Drugs:Fact and Fiction/Salvia

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A Salvia divinorum plant.

Salvia (Sage) is a common perennial herb that grows throughout the world. The plant grows to be several feet tall and has large light-green leaves. Salvia is a member of the mint family, and is considered a common garden plant. Most common forms of Salvia can be found in plant nurseries. They are not hallucinogenic and will only give users a headache if smoked.

Diviner's Sage, Salvia divinorum - commonly refered to as "salvia" - is one of the hundreds of species of the Salvia genus. It is not native to any place, although it is commonly grown in some parts of Mexico, and now grows wild in some parts of the Sierra Mazatec region.


Although some users take salvia recreationally at a very low dosage, it is not a "party drug." Daniel Siebert, ethnobotanist and salvia advocate, remarks, "...salvia is not 'fun' in the way that alcohol or cannabis can be. If you try to party with salvia, you will probably not have a good experience." He recommends that it be used for meditation, or other spiritual pursuits. [1]

The active chemical - salvinorin A - is the strongest naturally occurring psychoactive known to date. It has been used by natives for thousands of years to seek divine spiritual insight. The internet brought the plants psychoactive qualities to wider attention. In recent years several countries have introduced legislation to make prepared forms of the plant illegal. It remains legal in most of North America because of the lack of media attention, and the very small abuse potential. (See legality section below.)

There is no known lethal dosage of Salvia divinorum. However, it is very strongly recommended that a trip sitter be present. Because of its short-lasting effects (when smoked), users can take turns being a sitter.

Before setting forth to explore the potential of this substance, please read this entire page!


This substance is illegal in Australia, Denmark, Finland, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, Italy, Spain, Germany, Belgium and Brazil.[2] It is legal in many other countries, including Austria, France, and has differing levels of legality/illegality in different states of the USA. As of 2017, it is illegal to possess, distribute, or sell Salvia in Kansas, Delaware, Florida, Tennessee, Texas, Illinois, Louisiana, Missouri, Montana[3], North Dakota, and Oklahoma. It is legal for individuals over the age of 21 to buy, possess and use in California, but requirements re: it's retailing demand diligent current research.

Methods of Ingestion[edit]

Dried salvia leaves.

Salvia can be ingested in several ways that produce varying effects. A large amount of leaves can be chewed thoroughly to produce light but long lasting effects. More common is to smoke prepared extracts where the salvinorin A has been concentrated to several (Five to twenty-five times) the natural amount by weight. A butane torch is recommended to vaporize all of the salvinorin A, but a regular lighter is sufficient and will vaporize most of the salvinorin A. Most users find a regular lighter to be sufficient and the resulting smoke easier to keep in the lungs due to the lower temperature.

Unlike some other substances such as marijuana and tobacco, the salvinorin A doesn't become absorbed immediately, so the smoker must hold the smoke in the lungs for a short period if he or she wants to absorb all of the salvinorin A, a generally accepted time frame to hold salvia smoke in is 20-40 seconds, or however long the smoker can hold in the smoke.

Generally salvia leaves and extracts are smoked using the same paraphernalia as Cannabis. Bongs are considered best because the hits are bigger than any other widely used method of smoking. Furthermore, the water cools the smoke and makes it smoother, making the smoke easier to hold in. This in turn allows for optimum absorption of the salvinorin A.

In order to vaporize the most salvinorin A, the flame from the lighter must be held on the salvia for the duration of the inhalation, because salvinorin A has a higher vaporization temperature than, for example, THC does in the case of cannabis.

Glass pipes are also used and a "second best" to bongs, mainly due to the fact that that they allow the lighter to be held on the salvia for the duration of the hit. Pipes are ineffective in that, due to a smaller chamber, less smoke is able to be absorbed for each hit, and the smoke is hotter and more harsh than with the bong method due to lack of water filtration. It is a rule of thumb that in order to receive the same level of intoxication, one must smoke three hits of a pipe to every one hit from a bong, although experienced pipe users might argue it is also a matter of technique.

Cigarettes will work, but not to an extent where they are considered efficient, this is because it is not common practice nor is it practical to hold a flame a cigarette, by the method's very nature. Some effects will come from smoking it in a cigarette, and there is a clear period where effects peak, but they will be much milder than the other methods of smoking, and is likely only to produce either very mild hallucinations or visual distortions, or none at all. It is possible to have psychedelic substance induced closed eye visuals that can come as a fantasy (commonly referred to as a "trip") when smoking a salvia cigarette, but it is not common except in those with a high sensitivity to salvia. It is also interesting to note that the peak of effects, although milder, is notably a few minutes longer than with other smoking methods, but this may be simply because the period where effects are in their peak starts before the smoker has finished his cigarette, and continue until the normal time has passed upon completion of the cigarette. Salvia cigarettes are best when only raw dried leaves are used, as extracts are costly and seem to be less effective in cigarette form than the raw leaf.

Raw dried leaves can be smoked, but, except in users with low tolerance to salvinorin A, the full effect will not be achieved unless large amounts of leaf are smoked. The smoke is a bit harsh, and unlike most other substances, salvinorin A does not have a cumulative dosage effect - if the dosage is not completely consumed within one to two minutes, smoking further will do little to increase the effects.

Smoking salvia produces the most profound, but also the shortest lived effects. The come on starts while the smoke is in the lungs, and can last any time from 10 seconds to a minute. This seems to vary on dose and user. The come on feels like a rapid build of pressure and vibrations in the head and sometimes the body, and the speed of this pressure build can catch some users off guard and send them off on a bad "trip". It is therefore important to prepare mentally for this before smoking salvia. The peak can last anywhere from 30 seconds to 15 minutes, depending on the dosage as well as the users own response to the substance. Higher doses will typically yield longer peaks. During the peak, a user who received a full strength dose can experience numerous powerful effects, including: visual hallucinations, auditory hallucinations, hallucinations of touch, smell, and taste, visual distortion, disassociation, synaesthesia (seeing music, tasting colors), anesthetic effects, loss of memory (forgetting things like you took a substance or where you were before the trip began), introspective thinking, regression to childhood, ego death (which, contrary to some rumors, only lasts for the duration of the peak), becoming objects, the impression of seeing through walls, stimulation, intensely skewed sense of time, and a spiritual sensation of witnessing, being near, being watched by, or merging with a mysterious good or evil force greater than yourself.

All these potential effects are why some people find salvia to be too intense and do not choose to use it more than once. The after effects are much gentler and consist basically of slowly and gently coming away from the peak back into sobriety. The effects persist for about an hour and consist of initial dizziness that quickly wears off, euphoria, stimulation, a mild head buzz. Some people report artistic inclinations, a feeling of being at one with nature, and headaches. All the after effects slowly and gradually wear off as the hour progresses. Because of this it is hard to know exactly when the effects wear off completely and when they become mild to the point of being imperceptible - perhaps rather too subtle a distinction.

Traditionally, the leaves are sublingually ingested. The most common way for this to be done is what is called the quid method. This entails of wrapping 6-20 fresh leaves together in a stick form, and slowly chewing on more and more of the quid, over the period of a half hour, eventually having the whole quid in your mouth, without swallowing it. Swallowing salvia is ineffective since for all practical purposes, stomach acid breaks down salvinorin A, and you would have to swallow enormous amounts in order to receive significant effects. Sublingual absorption generally produces milder effects than smoking and requires much larger doses in order to match the intensity experienced with smoking, but produces much longer lasting effects. The come on period starts after 5 minutes and lasts 20-40 minutes; the peak lasts 40 minutes to an hour and a half, and the after effects last 3-6 hours. Sublingual absorption is also said to have more of a euphoric effect both during and after the peak. Extracts, although they can be quite costly, can also be used this way in order to cut down on the amount of bitter plant material that has to be held in the mouth. Doses for extracts can be 1.5-2 grams of 5x, 0.75-1 gram of 10x, 0.35-0.5 grams of 20x, in proportion to the strength of the extract.


Salvia is an extremely potent drug. Its effects are considered unsettling by some people, and as such, it is important to spend time preparing the setting of the use and your mindset before you use salvia. The first effects are what can be described as a building of pressure in the head, and sometimes of the body, this is sometimes accompanied by a sensation of vibration of the eyes. This is known as the 'coming on' stage, and it can last anywhere from 10 seconds to a minute, and roughly 10-20 seconds after initial inhalation or last 20-40 minutes and start after 5 minutes if sublingually ingested.

The peak can last anywhere from 30 seconds (which is rare) to 15 minutes when smoked, and can last 40 minutes to an hour and a half when sublingually ingested, and can include the following profound effects: visual hallucinations, auditory hallucinations, hallucinations of touch, smell, and taste, visual distortion, disassociation, synaesthesia (seeing music, tasting colors), anesthetic effects, loss of memory (forgetting things like you took a substance or where you were before the trip began), introspective thinking, regression to childhood, ego death (which, contrary to some rumors, only lasts for the duration of the peak), becoming objects, the impression of seeing through walls, stimulation, intensely skewed sense of time, and a spiritual sensation of witnessing, being near, being watched by, or merging with a mysterious good or evil force greater than yourself. Another effect that occurs in the peak is bouts of laughter. These laughing fits are usually labeled as involuntary, but some users claim have separated them from the other effects to submit that while they do seem to happen at random to the observer, the user will vouch that these laughing fits are almost always a response to the unusual images and scenes salvia hallucinations produce, and although this may be a knee jerk reaction, it is not what may be considered truly involuntary. Depending on the mindset and setting going into the experience, salvia's peak can be a beautiful and fun experience, or a frightening and undesirable experience. Salvia tends to be a psychotherapeutic substance in that it can bring past traumas, repressed memories, or regrets to the surface. These traumas, repressed memories, or regrets can manifest in very blatant, or very vague ways, and salvia may bring up issues of the past that you are not ready to deal with at this point in time, if there is anything like this in your past and you are not at a place where you can deal with it, salvia is not something you should use, even if in the ideal mindset and setting. If you do not have such issues unresolved in your past, and you are in the correct mindset and setting, salvia may be used as a pleasant and powerful tool for exploring your consciousness, and developing a base of insight for you to refine at a later time. In a partial-dose (a dose that is incapable of completely removing you from reality), salvia can be a great recreational psychedelic/stimulant. Although not ideal for large parties, salvia may be smoked for fun by a small group of friends. It is important to remember that salvia only works as a recreational drug in limited doses, and doses that produce a complete fantasy/trip effect would become unpleasant and potentially frightening in a recreational atmosphere, and those high doses are only good for personal exploration and insight!

The afterglow effect lasts for 30 minutes to an hour if smoked, and 3-6 hours if sublingually absorbed. It starts as initial dizziness, which leads to gently tapering off euphoria, stimulation, visual distortion, a mild head buzz. Sometimes random, short lived hallucinations occur (usually only in high doses) and some people report feeling connected with nature, artistic inclinations. Headache has been reported as an occasional undesirable after-effect.

Other important facts[edit]

  • Although the raw herb Salvia divinorum itself isn't especially potent, its psychoactive constituent salvinorin A is very potent, reaching threshold effects at 200 micrograms (0.0002 grams)
  • Salvia is non-toxic: Although it is unknown what the lethal dose (LD50) of salvinorin A is, it is known that there has never been a death directly attributable to salvia or salvinorin A toxicity This is especially reassuring because most doses do not exceed 25 milligrams, though doses of 2 grams of salvinorin A have been recorded.
  • The closest thing to a death ever being attributed to Salvia divinorum is the death of Brett Chidester of Delaware, was depressed and was using salvia. His parents claim that salvia was causing his depression, and point to the fact that he smoked salvia a few hours before he committed suicide as evidence of the link. However, salvia has never been known to cause people to manifest depression, and has never been known to since. It is far more likely that he was depressed prior to his use with salvia, and was attracted to it by the unsubstantiated claims that salvinorin A had promising anti-depressant effects that were going around at the time. If salvia played any part, it may have played a sort of catalyst role in reinforcing his depression, as mindset greatly affects experiences with salvia: if you go in to an experience depressed, it will very likely focus on depressing things. Thus it is extremely unlikely that salvia placed any thought into Brett's mind that was not already present in some form. This is a classic (and unfortunately tragic) case of why it is always said not to do salvia if you have some sort of issue. If gone unchecked as it had been for months, the end of Brett's tale probably would have been the same even if salvia hadn't been introduced. Brett's mother got a law passed in Delaware making Salvia divinorum an illegal drug there based on her son's suicide. It is a shame that a substance can get banned because of purely circumstantial connections to an event that, based on knowledge of the substance, it didn't really have.
  • Another reported salvia-related death was that of 21-year-old Ryan Santanna of Roosevelt Island. According to reports in March 2011, he "dissolved into a fit of laughter about 2 minutes after smoking salvia[...] He made animal noises, looked at [his former girlfriend] as if he couldn't see her, pushed her inside the apartment, and then ran and jumped over the balcony. [...][Carolynn Santanna] says her 21-year-old brother would have never committed suicide. Yet, without warning, he jumped off his 15th floor balcony."[1]
  • Salvia exhibits a reverse-tolerance effect - the effects of the substance become stronger with each use. It may take several uses before a user "breaks through" into the full effects of the substance.
  • If you experience no effects from smoking the substances, there are at least four explanations. The first is that you did not hold in the smoke long enough. The longer, the better. The second is that salvia has no effects on you. 5-10% of the population will not be affected by salvia at all. The third is that you did not hold the flame onto the foliage long enough and the active chemicals were not vaporized. The fourth is that you overheated the herb and destroyed too great a proportion of the salvinorin.
  • Make sure you keep the flame on the salvia and inhale as much as possible with one hit. Salvinorin A requires a lot of heat to vaporize, and if you don't supply it you are smoking plant. Conversely, it could be argued that excessive heat will incinerate the herb so thoroughly that the major portion of any salvinorin A present will be destroyed.
  • Most users report that any strength of extract over '20x' is uncomfortably too intense. The answer to this, of course, is to smoke less, preferably using a milligram scale to weigh out your doses.
  • Salvia extracts use a measurement of "x's" to label strength in comparison to the raw leaf starting material, the "x" in this system is meant to represent the multiplication "times" symbol in math, and it means literally how it reads, if it reads "10x" that means "10 times [the raw leaf]". This would be achieved by reapplying a solution of salvia extract to one tenth of the mass of extracted leaf compared to the amount of leaf from which it was originally extracted, thus giving ten times ("10x") the original concentration of salvinorin A.
  • Raw salvia leaf is on average 0.25% salvinorin A, therefore on the standardized scale for extract, pure salvinorin A would be 400x
  • Raw Salvia divinorum leaf can vary in potency based on many factors, this means that different companies have different strength starting material to produce salvia extract, as a result, one producer's 10x extract may be unbelievably strong while another's 50x may be shamefully weak, is is important to find a supplier whose extracts remain consistent than to play a guessing game with potency. Also, it may be wise to order that company's raw leaf material and check its potency yourself to know how strong to expect that company's extracts. This illustrates how the 'nX' system of assessing salvia potency is of limited usefulness and at times may be unhelpful, misleading or even dangerous.


  1. 1. Family says Ryan Santanna smoked salvia before leaping to his death on Roosevelt Island|http://7online.com/archive/8001683/