BlogIs Salvia a Miracle Drug?
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Is Salvia a Miracle Drug?


Many parents and legislators view the popular psychedelic Salvia divinorum as a public health menace. But the drug has an unlikely set of supporters: scientists. Many medical researchers view the plant as a potential medical marvel. They believe that rigorous scientific study of salvia could lead to medical breakthroughs yielding new treatments for addiction, depression, cancer, and even HIV.

If lawmakers criminalize salvia at the state or federal level, the ban could cripple salvia research in this country [the USA] before it has a chance to make any headway, says Dr. John Mendelson, a pharmacologist. With federal financing, Mendelson is studying the impact of salvia on humans at the California Pacific Medical Center Research Institute.

"Salvinorin A is a totally unique compound, unlike opioids and other hallucinogens," Mendelson says. "We've never seen anything like it before."

Even ten years ago, scientists had paid little attention to salvia. That changed when researchers isolated the active compound in salvia and discovered that it was an extremely powerful short-acting hallucinogen with no known side effects or addictive properties, Mendelson says.

In addition, salvia differs from other psychoactive substances in interacting with specific receptors in the brain that the other drugs don't affect. This unique physiological reaction makes salvia attractive to researchers.

Mendelson says that salvia research could lead to drugs that activate the specific brain receptors engaged by the substance, and block pain without risk of addiction.

Other proposals by medical researchers seeking NIH funding would study salvia in connection with drug dependency, HIV, hepatitis B and C, and depression.

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