Salvia: the legal herb
It’s been almost 50 years since a generation of young people were urged to “turn on and tune out” with the aid of psychedelic drugs. But at least one hallucinogenic drug remains legal and widely available — and it’s become popular with today’s teenagers.
The drug, an herb called Salvia divinorum, is not new. Historically, it was used by the Mazatec Indians in Oaxaca, Mexico, for religious or healing rituals. But now high school and college students are using salvia for a brief psychedelic high, a trend well documented on YouTube and teen websites in the last few months.
The Drug Enforcement Administration and California state legislators are grappling with the question of what to do. The potentially dangerous herb is offered for sale on websites and at tobacco and smoke shops, head shops and botanical stores, but little is known about the effect of the drug on health and safety, the extent of its use or if it has begun to filter into the culture of younger teens.
Some researchers worry that attempts to make salvia illegal or designate it as a controlled substance may thwart studies into the drug’s healing properties.
“We have people getting intoxicated on it, and there have been injuries,” says Dr. John Mendelson, a senior scientist on addiction pharmacology at California Pacific Medical Center Research Institute in San Francisco. “But scheduling the drug as a narcotic is playing a big, big hand. If you’re caught with it, you go to jail. Are we really interested, at this juncture, in making the drug illegal through this mechanism?”
Salvia divinorum is an inauspicious-looking member of the mint family and is one of many species of salvia, also known as sage, some of which are common garden plants in hot, dry climates. (Salvia divinorum itself is not a popular garden plant because it is not considered decorative.) Salvia divinorum contains a chemical, salvinorin A, that causes hallucinations. The dried leaves or concentrated extract, which is often sold as incense, are smoked or chewed and produce a high lasting from less than a minute to about a half-hour. Users report distorted senses, an out-of-body feeling and losing control over their body movements.
Some websites promoting salvia warn users to take the drug in the presence of a sober person who can help if a user loses body control or behaves erratically. Numerous users have placed clips on YouTube of themselves or others laughing hysterically or staggering around while high on salvia, such as one YouTube clip that has logged more than 240,000 views. Known by the street names magic mint or Sally-D, it’s sold in various concentrations for about $25 a gram and isn’t hard to find. One tobacco shop in Santa Ana sports a poster saying “Salvia divinorum sold here” near its front door, next to a sign saying “support local cops.”
Effects little known
No studies exist to show that the drug causes any lasting neurological damage, is addictive or is harmful in any way other than the loss of body control that may lead to accidents. Some first-time salvia users report that the effects are unnerving and never take it again. Other salvia connoisseurs, writing on Internet sites, say the experience offers a pathway to self-enlightenment and can provide a fulfilling mystical or meditative experience.
Drug abuse expert Howard C. Samuels isn’t buying that. As executive director of the Wonderland Center, a substance abuse treatment center in Los Angeles, Samuels says he is seeing more young addicts using salvia in addition to marijuana, cocaine and Ecstasy.
“That this drug is legal is shocking,” he says. “I find it especially disgusting that kids can leave high school on their lunch hour and go to a head shop and get it.”
Samuels says that even though the high is brief, hallucinations can leave users upset and contribute to preexisting emotional problems. He supports AB259, a bill that would make the sale or distribution of Salvia divinorum to any person under age 18 a misdemeanor in California. The bill was introduced by Assemblyman Anthony Adams (R-Hesperia) after Adams learned from local deputy sheriffs that salvia use was growing among youths.
“The use of salvia is akin to the use of LSD,” Adams says. “It completely distorts one’s sense of reality . . . . There are instances where people are alleged to have harmed themselves or others while using salvia.”
No standardized lab test exists to assess the presence of salvia in the bloodstream or measure the degree of intoxication. But by making the drug illegal for sale, distribution or use among minors, Adams hopes to crush the salvia fad before it expands while alerting parents “that this is out there.”
“We’re simply asking that we apply the same standard to salvia that we apply to cigarettes,” he says.
The bill will be discussed Tuesday in a hearing of the Senate Public Safety Committee.
The bill is opposed by the California Attorneys for Criminal Justice, a statewide organization of criminal defense lawyers, which is against outlawing salvia until more data can be collected about its effects.
“There appears to be no scientific basis for this to be deemed a crime and for people to be put in custody and lose their liberty because of it,” says Jeffrey R. Stein, an attorney in San Luis Obispo and spokesman for the California Attorneys for Criminal Justice on the proposed salvia legislation. “We think creating new crimes should be done in a serious-minded and justifiable way.”
At least four states — Delaware, Missouri, North Dakota and Illinois — have already outlawed salvia. Meanwhile, the DEA lists salvia as a drug of concern and is “in the process” of looking into the drug to determine whether it should be declared a controlled substance, says Rogene Waite of the DEA’s public affairs office.
Herb’s healing potential
Most people involved in the debate agree that more information is needed about the drug. But the few attempts to better understand salvia have been part of research on its potential as a therapeutic.
The drug is unique in that it acts on kappa-opioid receptors, cell proteins that bind to specific molecules, which are widely distributed throughout the body, Mendelson says. The function of kappa-opioid receptors is generally not well understood, but medications that activate or block them could have therapeutic effects. Animal studies indicate substances that activate this receptor may block pain without the addictive effects caused by opiates. Some researchers suggest that such compounds could be used to treat opioid dependence and appear to have some antidepressant effects.
Mendelson has received funding from the National Institutes of Health to study similar psychoactive compounds, such as Ecstasy. In an Internet survey of 500 salvia users published in 2004 in the journal Clinical Pharmacology & Therapeutics, he found a low potential for abuse or dependence but noted that 4.4% of users reported negative effects, usually anxiety, lasting up to 24 hours after taking the drug.
The downside of making the drug illegal is that the substance may then be much less attractive to pharmaceutical companies, Mendelson says. “This is a very fertile area of research and it would be foolish to cut off pathways of commercial development with unthinking legislation.”
Salvia divinorum is the hallucinogen anyone can buy — even teens. Still, outlawing it is a big step.
Salvia Divinorum – Your Questions about tripping on Salvia Answered
How should you use salvia? How long does salvia last? Is salvia fun? Once you’ve heard about this powerful tripping substance you might have a bunch of questions about it on your mind. A trip on Salvia Divinorum is extremely intense because the plant contains a hallucinogenic substance which has no equal. We put the salvia trip under the microscope in this detailed article.
What is Salvia Divinorum?
Although it’s related to the kitchen herb sage (Salvia officinalis), Salvia divinorum is decidedly not the same. Salvia divinorum contains a powerful and unique trip substance. The plant is a member of the colourful family of Labiatae and originates from Mexico. Unlike ordinary sage, you cannot find Salvia growing wild in the Netherlands. Salvia is one of the entheogens to which shrooms, morning glory seeds, yopo and Syrian rue also belong. Similarly to other psychedelica from this group, salvia is used in shamanistic, spiritual and religious rituals.
Shamans from the Mazatec, an indigenous people from Mexico, were known for their use of salva from times immemorial. As early as the year 900, salvia was being used by these medicine men to make contact with the gods, ancestors and animal guides.
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The salvia leaf contains the strongly psychoactive constituents Salvinorin A and Salvinorin B. The A variant is the one which mainly enjoys international notoriety. It is the most potent natural substance that causes hallucination. Consequently, you don’t need much to trip well on it.
What is a Salvia Trip?
A saliva trip is an experience under the influence of salvia. Confusion exists as to what a trip is actually. You turn in on yourself during a trip and your perceptions change considerably. That is fundamentally different from being under the influence of a joint or strong drink. Everything you see or hear during a trip comes in distorted, not just more intense or finer. In addition, you can literally see things that aren’t there, become convinced you are somewhere else entirely or even think you’ve become an object. Very often the real world is no longer real. Therefore, you shouldn’t underestimate heavy tripping.
The effect of salvia is truly different from magic truffles and shrooms, peyote or even Ayahuasca and LSD. Salvia is namely a disassociative trip substance. That is to say that sensory perception and sensations are distorted to such a degree that you no longer feel connected to your own environment or even to yourself.
What does salvia do to you?
Consequently, you can seriously trip from salvia. Don’t underestimate the effects. If you’ve never tripped before, salvia is really intense. On a salvia trip the following effects are often experienced:
- Uncontrollable laughing
- Sensation of being an object or merging with an object (a wall, sofa, chair, etc.)
- Visual and auditory hallucinations
- Feeling of flying or floating
- Feeling of travelling in time and space
- Loss of bodily coordination
- Loss of sense of consciousness
- Experience of multiple realities (simultaneously)
- A feeling of utter confusion
- Travelling through a tunnel
The effects of salvia are classified in the Salvia-effect scale which ranges over six levels from subtle to completely out-of-this-world. With a big dose you can transition through all these stages in rapid succession, whereas with a lower dose it’s more gradual and you may not reach all the levels by any means.
Subtle effect – The idea that something is about to happen – but it’s no more than relaxation and a laughing fit.
Alternative thinking – Comparable to the first signs which you can also observe with magic truffles or shrooms. Colours become more intense and thoughts disjointed. Patterns become extremely interesting but no hallucinations.
Light hallucinations – Crazy, two-dimensional patterns and shades of colour with the eyes closed. Distortions of your environment, especially in dimmed light and strange sensations which you cannot immediately place. You are still aware that what you are seeing belongs to the trip and know what’s real and what’s not.
Visions – This is where it gets really exciting. You can hear droning sounds, voices and even music seemingly coming from nowhere. You see three-dimensional hallucinations which are incredibly realistic and with your eyes closed you no longer know what is real and what is not. Spirits, demons, elves and aliens can come into view and time-travel is not ruled out.
Identity loss – The disassociative aspect now comes heavily into its own. The awareness of reality disappears completely and you can be stongly convinced that you are godlike and everywhere at the same time. This is a deep, inner experience which is impossible to impart to others in your environment. You can also think that you are an object such as a table or lamp.
Amnesia – This is a link stage in which physical effects make it very difficult to not get into danger. In the first place, you lose your consciousness completely and you can no longer remember what is now happening. You can fall over, produce uncontrolled movements, sleepwalk and overturn things. This is an unpleasant stage that’s best for you to avoid. That’s why the correct usage of salvia is so important. Fortunately it doesn’t last as long as other psychedelics.
How long does salvia last?
The duration of a salvia trip is dependent on how you use it. You can smoke salvia, chew the leaves or make tea with it. When salvia is smoked it hits faster, more powerfully and ends faster than the more gradual experience provided by chewing the leaves or an extract. We put the duration under the microscope before explaining how you can best use salvia.
If you smoke salvia, the trip starts within 30 seconds and builds up immediately to a peak which is achieved inside one or two minutes. After that the effects start to diminish. Within 5 minutes you are back on Earth again and you can expect to have noticeable after-effects which reduce in intensity over a period of 15 to 60 minutes. If you smoke salvia you can expect to experience side-effects for a maximum of one-and-a-half hours.
Chewing salvia or drinking salvia tea
If you chew salvia or brew tea from it, you take it orally and the trip unfolds a bit differently. It can take up to 10 minutes before you experience the first effects. These then build up a bit more to a peak but it can proceed very quickly. You can enjoy the trip for up to two hours.
The importance of Set and Setting
Just as with any other hallucinogenic substance it’s extremely important that you use salvia in a friendly and safe environment. Watch out for sharp objects. Make yourself comfortable on the sofa at home, in bed or on a nice, soft mattress on the floor. Soft, friendly music will help to get you in the right mood. Candlelight is not a good idea though dimming the lights is. Then you’ll see a lot more of salvia’s effects. Also invite a tripsitter who you feel comfortable with and who knows exactly what he or she has to do to calm you down again if things don’t go well with you. What we have described forms part of the setting. This is the environment in which you undergo the trip.
The set is no less important. Always start a trip feeling relaxed, healthy and sober. Tripping with alcohol, for example, is a no-go and tripping to pull yourself out of a depression because you read about this somewhere online is not the aim. Are you suffering from psychological problems or have a history of them? If so, steer clear of salvia or other trip substances. They won’t solve any of your problems.
Incidentally, it’s no bad thing if you find it a bit intimidating. As long as you treat salvia with respect and aren’t frightened to death of using it, it will be fine.
How to Use Salvia.
Chewing salvia or drinking salvia tea
Traditionally, Salvia divinorum leaves are rolled into a kind of ball and chewed continuously until a kind of chewing-gum-like ball is created in your mouth. It’s sometimes called a quid. If you buy salvia leaves at the online smart shop, what you are buying is dried leaves. One type of product is whole, dried leaves with which you can make such a quid ball or you can also come across chopped or shredded leaves. Salvia leaves are also easy to put in a tea egg and Salvinorin A dissolves in water. This means you can brew tea with it. Salvia is quite bitter so don’t be surprised by the unpalatable taste.
Keep some leaves (as many you’re comfortable with) in your mouth for 3-5 minutes and chew slowly. Then spit the ball out. The trip won’t be any heavier if you chew for longer – the most that happens is it may last a bit longer. This also applies to the tea. Allow the tea to brew for 10 minutes and try to hold the tea a bit longer in your mouth for maximum effect. You can simply swallow the tea.
You can also take the strong extracts in your mouth except that it’s rather difficult to chew as it’s so fine. You’re better off smoking extracts with a bong or salvia pipe.
Salvia is smoked using a weed pipe (this is then called a salvia pipe) or water pipe (bong). By this means you can smoke it in pure form without tobacco or rolling paper. Take a big drag and hold it for 10 seconds or so. This can be hard because the smoke is very irritating.
Dosage – For an extract, you measure out roughly half a teaspoonful. Depending on how heavy you want your experience to be, you can take a stronger extract. So don’t take more of the same extract. In the case of leaves, you can use as many as nicely fit into your pipe.
After smoking salvia the smoke you breathe out is described as being thick and yellow but we’ve only seen the usual blue smoke-rings. Talking about blue: only ignite salvia with a roaringly hot blue flame for complete combustion. That will also spare your pipe from deposits.
Salvia in a Vaporizer
You can also put this tripping herb in a vaporizer provided your vaporizer can produce a vaping temperature of 230 °C . Salvia begins to vaporize from 210 °C but the process goes too slowly to feel the full effect. Use the same method at 230 °C as described above for a water pipe. The advantage of a vaporizer is that the vapour is much less pungent than the smoke making it easier to keep the salvia in for 10 seconds.
Salvia vs. DMT
The only question left for us is whether tripping on salvia is actually nice. Is salvia fun? An essential difference from other natural trip substances is that most psychedelics work by acting on serotonin receptors. In essence: this hormone makes us happy. shrooms and magic truffles, DMT and ayahuasca, hawaiian baby woodrose seeds, peyote, and also designer drugs like 2-CB along with the well-known LSD, all act on the serotonin management in our brain. Salvia does not act on this receptor and consequently does not directly engender a feeling of cheerfulness or bliss.
Nonetheless, just as with other psychedelica, you can burst out into a fantastic, uncontrollable fit of laughing; this is one of the salvia effects most often reported. The entire trip experience on salvia can best be described at any event as bizarre and above all unique.
Want to know more about the salvia trip? Ask our customer service!
Our customer service will be pleased to help you with any questions about salvia. Please contact our customer service department. We also recommend that you read thoroughly the text in the category. Make sure you know what salvia does to you and your trip can only benefit from this. The preparation is just as much fun as the journey!
How long does salvia last? Is salvia fun? How do you use salvia? Read all the answers to your questions about Salvia Divinorum here.