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1. Salvia Divinorum 2. Botany3. Common names4. Traditional use of Ska Marìa Pastora 5. How can you use salvia?6. Dried leaves7. Smoking an extraction of salvia8. Effects9. Active ingredients10. Salvinorin A in the brain11. Warning

Salvia Divinorum

Salvia divinorum is a plant with psychedelic properties: nowadays famous but also notorious for its strong hallucinations and intense trip experience. Salvia divinorum is native to Oaxaca, Mexico and has a long history of traditional use here, by Mazatec medicine men. This sacred plant brought them visions and enabled them to detect diseases and come into contact with the deceased and gods. Salvia contains the most potent natural hallucinogenic substance known on earth. 


Salvia divinorum is a plant from the mint family (Lamiaceae). Salvia officinalis, or sage, also belongs to this family. It has large, green leaves, which also contain the active ingredients. These are about ten to thirty centimeters long and oval in shape. They are free of hairs. The stem of the plant is square and hollow inside. This stem breaks off quite easily, after which the plant produces new roots and spreads. Occasionally she gets small white flowers with purple calyxes. When the plant was first described botanically by Epling and Játiva, there was some confusion about the flowers. They described that the plant contained blue petals, based on the dry material they had with them, they were led by an erroneous description of Hofmann and Wasson. They thought that the flowers were blue purple with a white crown, not realizing that they had unopened flowers in front of them, only the calyx was visible. The flowers in the wild almost never produce seed, and the reason for this is still largely unknown. The plant produces hardly any pollen. Researchers suspect that it has to do with inbreeding or that it has to do with the hybrid nature of the plant. As mentioned before, it propagates by making new roots when parts of the plant break down, through cloning. 

Originally the plant grows in the isolated, enclosed cloud forest. This is a tropical and humid forest that is habitat for many organisms that thrive best in a warm and wet climate. Salvia divinorum likes to grow in the shade. It grows up to one meter high. It is not known whether Salvia divinorum was previously cultivated by humans or reproduced on its own.

In 1962 Albert Hofmann and ethnomycologist R. Gordon Wasson went to Mexico together to research the ritual practices of the indigenous people with psychoactive plants. Their research revolved around Salvia divinorum and they travelled through the Sierra Mazatec. However, they could not find any living plants and had to seek the help of the Mazatec people, who offered them plants for research. They sent these to the aforementioned researchers Epling and Játiva, who further identified the plant. They also gave it the name Salvia divinorum, named after the sacred use of the plant.

Common names

Salvia, Diviners Mint, Ska Marìa Pastora, Lady Salvia

Traditional use of Ska Marìa Pastora 

Medicine men and women of the Mazatecs used salvia as a way to get in touch with the divine. As healers they were able to help patients with various diseases. Nowadays this traditional culture still exists in this area of Mexico and the plant is used to detect diseases, to clarify them and to get information about what steps have to be taken to be cured. How long they have been doing this has never been clarified. Some sources suggest that the beginning of its use dates back to after Europeans first discovered the Americas. This is because of the name of the plant, where the indigenous people called Marìa and 'shepherdess' (Ska). Sheep hats and the Virgin Mary were not known before the arrival of the Europeans. 

Traditionally the use of the plant was only done with the fresh leaves. It was chewed on to make the active ingredients available to the body. These are then absorbed through the mucous membranes of the mouth. This way is also called 'quid', where the leaves are held in the mouth like a ball for a long time, usually pressed into a cheek. In this way, the main ingredient Salvinorin A can best be absorbed. When one chewed the leaves sufficiently and long enough, a change in consciousness occurred, which manifested itself more slowly. Chewing the fresh leaves causes a gradual onset of the hallucinogenic effects, about 10 to 30 minutes after ingestion the trip starts and can last about 30 minutes to an hour and a half, a lot longer than when the plant is smoked. When the leaves had given off their potency, they were spit out. 

Another traditional method consists of crushing fresh leaves to obtain an extraction. This is then mixed with water and drunk as an infusion. For this method 20 to 80 leaves are used. This depends on the size of the leaves and the desired strength of the trip. 

How can you use salvia?

Salvia has become well known among western psychedelic users. Because of its powerful effects and unique trip experience, but also because of its mysterious character. Even science doesn't know what the exact mechanism of action of this plant is. Of course it is recommended to approach the plant respectfully. An extract is many times more potent than the fresh leaves. Smoking salvia also gives a different kind of experience.

Nowadays there are other ways to use salvia. Since it is difficult to get a Saliva plant (and therefore the fresh leaves) Smartshops sell other forms of the plant. For example the dried leaves, or various extractions. These are only suitable for experienced psychonauts!

Dried leaves

To get closest to the traditional way of consumption, the dried leaves can be soaked in cold water. Then the water can be drunk and the soaked leaves can be chewed further in the mouth, so that most of the active ingredients can be absorbed. Since most of the active ingredients are not absorbed well by the stomach, it is important to keep the plant in the mouth for as long as possible, so that it can be absorbed through the mucosa.  In this way the effects come on slower and have a more gradual effect. Dried leaves can also be smoked, but usually an extract is chosen to intensify the effect. 

Smoking an extraction of salvia

There are several extractions available, ranging from 5 X to 20 X extract. This indicates how much of the active main ingredient (Salvinorin A) the extract contains compared to the untreated leaves. This is not absolutely measurable.

These are only available for experienced psychonauts. It is possible to smoke these extractions using a bong or pipe. Use a small pipe and take sieves with fine meshes so the extract doesn't fall between them. To release the active ingredients a high temperature is needed, about 240 degrees Celcius. The use of a torch lighter is recommended because this is the best way to heat the material. Smoking ensures that the effects will come on very quickly, within a minute one can already experience the most intense peak that can last for about five minutes and then in fifteen minutes an ever milder experience until one lands back and experiences reality again within about twenty minutes. Although this is a relatively short trip, one doesn't experience it that way. Since the concept of time can fade and lose its meaning, things happen in a trip with salvia that would take much longer 'in reality'. 


Salvia causes unique effects that cannot be compared well with other psychedelics, such as psilocybe mushrooms, or mescaline cacti. In addition, the effects of the plant have not been studied sufficiently to date, resulting in a too limited overview of the potential effects. From the different experience stories of users that have been published, it is clear that the majority of them consider a salvia trip to be difficult to compare with other psychedelic experiences. 

Active ingredients

The active main component in Salvia divinorum, the substance salvinorin A, was isolated only relatively recently, in the early 1990s. It also contains salvinorin B, albeit to a lesser extent (4% compared to 96%). Salvinorin is the strongest natural psychedelic substance known on earth. From 250 micrograms its first effects are already noticeable and 1 mg provides a very strong experience. 

A big difference between salvinorin and other natural psychedelic substances, salvinorin is not an alkaloid (a natural substance consisting of nitrogen compounds), but a diterpene. This molecule consists only of hydrogen, nitrogen and acid atoms. For this reason, it cannot be detected in urine tests, for example, because these are only focused alkaloids. 

Most likely salvia contains other active ingredients that are not known or proven so far. Due to the recent start of research into the active ingredients, a lot of research is still needed to give more clarity about the effect.

Salvinorin A in the brain

The mechanism of action of salvinorin A is still mysterious. It is known that the substance acts on the kappa-opioid receptors. These receptors are also related to opiates, such as morphine. Salvinorin A binds to these receptors as a so-called kappa-opioid receptor agonist. However, there is a big difference between the action of opiates and the active substances in Saliva: the former mainly trigger the mu receptors. This ensures that opiates are only slightly hallucinogenic and have an addictive effect. This is in contrast to salvinorin, which behaves like a selective kappa agonist. Because of this it stimulates the kappa receptors (which are not addictive and cause hallucinations) and not the mu receptors. 


Because of the strong character of the psychedelic substance salvinorin, the chance of a too strong experience (or a bad trip) is higher. Therefore, measure the dose accurately and always start with a very small amount. Especially when using an extract, start with the lowest possible concentration, the 5 X extract.  

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