Usage & Effects of Salvia divinorum

Methods of ingestion

Traditional Methods

     Mazatec shamans use two methods of ingestion. Often, they simply eat the fresh leaves by chewing and swallowing them. Sometimes, they crush the leaves to extract the leaf juices, which they then drink (usually mixed with water). Reportedly, dosages vary from as few as 6 leaves to as many as 120, when using these methods.

Nontraditional Methods

     Dry leaves can be smoked in a pipe but most users prefer the use of a bong to cool the smoke. The temperature required to release salvinorin-A from the plant material is quite high (about 240C). 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.

     Many people find that smoking the unprocessed dried salvia leaf produces only light or unnoticable effects, perhaps due to the large volume of plant material that must be smoked to produce psychoactive effects. However, responses vary widely. A concentrated preparation of salvia leaf called salvia extract, with relative strength suggested by terms such as 5x, 10x, and 20x, may be smoked in place of natural strength leaves; this reduces the total amount of smoke inhaled for a given dosage of salvinorin overall, and facilitates more powerful experiences.

     Sublingually ingested tinctures constitute another form of prepared salvia. A tincture is made from salvia leaf that has had the psychoactive components extracted, often using high-proof ethanol. Once produced, the liquid can either be used as a tincture or infused into salvia leaf, creating smokable salvia extract.

     The traditional Mazatec method can also be employed; however, Salvinorin-A is generally considered to be inactive when ingested, because the chemical is inefficiently absorbed in the gastrointestinal tract unless thoroughly emulsified; therefore, emphasis is often placed on holding the leaves (and also the saliva secreted during chewing) in the mouth as long as possible, to facilitate absorption through the oral mucosa. This consumes much more of the drug than smoking, but also produces a longer-lasting experience.

Subjective effects

     Most users find that the effects of salvinorin are not conducive to socializing. People given Salvia often feel as though a trick has been played on them; in fact, while under the influence, most people tend to find any external stimuli distracting. Most people under the influence of salvia will remain in place although some users may move around. This can be especially dangerous as the user is in an altered state of consciousness and is therefore at a greater risk of unintended bodily injury. It is advisable to have a sober trip sitter present.

     The effects of salvia are found by many to be highly spiritual entheogenic experience. Others find salvia useful for meditation. Consciousness is retained until the highest doses, but body control, awareness of externalities, and individual personality can disappear with even modest amounts.

     At lower doses the user may experience spontaneous laughter, mild closed-eye visuals, stuttering or strobing visual effects, changes in depth perception, and a heightened sense of color and texture.

     Moderate doses appear trance-like. Time distortion and open-eye visuals become increasingly apparent. Fractal patterns and geometric shapes may be noticeable with eyes open, and can be very confusing. Many people experience sensations of falling, similar to what is occasionally felt at the onset of sleep. The user may experience fully formed visions of other places, people, and events, especially with eyes closed.

     At high doses, the effects become more powerful and may additionally include out-of-body experiences, perceptions of gravitational distortion, vertigo, sensations of wind or physical pressure, hearing voices, flanging of sound, significant open and closed-eye visuals, experiencing alternate realities, contact with beings or entities, dissolution of one's ego, and dissociation. The salvia experience is quite different from that of most other hallucinogenic drugs and may be overwhelming, even with the correct set and setting.

     According to experience reports at Erowid and elsewhere, Salvia seems to produce visual hallucinations which have a somewhat higher level of consistency than other substances. Reports of contact with an entity supposedly associated with the plant, ("the Shepherdess") again with fairly consistent characteristics, are also common.

     Many salvia users, during high-dose out-of-body experiences, may suddenly "merge" with objects. With the significant time distortion typical of salvia, users may live a lifetime as another person, or as an inanimate object, such as a wall or a piece of furniture. The experiences can be extremely pleasant, or very frightening and confusing.

     People often fail to achieve the effects the first time they try the plant, possibly due to problems in the administration of the drug. With repeated use, anecdotal evidence suggests that decreased dosage may be possible for the same level experience. Due to the lack of scientific studies on Salvia, if true it is unknown whether this is due to learning proper techniques of administration or a sensitization factor, sometimes colloquially referred to as "reverse-tolerance".

     Some people who try Salvia find it difficult or impossible to achieve the desired effects.

Duration and after-effects

     If inhaled, the effects do not last very long, with the peak reached within one minute and then a slow descent back to one's self after about five minutes and back to baseline within 15 to 20 minutes. Chewing the leaf (in a 'quid') makes the effects come on more slowly and be experienced for longer. The first 5 minutes after smoking extract are very intense, and should be experienced lying or sitting down, eyes closed.

     Most users report no hangover or negative after-effects. Some users report a pleasing "afterglow," or pleasant sensation and state of mind persisting after the experience has ended. Salvia has not been found to be either physically or psychologically addictive. There are no proven health risks associated with the psychoactive chemicals, although the long-term effects on the human body are not well documented. However, smoking any substance is generally regarded as unhealthy by medical professionals.


Traditional / medicinal uses

     This plant has a long history of Medicinal and Divinatory uses. In 1698, Friar de Vetancurt wrote that Pipiltzintzintli leaves were used topically as a poultice along with its better know Divinatory purposes. The Mazatec are known to use infusions of Salvia to this very day. It has been recorded that the fresh or dry leaves are used as a stimulant for the elderly as well as treating headaches, diarrhea and rheumatism. This herb is also used to cure the "magical" disease of panzon de barrego ( fat lambs belly ).

     Mazatec shamans routinely chew from 6 - 68 leaves for purposes of divination. The leaves are always consumed in pairs. As a rule the fresh leaves are taken at night in a dark, quiet place. The shaman then chews and sucks on the leaf mass letting it rest in his mouth between the cheek and gums. It appears that the active ingredients are absorb through the mucus membranes of the mouth and not through the digestive tract.

Health hazards

     None known, but the ingestion of fresh leaves has a very long, safe history of Human usage.

Medicinal attributes

     Diuretic, aphrodisiac.

Description from the late D.M Turner's book

     "The most powerful natural psychedelic known has recently been isolated from a rare Mexican sage, Salvia divinorum. The active compound, salvinorin A, has astonished users and researchers with its dramatic and intense psychoactive effects, which are quite distinct from those of other psychedelics.

     Early experiments with salvinorin A have shown diverse results, ranging from alarming intensity and terror, to experiences of exquisite feelings and insights, transformative and healing energies, and bizarre physical/geometric dimensions."


     Salvia divinorum can elicit a very powerful alternative state of consciousness. This is not a plant to play with. Please treat the plant, and yourself, with the highest respect.