Salvia Divinorum

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Salvia divinorum
Salvia divinorum plants.
Salvia divinorum plants.
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
Division: Magnoliophyta
Class: Magnoliopsida
Order: Lamiales
Family: Lamiaceae
Genus: Salvia
Species: divinorum
Binomial name
Salvia divinorum
Epling & Játiva[1]

Salvia divinorum, also known as Diviner’s Sage,[2] ska María Pastora,[3] Sage of the Seers, or simply by the genus name, Salvia, is a powerful psychoactive herb. It is a member of the sage genus and the Lamiaceae (mint) family.[4] The Latin name Salvia divinorum literally translates to “sage of the seers”.[5] The genus name Salvia is derived from the Latin salvare, meaning “to heal” or “to save”.[6]

Salvia divinorum has a long continuing tradition of use as an entheogen by indigenous Mazatec shamans, who use it to facilitate visionary states of consciousness during spiritual healing sessions.[1] The plant is found in isolated, shaded, and moist plots in Oaxaca, Mexico. It grows to well over a meter in height, has large green leaves, and hollow square stems with occasional white and purple flowers. It is thought to be a cultigen.[7]

Its primary psychoactive constituent is a diterpenoid known as salvinorin A[8][9]—a potent κ-opioid receptor agonist. Salvinorin A is unique in that it is the only naturally occurring substance known to induce a visionary state this way. Salvia divinorum can be chewed, smoked, or taken as a tincture to produce experiences ranging from uncontrollable laughter to much more intense and profoundly altered states. The duration is much shorter than for some other more well known psychedelics; the effects of smoked salvia typically last for only a few minutes. The most commonly reported after-effects include an increased feeling of insight and improved mood, and a sense of calmness and increased sense of connection with nature—though much less often it may also cause dysphoria (unpleasant or uncomfortable mood).[10] Salvia divinorum is not generally understood to be toxic or addictive. As a κ-opioid agonist, it may have potential as an analgesic and as therapy for drug addictions.

Salvia divinorum has become increasingly well-known and more widely available in modern culture. The rise of the Internet since the 1990s has seen the growth of many businesses selling live salvia plants, dried leaves, extracts, and other preparations. During this time medical experts and accident and emergency rooms have not been reporting cases that suggest particular health concerns, and police have not been reporting it as a significant issue with regard to public order offences. Yet Salvia divinorum has attracted increasing attention from the media and some lawmakers.

Media stories generally raise alarms over salvia’s legal status, headlining, for example, with not necessarily well-supported comparisons to LSD. Parental concerns are raised by focus on salvia’s use by younger teens—the emergence of YouTube videos purporting to depict its use being an area of particular concern in this respect. The isolated and controversial case of Brett Chidester, a 17-year-old Delaware student who committed suicide in January 2006, has received continued attention. He reportedly purchased salvia from a Canadian-based Internet company some four months prior to taking his own life; his parents consequently blame this for his death. Salvia divinorum remains legal in most countries and, within the United States, legal in the majority of states. However, some have called for its prohibition. Most proposed bills have not made it into law, with motions having been voted down in committee, failed, died, or otherwise stalled. Other more recent bills are as yet still at the early proposal stage. There have not been any publicised prosecutions of anti-salvia laws in the few countries and states where it has been made illegal.


Salvia divinorum is native to certain areas in the Sierra Mazateca of Oaxaca, Mexico, where it is still used by the Mazatec Indians, primarily to facilitate shamanic visions in the context of curing or divination, but also remedially at lower doses for example as a diuretic, or to treat ailments including diarrhea, anemia, headaches, rheumatism, and a semi-magical disease known as panzón de borrego, or a swollen belly (literally, “lamb belly”).[9][11] It was first recorded in print by Jean Basset Johnson in 1939 as he was studying Mazatec shamanism.[12] He later documented its usage and reported its effects through personal testimonials.[13] It was not until the 1990s that the psychoactive mechanism was identified by a team led by Daniel Siebert.[14]

The history of the plant is not well known, but there are three possibilities as to its origin. Since it is found in one small area and only one indigenous group uses it, it is either native to this area, is a cultigen of the Mazatecs, or is a cultigen of another indigenous group.[5]

File:Salvia divinorum -1.jpg
Flowering Salvia divinorum

Gordon Wasson tentatively postulated the plant could be the mythological pipiltzintzintli, the “Noble Prince” of the Aztec codices.[15][3] Wasson’s speculation has been the subject of further debate amongst ethnobotanists, with some scepticism coming from Leander J. Valdés,[16] and counterpoints more supportive of Wasson’s theory from Jonathan Ott.[17]

The identity of another mysterious Aztec entheogen, namely that of “poyomatli”, has also been suggested as Salvia divinorum.[18] Here too there are other candidate plants, notably Cacahuaxochitl (Quararibea funebris),[19] again suggesting that there is no overall consensus.


Salvia divinorum has large green leaves, hollow square stems and white flowers with purple calyces. The plant grows to well over a meter in height.[1] Unlike other species of salvia, Salvia divinorum produces few seeds, and those seldom germinate. For an unknown reason, pollen fertility is reduced. There is no active pollen tube inhibition within the style, but some event or process after the pollen tube reaches the ovary is aberrant.[20]

Partial sterility is often suggestive of a hybrid origin, although no species have been recognized as possible parent species. The ability to grow indistinguishable plants from seeds produced by self pollination also weakens the hybrid theory of origin, instead implying inbreeding depression, or an undiscovered incompatibility mechanism. The plant is mainly propagated by cuttings or layering. Although isolated strands of Salvia divinorum exist, these are thought to have been purposely created and tended by the Mazatec people. For this reason, it is considered a true cultigen, not occurring in a wild state.[7]


The known active constituent is a trans-neoclerodane diterpenoid known as Salvinorin A, chemical formula C23H28O8.[21] It is present in the dried plant at about 0.2%.[22] Unlike other known opioid-receptor ligands, salvinorin A is not an alkaloid—it does not contain a basic nitrogen atom.[23]

When considered by mass alone, salvinorin A is the most potent naturally occurring psychoactive compound known.[24] It is active at doses as low as 200 µg.[14][21][24] Research has shown that salvinorin A is a potent and selective κ-Opioid (kappa-Opioid) receptor agonist.[25][21] It has been reported that the effects of salvinorin A in mice are blocked by κ-Opioid receptor antagonists.[26] This makes it unlikely that another mechanism contributes independently to the compound’s effects. Salvinorin A is unique in that it is the only naturally occurring substance known to induce a visionary state via this mode of action. Salvinorin A has no actions at the 5-HT2A serotonin receptor, the principal molecular target responsible for the actions of ‘classic’ hallucinogens, such as mescaline and LSD.[26]

Salvinorin’s potency should not be confused with toxicity. Rodents chronically exposed to dosages many times greater than those to which humans are exposed did not show signs of organ damage.[27]

Many other terpenoids have been isolated from Salvia divinorum, including other salvinorins and related compounds named divinatorins and salvinicins. None of these compounds has shown significant (sub-micromolar) affinity at the κ-Opioid receptor, and there is no evidence that they contribute to the plant’s psychoactivity.[28][29]


Traditional methods

Mazatec shamans crush the leaves to extract leaf juices from about 20 (about 50g) to 80 (about 200g) or more fresh leaves. They usually mix these juices with water to create an infusion or ‘tea’ which they drink to induce visions in ritual healing ceremonies.[11]

Modern methods

About half a gram of a 25x Salvia divinorum extract.

Salvia divinorum is becoming more widely known about and used in modern culture. The National Survey on Drug Use and Health, an annual US based survey sponsored by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), for 2006 estimated that about 1.8 million persons aged 12 or older had used Salvia divinorum in their lifetime, of which approximately 750,000 had done so in that year.[30]


Dry leaves can be smoked in a pipe, but most users prefer the use of a water pipe to cool the smoke.[31] The temperature required to release salvinorin from the plant material is quite high (about 240°C). A regular flame will work, but the direct application of something more intense, such as the flame produced from a butane torch lighter, is often preferred.[31]

Many people find that untreated dried salvia leaf produces unnoticeable or only light effects. More concentrated preparations or extracts, which may be smoked instead of natural strength leaves, have become widely available. The enhanced leaf is often described by a number followed by an x (such as “5x,” “10x,” etc). The multiplication factors are generally indicative of the relative amounts of leaf used in preparation. The numbers therefore may also be roughly indicative of the relative concentration of the active principle salvinorin A, but the measure should not be taken as absolute. Potency will depend on the naturally varying strength of the untreated leaf used in preparing the extract, as well as the efficiency of the extraction process itself. Extracts reduce the overall amount of smoke that needs to be inhaled, thus facilitating more powerful experiences.[32]


The method of chewing the leaves may also be employed. However, salvinorin A is generally considered to be inactive when orally ingested, as the chemical is effectively deactivated by the gastrointestinal system.[33] Therefore, the ‘quid’ of leaves is held in the mouth as long as possible in order to facilitate absorption of the active constituents through the oral mucosa. Chewing consumes more of the plant than smoking, and produces a longer-lasting experience.

Using a tincture

Less commonly, some may ingest salvia in the form of a tincture. This is administered sublingually, usually with the aid of a glass dropper. It may be taken diluted with water just before use, which may slightly reduce the intensity of its effects, but can also serve to lessen or avoid a stinging sensation in the mouth caused by the presence of alcohol. Tinctures vary in potency, and the effects can range from inducing a mild meditative state to bringing about a more intense visionary one.[34]

Duration of effect

If salvia is smoked the main effects are experienced quickly. The most intense ‘peak’ is reached within a minute or so and lasts for about 1-5 minutes, followed by a gradual tapering back. At 5-10 minutes, less intense yet still noticeable effects typically persist, but giving way to a returning sense of the everyday and familiar until back to recognizable baseline after about 15 to 20 minutes.[35]

Chewing the leaf makes the effects come on more slowly, over a period of 10 to 20 minutes, the experience then lasting from another 30 minutes up to one and a half hours.[35]

When taken as a tincture the effects and duration are similar to other methods of oral ingestion, though may be significantly more intense, depending on the potency of the extract.[34]

Immediate effects

Psychedelic experiences are necessarily somewhat subjective and variations in reported effects are to be expected. Aside from individual reported experiences there has been a limited amount of published work summarising the effects. D.M. Turner’s book “Salvinorin—The Psychedelic Essence of Salvia Divinorum” quotes Daniel Siebert’s summarisation, mentioning that the effects may include:[36]

File:Salvia Painting MPM.JPG
An example of salvia-inspired Visionary art
  • Uncontrollable laughter
  • Past memories, such as revisiting places from childhood memory
  • Sensations of motion, or being pulled or twisted by forces
  • Visions of membranes, films and various two-dimensional surfaces
  • Merging with or becoming objects
  • Overlapping realities, such as the perception of being in several locations at once

A survey of salvia users found that 38% described the effects as unique. 23% said the effects were like yoga, meditation or trance.[37]

Media reporters rarely venture to take salvia for themselves but one firsthand journalistic account has been published in the UK science magazine New Scientist:

the salvia took me on a consciousness-expanding journey unlike any other I have ever experienced. My body felt disconnected from ‘me’ and objects and people appeared cartoonish, surreal and marvellous. Then, as suddenly as it had began, it was over. The visions vanished and I was back in my bedroom. I spoke to my ‘sitter’—the friend who was watching over me, as recommended on the packaging—but my mouth was awkward and clumsy. When I attempted to stand my coordination was off. Within a couple of minutes, however, I was fine and clear-headed, though dripping with sweat. The whole experience had lasted less than 5 minutes.

Gaia 2006-09-29 (UK Media)

There have been few books published on the subject. One notable example is Dale Pendell’s work “Phamako/Poeia—Plants Powers, Poisons, and Herbcraft”, which won the 1996 Firecracker Alternative Book Award[38] and has a chapter dedicated to Salvia divinorum. It includes some experience accounts:

It’s very intense, I call it a reality stutter, or a reality strobing. I think that having been a test pilot, and flying in that unforgiving environment with only two feet between our wingtips, helped to prepare me for this kind of exploration.

Pendell 1995

Some have written extensive prose and/or poetry about their experiences.[39][40] Some describe their visions pictorially, and there exist examples of visionary art which claim to be salvia-inspired. Others claim musical inspiration from the plant: examples are the songs “Salvia divinorum” by 1200 Micrograms, "Salvia" by Deepwater Sunshine, and "Flight 77" by Paul Dereas.[40]

Cautionary notes

Dale Pendell expresses some concerns about the use of highly concentrated forms of salvia. In its natural form salvia is more balanced and benevolent, and quite strong enough, he argues. High strength extracts on the other hand can show “a more precipitous, and more terrifying, face” and many who try it this way may never wish to repeat the experience.[41]

The “Salvia divinorum User’s Guide” hosted on Daniel Siebert’s website recommends having a sitter present if you are new to salvia, are experimenting with a stronger form, or are using a more effective method of ingestion than you have before.

An experienced salvia user who is chewing a quid, may often choose to do it alone, and may be quite safe in doing so. But having a pleasant, sensible, sober sitter is an absolute must if you are trying vaporization, smoking high doses of extract-enhanced leaves, or using pure salvinorin.

Salvia divinorum User’s Guide

The guide points out that the effects of salvia are generally quite different from those of alcohol; but, like alcohol, it impairs coordination. One should never attempt to drive under its influence.

It also emphasizes that salvia is not a party drug.

Salvia is not ‘fun’ in the way that alcohol or cannabis can be. If you try to party with salvia you probably will not have a good experience. Salvia is a consciousness-changing herb that can be used in a vision quest, or in a healing ritual. In the right setting, salvia makes it possible to see visions. It is an herb with a long tradition of sacred use. It is useful for deep meditation. It is best taken in a quiet, nearly dark room; either alone, or with one or two good friends present.

Salvia divinorum User’s Guide

After effects

Short term

After the peak effects, normal awareness-of-self and the immediate surroundings return but lingering effects may be felt. These short-term lingering effects have a completely different character than the peak experience. About half of users report a pleasing ‘afterglow’, or pleasant state of mind following the main effects. Researchers (Baggott, et al) from the University of California Berkeley and California Pacific Medical Center Research Institute conducted a survey of 500 salvia users which identified that they ‘sometimes or often’ experience certain effects, including:[10]

Increased insight: 47% Decreased insight: 1.8%
Improved mood: 44.8% Worsened mood: 4.0%
Increased connection with Universe or Nature: 39.8%    Decreased connection with Universe or Nature: 5.4%
Increased sweating: 28.2% Decreased sweating: 1.6%
Body felt warm or hot: 25.2% Body felt cold: 6.4%
Increased self-confidence: 21.6% Decreased self-confidence: 2.4%
Improved concentration: 19.4% Difficulty concentrating: 12.0%

Other commonly reported effects include:

Feelings of calmness: 42.2% Weird thoughts: 36.4%
Things seeming unreal: 32.4% Floating feelings: 32%
Mind racing: 23.2% Feeling lightheaded: 22.2%

Long term

Differing studies suggest no overall consensus so far with regard to the long-term effects of Salvia divinorum on mood. It is well-established that some k-opioid agonists can cause dysphoria in humans,[42] and research using rats in forced-swim tests (where they’re forced to swim in a narrow cylinder from which they cannot escape) has been used to suggest that Salvia divinorum may have “depressive-like” effects.[43] However, a report has been published detailing an individual case of Salvia divinorum use as self-medicated treatment for depression,[44] and Baggott’s survey of 500 people with firsthand experience of salvia found that 25.8% of respondents reported improved mood and “antidepressant-like effects” lasting 24 hours or longer. Only 4.4% reported persisting (24 hours or more) negative effects (most often anxiety) on at least one occasion.[37]

The Baggott survey found little evidence of dependence in its survey population. 0.6% percent of respondents reported feeling addicted to or dependent on salvia at some point, and 1.2% reported strong cravings. About this the researchers said “there were too few of these individuals to interpret their reports with any confidence”.

Most users report no hangover or negative after-effects the next day. This is consistent with the apparent low toxicity of salvia indicated by research conducted at the University of Nebraska.[27]

Therapeutic potential

Aside from individual reports of self-medicated use in the treatment of depression,[44][45] research suggests that Salvia divinorum, in line with the studied effects of other k-opioid agonists,[46] may have further therapeutic potential.

Thomas Prisinzano, assistant professor of medicinal and natural products chemistry at the University of Iowa, has suggested that salvia may help treat cocaine addiction

You can give a rat free access to cocaine, give them free access to Salvinorin A, and they stop taking cocaine.

Masis 2007-02-28 (US Media)

Professor Bryan L. Roth, director of the National Institute on Mental Health’s Psychoactive Drug Screening Program, has said

We think that drugs derived from the active ingredient could be useful for a range of diseases: Alzheimer’s, depression, schizophrenia, chronic pain and even AIDS or HIV.

Viren 2007-08-23 (US Media)

Clinical pharmacologist John Mendelsohn has also said

There may be some derivatives that could be made that would actually be active against cancer and HIV […] At the present time, there are a lot of therapeutic targets that have many people excited.

An ABC news story which reported on this went on to suggest “the excitement could vanish overnight if the federal government criminalizes the sale or possession of salvia, as the Drug Enforcement Agency is considering doing right now.”[45] A proposed Schedule I classification would mean (among other things) that there’s no “currently accepted medical use” as far as the United States government is concerned.[47] Scientists worry that such legislation would restrict further work.[48][49] Mendelsohn said scheduling salvia could scare away a great deal of research and development into salvia’s therapeutic promise.[45]


The relatively recent emergence of Salvia divinorum in modern Western culture, in comparison to its long continuing traditions of indigenous use elsewhere, contrasts widely differing attitudes on the subject. Opinions range from veneration of the plant as a spiritual sacrament or “a gift from the gods”,[11][50] to the idea of it as a dangerous threat to society, needing to be banned as quickly as possible in order to “spare countless families the horror of losing a loved one to the relentless tentacles of drug abuse”.[51]

Media stories

Interest in Salvia divinorum has been escalating in the news media—particularly in the United States—where an increasing number of newspaper reports have been published and television news stories broadcast.[52] These stories generally raise alarms over salvia’s legal status. Headlining for example with comparisons to LSD,[53][54][55] or describing it as “the new pot”[56] for instance, with parental concerns being raised by particular focus on salvia’s use by younger teens. Story headlines may also include ‘danger’ keywords, such as “Dangerous Herb is Legal...”[57] or “Deadly Dangers Of A Street Legal High”.[58]

Mainstream media coverage has widely been negative on the subject. In a major ABC news report aired on July 11, 2007, the anchors are seen to exchange expressions of incredulity when referring to a salvia story with the following introduction “Now, an exclusive I-Team investigation of a hallucinogenic drug that has begun to sweep the nation. What might amaze you is that right now the federal government is doing nothing to stop it”.[59] In March 2008 a Texas news report aired with the story "A legal drug that teenagers are now using to get high could soon be banned here in San Antonio - all because of a News 4 investigation", going on to say, "The drug is legal in Texas, at least for now. But a News 4 investigation could lead to a new ordinance to protect your kids."[60]

Many salvia media stories headline with comparisons to LSD. However, while LSD and salvia’s active constituent salvinorin A may have comparative potencies, in the sense that both can produce their effects with low dosage amounts, they are otherwise quite different. Salvinorin occurs in nature, whereas LSD is a synthesized drug. The two substances are not chemically similar or related. They are ingested in different ways. They produce different effects, which manifest themselves over different timescales. The effects of salvia when smoked typically last for only a few minutes as compared to LSD, whose effects can persist for 8-10 hours.

Another reported issue of concern has been the emergence of YouTube,[59][61] about which, in an interview with California-based newspaper the San Francisco Chronicle, published on June 27, 2007, Daniel Siebert was quoted as saying “Those videos are certainly not going to help the situation. They make salvia look like some horrible drug that makes people nuts and dangerous [...]” and “The sad thing is it creates this public image where people don’t realize there are sensible ways to use something like this.”[62]

Public opinion

Despite its growing notoriety in some circles, media stories generally suggest that the public at large are still mostly unaware of salvia, with the majority perhaps having never even heard of it.[63] With regard to their coverage of proposals to make salvia illegal in the U.S. state of Maine, Bangor Daily News ran an on-line poll in March 2007 which posed the question “Do you think the state should outlaw the sale of the drug salvia?” to which approximately 70% of respondents answered "no."[64] While this has over 300 reader responses, the poll itself says, that it is “not a scientific survey and should not be used as a gauge of public opinion. It reflects only the opinions of readers who have chosen to participate”. A similar online poll was conducted in connection with an Indianapolis news channel’s story in November 2007, asking the question “Do you believe Indiana should regulate salvia divinorum?”. 76% of the poll's respondents were opposed to prohibition (59% preferring age regulations, and 17% no restrictions at all).[65] In March 2008 the Miami Herald ran an online poll in connection with its news story asking the question "Should Florida lawmakers place restrictions on salvia?". Out of over 670 respondents a majority of 79% voted 'No', against 21% who voted 'Yes'.[66]

Again, although published responses may not necessarily be representative of public opinion as a whole, some news agencies generally support reader and viewer feedback in connection with their stories.[51][53][63][67][60]

Brett’s law

A particular focus of many US media stories is the long-running coverage of the case of Brett Chidester.[63][59] Chidester was a 17-year old Delaware student who committed suicide in January 2006 by climbing into a tent in which a charcoal grill was lit. He died of carbon-monoxide poisoning. Reportedly, some months before this, Brett’s mother had found out and questioned him about his salvia use. Brett said that he had ceased his experimentation, but his parents do not believe that he was telling the truth. They have argued instead that salvia caused depression and must have been largely to blame for his death. Some of Brett’s earlier writings about his salvia experiences have been used to suggest that it made him think “existence in general is pointless”. Some media stories have referred to these earlier written experience reports as if they were part of Brett’s suicide note. In any case, law was soon passed in Delaware classifying the herb as a Schedule I controlled substance in that state. This legislation was named “Brett’s law” (formally referred to as Senate bill 259).

It was reported on August 3, 2007 that Chidester’s parents intend suing ‘Ethnosupply’—a Canadian based Internet company that sold Salvia divinorum to Brett some four months before his death. The parents allege that the distributors knew salvia could be dangerous and failed to warn their son. The lawsuit seeks unspecified punitive damages for their pain and suffering, lost future earnings, funeral expenses, etc.[68]

Although the Chidester story has been given continued exposure by US media, there has not been anywhere else, either before or since this controversial incident, any other reported cases involving or alleging Salvia divinorum as a serious factor in suicide, overdose, accidental, or any other kind of death. The extent and significance of Brett’s use of alcohol is a matter of debate, but for his demographic, more than 1,700 college students in the U.S. are killed each year as a result of alcohol-related injuries.[69]

Legal status

A package of 20x extract leaves found at a convenience store in Canada where salvia is legal to possess, cultivate, and sell.

The situation may be subject to future change but at present Salvia divinorum remains legal in most countries. Current exceptions, countries where there is some form of control, include Australia, Belgium, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Italy, Spain, and Sweden.[70][71] In the United Kingdom, following a local newspaper story in October 2005,[72] a parliamentary Early Day Motion was raised calling for Salvia divinorum to be banned there. However, it only received 11 signatures and has not been debated or further escalated.[73]

In such places where Salvia divinorum legislation exists, it varies in its prohibitive degree from country to country. Australia has imposed its strictest ’schedule 9’ (US Schedule I equivalent) classification for example, and Italy has also placed salvia in its ‘Table I’ of controlled substances (also US Schedule I equivalent). Whereas in Spain there are just controls focusing on the commercial trade of Salvia divinorum, and private cultivation (growing your own plants for non-commercial use) is not targeted. In Germany there are also measures targeting commercial sales, i.e. in any shops that are not drugstores.[70][71]

In the United States, salvia is not regulated under the Controlled Substances Act but some states, including Delaware, Louisiana, Missouri and others, have passed their own laws.[74] Several other states have proposed legislation against salvia, including Alabama, Alaska, California, Florida, Iowa, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, and Texas. Many of these proposals have not made it into law, with motions having failed, stalled or otherwise died, for example at committee review stages.[70][71]

National legislation for amendment of the Controlled Substances Act to place salvinorin A and Salvia divinorum in Schedule I at the federal level was proposed in 2002 by Representative Joe Baca (D- California). Those opposed to bill HR 5607 include Daniel Siebert, who sent a letter to Congress arguing against the proposed legislation,[75] and the Center for Cognitive Liberty & Ethics (CCLE), who sent key members of the US Congress a report on Salvia divinorum and its active principle,[76] along with letters from an array of scientists who expressed concern that scheduling Salvia divinorum would negatively impact important research on the plant. The bill did not pass.[77][78][79]

Similar to the international situation, in the United States, where individual state legislation does exist, it varies from state to state in its prohibitive degree. Some states such as Delaware, Louisiana, Michigan and Missouri have imposed the strictest Schedule I classification. By contrast, the state of Maine is considering just age restrictions, prohibiting sale and use with respect to youngsters under 18 years of age—in a manner generally consistent with controls existing for tobacco and alcohol.[80]

In Oklahoma wording of their bill refers to Salvia divinorum that “has been enhanced, concentrated or chemically or physically altered”—and as such it is targeted particularly at enhanced strength extracts. It does not outlaw the plant itself.[81] Tennessee also has some provision for Salvia divinorum in its natural plant form. There the law classes its use as a ‘Class A misdemeanour’, but it is not an offence to possess, plant, cultivate, grow, or harvest Salvia divinorum for “aesthetic, landscaping, or decorative purposes”.[82]

In contrast to Oklahoma the wording of salvia laws in some states is the other way around, in that there is no mention of Salvia divinorum’s active constituent at all. In Delaware for example the plant in its natural form is classified as ’schedule I’, while much more potent purely extracted salvinorin A remains quite legal.[83]

In Illinois their legislation wording does not mention salvinorin A either, but there it includes instead “the seeds thereof, any extract from any part of that plant, and every compound, [...] derivative, mixture, or preparation of that plant”.[84] Daniel Siebert has criticised this wording as being “absurdly broad in scope, for it implies that any substance extracted from Salvia divinorum (water, chlorophyll, whatever) would be treated as a Schedule I controlled substance under the proposed law.”[70]

Salvia legislation may prove difficult to police. The plant has a nondescript appearance; unlike cannabis the leaves are not distinctive and it does not have a distinctive odour. Salvia divinorum looks like and can be grown as an ordinary houseplant without the need of special equipment such as hydroponics or high-power lights.[85][86]

Salvia is also illegal for Military Personnel as it goes against AFI Regulation.

Opinions and arguments

Concerns expressed by some politicians on the subject of salvia echo those of the media. In November 2006, the morning after a story by news channel KSL was aired in Utah, warning its viewers about what it called “this dangerous herb”,[57] Representative Paul Ray (R) submitted a bill calling for its Schedule I classification in that state. KSL TV cameras were on Capitol Hill to see the paperwork filed, with KSL reporting “Moments after our story ended, Utah Representative Paul Ray began writing a bill to ban salvia.” As he presented the bill Ray said “It was upsetting to see we have a drug of that strength that’s legal.” and “We’re basically going to make it illegal to possess or sell. Period.”[87] Ray’s action was further supported by the news channel in a subsequent KSL editorial. Viewer feedback was unanimously more critical.[51]

Texas news channel WOAI reported that San Antonio City Councilman Justin Rodriguez and other council members were "appalled to learn the so-called herbal meditation supplement can be bought at local stores", with Rodriguez saying, "I had not heard of it until your story, so thank you for bringing it to light. A lot of my colleagues had never heard of it."[60]

Senator John Bulloch (R) reportedly saw a report on an Atlanta television news station about the increased use of Salvia divinorum. He was quoted as saying “I thought, ‘Why hasn’t somebody already jumped on this?’” before filing Senate Bill 295. “I hurriedly got legislative counsel to draft the bill...Everything that I read about it is it’s considered to be a hallucinogenic drug...A lot of the reading that I’ve found on it says that it gives a quicker and more intense high than LSD.” Senator Don Thomas (R) was reported as saying “I just know about the publicity of the dangers of it, and the use of it, so my first impression is to ban anything of that nature.”[88]

In February 2007, the day after a Fox TV local news story on salvia had aired in Milwaukee,[56] Wisconsin state lawmaker Sheldon Wasserman, who had never heard of it before, spoke to Fox news in a follow-up report about then wanting to make it a Schedule I controlled substance.[89]

Comparisons to LSD and particular focus on “protecting our children” are also being echoed by politicians. In June 2007 the Wisconsin State Journal newspaper ran a front page headline cover story about salvia, reporting that Representative Wasserman (D) had recently begun seeking sponsors for a bill that would ban the manufacture and sale of Salvia divinorum for consumption in Wisconsin. Wasserman was reported as saying “This bill is all about protecting our children” and “I want to stop the Salvia divinorum dealers who are pushing young people to experiment with a potentially dangerous substance.”[53]

In connection with his proposals to make Salvia divinorum and salvinorin A Schedule I controlled substances in Oregon, Representative John Lim (R) was quoted as saying “From what I understand this drug is at least as dangerous as marijuana or LSD”, and Seth Hatmaker, a spokesman for Lim, “I think it’s only a matter of time before we find people addicted to this stuff”.[90]

In the state of Illinois, in support of his bill for Schedule I classification of Salvia divinorum, Representative Dennis Reboletti (R) wrote in his own website that salvia is a “powerful psychoactive plant which in appearance looks like marijuana but has the psychoactive properties of LSD.” and “It’s important that we in the legislature are proactive in protecting our children from highly addictive substances” [...] “For a drug to be classified as a Schedule 1 substance signifies that it’s a highly dangerous and potentially lethal drug for its user. Hopefully, the passage of my bill will bring attention to “Magic Mint” and help law enforcement combat the future rise of this drug.”[91]

Other references and sources indicate however that Salvia divinorum does not look like marijuana. Its psychoactive properties are not like those of LSD, and that Salvia divinorum is not generally understood to be either addictive or toxic.

Concerns about driving while under the influence of salvia have also been expressed. Senator Karen Peterson (D), who introduced Schedule I classification of Salvia divinorum in Delaware, said “I, for one, don’t want to be driving down Route 1 next to someone who is having an out-of-body experience”[92] and “I thought this is not something that I would want people using driving around the streets of Delaware.”[93]

There has not been much evidence to suggest that salvia use is particularly problematic. Some arguments against salvia have been of a preventative or imitative nature. North Dakota Senator Randy Christmann (R) stated “we need to stop this before it gets to be a huge problem not after it gets to be a huge problem”[94] and New Jersey Assemblyman Jack Conners (D) argued Salvia divinorum use may not be a runway (sic) epidemic, but it’s certainly is a phenomenon that warrants attention. We should take preventive steps now to prevent wholesale problems later on”[95] In October 2005 MP John Mann raised an ultimately unsuccessful Early Day Motion calling for Salvia divinorum to be banned in the UK, saying “The Australians have clearly found a problem with it. There’s obviously a risk in people taking it.”[72]

The National Institute on Money in State Politics indicates the major sources of campaign contributions for US politicians. For example, Representative John Lim’s largest individual campaign sponsor in 2006 was the Oregon Beer & Wine Distributors Association. Lim argued for Schedule I classification of salvia in Oregon. Senator Karen Peterson’s second largest group campaign donations in 2006 came from ‘Beer, Wine & Liquor’ industries. Peterson introduced Schedule I classification of Salvia divinorum in Delaware. Senator Tim Burchett (R) sponsored salvia legislation in Tennessee. In 2006 his second largest individual campaign donation came from the Tennessee Malt Beverage Association. In the same period alcohol and tobacco related contributions amounted to the fourth largest industry contributions for Representative Paul Ray in Utah. Representative Ray (R) submitted a bill calling for Schedule I classification of Salvia in that state. Alcohol related contributions also featured highly for Representative Dennis Reboletti in Illinois ‘Beer, Wine & Liquor’ was his seventh highest industry contributor.[96] Representative Reboletti (R) sponsored a bill for Schedule I classification of Salvia divinorum in Illinois.

Opponents of more prohibitive measures against salvia argue that such reactions are largely due to an inherent prejudice and a particular cultural bias rather than any actual balance of evidence, pointing out inconsistencies in attitudes toward other more toxic and addictive drugs such as alcohol and nicotine.[97] The worldwide number of alcohol-related deaths is calculated at over 2,000 people per day,[98] in the US the number is over 300 deaths per day.[99] While not objecting to some form of legal control, in particular with regard to the sale to minors or sale of enhanced high-strength extracts, most salvia proponents otherwise argue against stricter legislation.[70]

Those advocating consideration of Salvia divinorum’s potential for beneficial use in a modern context argue that more could be learned from Mazatec culture, where salvia is not really associated with notions of drug taking at all and it is rather considered as a spiritual sacrament. In light of this it is argued that Salvia divinorum could be better understood more positively as an entheogen rather than pejoratively as a hallucinogen.[100] Other entheogenic plants with continuing traditions principally of spiritual use include peyote (and other psychoactive cacti), iboga, virola, ayahuasca (an admixture of plants containing DMT + MAOI), and various types of psychoactive fungi.[101] In fact, US legislation as it stands specifically allows two of these to be used in a spiritual context. The Native American Church is allowed to use peyote and Uniao do Vegetal (or UDV) is permitted ayahuasca.[102] Although not consistently granted (varying from state to state), the principal grounds for such concessions are constitutional,[103] with further grounds following from the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Valdés, Díaz & Paul 1983, p. 287.
  2. Medana et al. 2005, p. 131.
  3. 3.0 3.1 Valdés, Díaz & Paul 1983, p. 288.
  4. Imanshahidi & Hosseinzadeh 2006, p. 427.
  5. 5.0 5.1 Marushia 2002, p. 6.
  6. Marushia 2002, p. 7.
  7. 7.0 7.1 Marushia 2002, p. 3.
  8. Prisinzano 2006, p. 527.
  9. 9.0 9.1 Imanshahidi & Hosseinzadeh 2006, p. 430.
  10. 10.0 10.1 Baggott & Erowid 2004, p. 12.
  11. 11.0 11.1 11.2 Valdés, Díaz & Paul 1983.
  12. Marushia 2002, p. 2.
  13. Valdés, Díaz & Paul 1983, p. 290.
  14. 14.0 14.1 Marushia 2002, p. 11.
  15. Wasson 1963.
  16. Valdés 2001.
  17. Ott 1995.
  18. Dweck 1997, p.15.
  19. Erowid (Cacahuaxochitl) 2007.
  20. Reisfield 1993.
  21. 21.0 21.1 21.2 Prisinzano 2006, p. 528.
  22. Salvia divinorum (
  23. Harding, Schmidt & Tidgewell 2006, p. 107.
  24. 24.0 24.1 Imanshahidi & Hosseinzadeh 2006, p. 431.
  25. Roth et al. 2002, p. abstract.
  26. 26.0 26.1 Zhang et al. 2005, p. abstract.
  27. 27.0 27.1 Mowry, Mosher & Briner 2003, p. 382.
  28. Bigham et al. 2003.
  29. Munro & Rizzacasa 2003.
  30. SAMHSA 2006.
  31. 31.0 31.1 Siebert (Smoke advice).
  32. Siebert (FAQ—Section IV).
  33. Siebert 1994.
  34. 34.0 34.1 Sage Student - Sd User Guide.
  35. 35.0 35.1 Siebert (FAQ—Section VI).
  36. Turner 1996.
  37. 37.0 37.1 Baggott & Erowid 2004, p. 14.
  38. Mercury House Publishing Online.
  39. Lizard 2001.
  40. 40.0 40.1 Siebert (Arts).
  41. Pendell 1995.
  42. Rothman et al. 2000, p. abstract
  43. Carlezon, Béguin & DiNieri 2005.
  44. 44.0 44.1 Hanes 2001, p. 634–635.
  45. 45.0 45.1 45.2 Terry 2007-10-03 (US Media).
  46. Schenk 2001, p. 629–34.
  47. DEA 2002, title 21, section 812.
  48. Roth 2007.
  49. Schaper 2006-03-20 (US Media).
  50. Schultes 1992.
  51. 51.0 51.1 51.2 Cardall 2006-12-12 (US Media).
  52. Shafer 2008-05-06 (US Media).
  53. 53.0 53.1 53.2 Martell 2007-06-18 (US Media).
  54. Devine 2007-02-19 (US Media).
  55. Blake 2006-11-13 (US Media).
  56. 56.0 56.1 Sanchick 2007-02-14 (US Media).
  57. 57.0 57.1 Dujanovic 2006-11-27 (US Media).
  58. Quinones 2006-11-30 (US Media).
  59. 59.0 59.1 59.2 Baskin 2007-07-11 (US Media).
  60. 60.0 60.1 60.2 Chancellor 2008-03-14 (US Media).
  61. Sontaya 2007-05-10 (US Media).
  62. Allday 2007-06-27 (US Media).
  63. 63.0 63.1 63.2 Anderson 2006-04-13 (US Media).
  64. Haskell 2007-01-23 (US media).
  65. Wallace 2007-11-26 (US Media)
  66. Hoyle 2008-03-12 (US Media).
  67. Tompkins 2007-07-13 (US Media).
  68. Chalmers 2007-08-03 (US Media).
  69. Hingson 2005.
  70. 70.0 70.1 70.2 70.3 70.4 Siebert (Legal status).
  71. 71.0 71.1 71.2 Erowid (Legal status).
  72. 72.0 72.1 Worksop 2005-10-14 (UK Media).
  73. Mann 2005.
  74. DEA 2007.
  75. Siebert 2002.
  76. Boire 2002.
  77. Baca 2002.
  78. DEA 2003.
  79. CCLE 2002.
  80. Haskell 2007-02-08 (US Media).
  81. Nance 2006, section 1, para 38.
  82. Burchett 2006, section 1 (c).
  83. Peterson 2006, section 3.
  84. Reboletti 2007 (Jan), p.7.
  85. Shulgin 2003.
  86. Chalmers 2006-05-06 (US Media).
  87. Dujanovic 2006-11-28 (US Media).
  88. Eckenrode 2007-03-08 (US Media).
  89. Sanchick 2007-02-15 (US Media).
  90. Clark 2007-03-05 (US Media).
  91. Reboletti 2007 (Mar).
  92. NBC10 2006-04-11 (US Media).
  93. Smith 2007-09-25 (US Media).
  94. KXMBTV 2007-01-31 (US Media).
  95. Teel 2006.
  96. MiSP 2006.
  97. Nutt et al. 2007.
  98. Lopez 2005, Table 2.
  99. NIAAA 2001.
  100. Blosser (Mazatec Lessons).
  101. see peyote, iboga, virola, ayahuasca, etc.
  102. see Native American Church and Uniao do Vegetal.
  103. Madison 1789.


News references

Follow-up story: "Indiana's Legal High: Regulating Substance Faces Long Road". 2007-11-27. Check date values in: |date= (help)
- newspaper’s full front page (pdf) + related story link:Herb is as potent as LSD + WSJ reader’s opinions (as published).
Follow-up story: Lawmaker Responds to Investigative Report on Dangerous Herb, 2006-11-28.
Cardall, Duane. KSL Editorial, 2006-12-01.
viewer feedbackasx video (save & use media player)

Further research

bg:Салвия дивинорум cs:Šalvěj divotvorná de:Salvia divinorum et:Luulusalvei eo:Divenista salvio fa:مایش آزتکی it:Salvia divinorum he:סלוויה דיווינורום lt:Kvaitulinis šalavijas hu:Látnokzsálya nl:Salvia divinorum no:Salvia divinorum fi:Salvia divinorum sv:Profetsalvia