History of Salvia divinorum

     In 1939 Salvia was first recorded in print by Jean Basset Johnston. He was studying the psilocybin mushroom use of the Mazatecs in Mexico when he encountered this entheogen. R. Gordon Wasson documented its use a decade later and reported its effects through his own testimonials. Historical data at this point is largely unresearched, but it is likely to date back into the early history of Central America. It was not until the 1990s that it become more widely known through the experiments of Daniel Siebert.

     As is often the case with cultigens, it is likely that the history of this plant dates back a number of generations. Cultigens require a long historical relationship with human cultures, and salvia is no exception. Perhaps the decline of its widespread use began with the Spanish Conquest, or this phenomenon may have been already underway, either due to religious or political reasons.

     Gordon Wasson theorized that this plant was the mythological pipilzintzintli, the "Noble Prince" of the Aztec codices. This theory would explain why a cultigen of such extraordinary power was not otherwise known to the Aztecs, but this theory is not without dispute. The Aztecs were extremely knowledgeable in plant identification, and in their records report that pipilzintzintli has both male and female varieties. Salvia divinorum is lacking sexes, meaning there are no male or female flowers, as its flowers contain both sexes. The skeptics of this theory report that the Aztecs would have known the difference between male flowers and female flowers. Wasson, still, may have been correct in his hypothesis, in that there are a number of historical accounts of gendered properties being assigned to plants in a metaphorical manner, not in a botanically anatomical one.