more playful; short-term memory difficulties may be noted.

Level - 3 "L" stands for LIGHT visionary state. Closed-eye visuals (clear imagery with eyes closed: fractal patterns, vine-like and geometric patterns, visions of objects and designs). The imagery is often two dimensional. If open-eyed visual effects occur, these are usually vague and fleeting. At this level, phenomena similar to the hypnagogic phenomena that some people experience at sleep onset occur. At this level, visions are experienced as "eye candy" but are not confused with reality.

Level - 4 "V" stands for VIVID visionary state. Complex three-dimensional realistic appearing scenes occur. Sometimes voices may be heard. With eyes open, contact with consensual reality will not be entirely lost, but when you close your eyes you may forget about consensus reality and enter completely into a dreamlike scene. Shamanistic journeying to other lands--foreign or imaginary; encounters with beings (entities, spirits) or travels to other ages may occur. You may even live the life of another person. At this level you have entered the shaman's world. Or if you prefer: you are in "dream time." With eyes closed, you experience fantasies (dream like happenings with a story line to them). So long as your eyes are closed you may believe they are really occurring. This differs from the "eye candy" closed-eye imagery, of level 3.

Level - 5 "I" stands for IMMATERIAL existence. At this level one may no longer be aware of having a body. Consciousness remains and some thought processes are still lucid, but one becomes completely involved in inner experience and looses all contact with consensual reality. Individuality may be lost; one experiences merging with God/dess, mind, universal consciousness, or bizarre fusions with other objects--real or imagined (e.g. experiences such as merging with a wall or piece of furniture). At this level it is impossible to function in consensual reality, but unfortunately some people do not remain still but move around in this befuddled state. For this reason a sitter is essential to ensure the safety of someone voyaging to these deep levels. To the person experiencing this the phenomenon may be terrifying or exceedingly pleasant; but to an outside observer the individual may appear confused or disoriented.

Level 6 - "A" stands for AMNESIC effects. At this stage, either consciousness is lost, or at least one is unable to later recall what one had experienced. The individual may fall, or remain immobile or thrash around; somnambulistic behaviour may occur. Injuries can be sustained without pain being felt; on awakening, the individual will have no recollection of what he/she did, experienced, or said in level 6. People cannot recall what they experience in this very deep trance state. This is not a desirable level because nothing can latter be recalled of the experience.

So, the duration of effects depends on the method of consumption and the amount consumed. It has been reported lasting from about 15 minutes to over 3 hours. Generally, smoked salvia effects come on quickly, peak for 5-20 minutes, and then begin to subside. The oral and sublingual methods take longer to begin effects and last longer. Although there is a small number of people who report effects lasting over 4 hours from oral/quid use, the large majority of people find most effects taper off before 2 hours.

Medical use

The traditional Mazatec use of Salvia divinorum, as discussed in papers by Valdés et al., involves medicinal use as well as the better-known divinatory use. In Valdés et al. 1983, the authors describe the following medical uses:

-It helps one defecate and urinate. It stops diarrhoea (the plant apparently is believed to regulate eliminatory functions).

  • It is given to the sick, old or dying to revive them or alleviate their illness. People who are pale, white and almost ready to die (they have "anaemia") may recuperate on taking Salvia.
  • It may be taken to relieve headaches and rheumatism (however, when taken in the high doses that induce visions, it often leaves one with a headache the following morning).
  • There is a semi-magical disease known as panzon de barrego (sic), or a swollen belly, which is supposedly caused by a curse from a brujo, or evil sorcerer. The victim's midsection swells up due to a "stone" that has been put inside them. Taking the Salvia causes elimination of this "stone" and the belly shrinks down to size. The researchers met an old shaman who showed them his wrinkled middle and said he had cured himself of the "disease" by the use of "la María". Don Alejandro confirmed the "illness" and the "cure".

Salvia divinorum may be more likely to become used as an aid in underground psychotherapy, or perhaps the finding of its kappa-opioid receptor affinity will spur other areas of medical use, but at this time (September 2002), there is no accepted medical use by any major medical association.

Salvia varieties

Besides the dried leaves, there are (standardized) extracts made from Salvia. A standardized extract is one in which the active compound - in this case, salvinorin A - is extracted from the plant and purified and then redeposited back onto the dried leaves. A standardized extract contains pure crystalline salvinorin A, a very rare compound that few people have ever seen and even fewer people have ever produced. It takes a fair amount of chemistry knowledge and skill to produce pure salvinorin A, so a standardized extract may cost a little more, but it is well worth it. Many of the other Salvia extracts on the market are crude extracts. Crude extracts are made by soaking salvia leaves in toxic solvents to dissolve the salvinorin A out of the leaves. The trouble is, a lot more than just the Salvinorin A gets dissolved out of the leaves, much of the plant lipids get dissolved in the solvent as well and end up in the extract and subsequently in your lungs.
Salvia extracts generally come in 5x and 10x concentrations (although other concentrations have been signalled. This means it is 5 times or 10 times as potent as dried leaf. To notice any of the above-mentioned effects, a single hit of extract may be enough at any of these concentrations.

Using Salvia Divinorum

Many people find it difficult to achieve full effects by smoking dried salvia leaves. Those who are successful generally require multiple large hits off a pipe or bong. In fact, a bong is said to be the best way to consume Salvia, because a large quantity of leaves is burned at the same time while the smoke reaches the user quickly. Smoking a joint made out of Salvia leaves is a less effective way; many leaves are required. It's hard to tell exactly what quantity of dried leaves is required to obtain optimal effects, because as with many psychoactive plants it differs from person to person.

We can say from this point that standardized extracts give the best trippy results in contrast to fresh leaves, that require enormous amounts and a more difficult preparation method. But when results are attained using fresh leaves, effects stay much longer: 40 to 60 minutes instead of 15 to 20. When using a bong 250 to 500 mg of dried leaves should be enough according to Erowid, regular smoking requires at least one gram, but expect - with this method - not much more than a regular high.

Salvia extracts generally come in 5x, 6x and 10x concentrations. Dramatically less material is required the more concentrated the extract is (10x is more concentrated than 5x). A single hit of extract may be more than enough at any of these concentrations.

Important is, when smoking the salvia leaves, that the smoke must be kept in the mouth as long as possible to let the substances do their work. This is also necessary when chewing the leaves: chew them for a long time, because the substances come from the juices that enter the body through the mouth and tongue.


Salvia divinorum is not known to be either physically addicting or likely to cause psychological dependance. As with all substances, some people will use it more frequently than they are comfortable with. There appears to be no tolerance for salvinorin A, so an experience can be extended or amplified by smoking more.

  • Never use Salvia divinorum if guns, knives, or other dangerous objects are within easy reach.
  • Never drive when taking Salvia divinorum.
  • Choose the time and place of your salvia trip carefully. Privacy and safety are essential. Be very careful about heights, and open flames such as candles. Do not answer phone calls.
  • Give thought to how much Salvia divinorum you will take, and how you take it.
  • After all Salvia divinorum smoking material is safely out, lie down in bed, on a couch, or on a carpet. You are much safer lying down than you would be stumbling around. Stay put for the rest of the salvia trip. You can trip best with your eyes closed.
  • Have a sitter (this is especially important if you are new to Salvia divinorum, taking a high dose, smoking extract, or using a very strong delivery system such as vaporization).
  • Volunteer to be a sitter for others doing a Salvia divinorum trip.
  • If you have mental health problems, don't take Salvia.
  • Practice and encourage responsible Salvia use. Don't give Salvia to minors, or to violent or unstable people. Don't share it with strangers. Know who you are giving it to and know why they want to use it.
  • Never take Salvia divinorum while at work or in public. Keep it private. Salvia is not for concerts, not for raves, not for parties.
  • Do not mix Salvia divinorum with alcohol. Avoid mixing salvia with other drugs. While experienced salvia users have experimented with combinations, these are not for beginners and are certainly riskier than just using salvia by itself.
  • Be very careful about using vaporized extracts, vaporized leaves, or smoking extract enhanced salvia divinorum leaves.These require a sitter to be present. Chewing quid or smoking leaves is much less likely to produce out of control behaviour than these are.
  • Never use pure salvinorin unless you are equipped with an ultra-accurate balance that can weigh out doses measured in micrograms, and know exactly how much you can safely take. Even if you do meet these requirements, you still should have a sitter present.</li


As with many smoked substances, some salvia users report throat and lung irritation after use. Some people also experience headaches and mild irritability following salvia use.


Salvia plants are usually propagated from rooted cuttings taken from a mother divinorum plant. This is because the divinorum plant rarely, if ever, produces viable seed, and when it does they almost never grow. There are very few strains of S. divinorum available for sale on the web and they each represent one out of fewer than 10 unique genetic species of Salvia divinorum.

Cultivating salvia is best done in a high humidity environment to grow in and often humidity tents are used, as well as plant misters. Long days, indirect sunlight and warm temperatures are also preferred by the Mexican sage. As long as it’s kept in the right environment Salvia divinorum will continue growing year round. However if grown outdoors the plant is likely to die in fall or winter. Therefore many growers use humidity chambers and tents to create the ideal environment for growing Salvia.

A simple growing guide for growing a plant from a cutting in your living room can be found on


If kept dry a standardized extract, but also the regular leaves, can be kept indefinitely. Salvinorin A is a very stable compound and will not lose any potency over time. If you are planning on storing it for long periods of time it would be best kept in a glass container and out of direct sunlight.

If you have grown your own salvia it can be dried afterwards in several ways.

  • 1. By nature. Wait until the leaves die or are shed. Gather them. Place them on a plate in a room with low humidity. Turn often. Wait until they are dry, then store.
  • 2. Salvia Tobacco. Take big, freshly picked leaves and place one atop another (like stacking sheets of paper). Then cut through the pile, making 1/2 cm. (1/4 inch) strips. Pile these on a plate into a heap. Turn them twice daily until they are dry but not crispy. Advantage: The resulting 'tobacco' is said to give a smoother smoke than thoroughly dried leaves. Disadvantage: It is possible that this slow partial drying results in weaker leaves that may not keep as long as thoroughly dried (crispy) leaves.
  • 3. Dry in a food dehydrator. These are available where small kitchen appliances are sold. Drying is very fast and thorough. Dry until the leaves, including the leaf stems, are crispy. Touch the leaves with your fingers to see if they are thoroughly dried. If they are, the leaf stems should snap if pressure is applied to it. Advantages: speed, thorough drying, and convenience.
  • 4. Oven dried salvia. Place on an oven proof dish. Oven dry in an oven set at no more than 200 degrees F (93 degrees Celsius). Advantage: speed, thorough drying, and convenience.

Links / Further reading

Sagewisdom (images on this page)

The vaults of Erowid on Salvia

Ethnopharmacology of Ska María Pastora

Daniel Siebert's S-A-L-V-I-A experiental rating scale

The latest research results on the chemistry of salvia


This article is based on the following pages:

Erowids Salvia Vault

Erowids Salvia FAQ

Sagewisdom Users Guide

Ethnopharmacology of Ska María Pastora