Salvia Divinorum: Therapeutic use, Treatment. Salvia Divinorum rehab.

Last modified: Saturday, 20. June 2009 - 3:27 pm

Official names: Salvia divinorum (Epling and Jativa-M.), salvinorin A, divinorin A
Street names: Hierba Maria (the Virgin Mary’s herb), ska Maria Pastora (the leaves of Mary, the shepherdess), semilla de la Virgen (the Virgin’s seed), salvia, diviner’s sage
Drug classifications: Not scheduled, hallucinogen


Key terms

HALLUCINATION: The experience of seeing, feeling, hearing, smelling, or tasting something that is not really there.
PSYCHOSIS: A severe mental disorder characterized by the loss of the ability to distinguish what is objectively real from what is imaginary, frequently including hallucinations.
PSYCHOTROPIC: A substance that affects a person’s ability to distinguish reality from the imaginary.
RECEPTOR: A specialized part of a nerve cell that recognizes neurotransmitters and communicates with other nerve cells.
SEROTONIN: An important neurotransmitter in the brain that regulates mood, appetite, sensory perception, and other central nervous system functions.
SHAMAN: A religious leader of a tribe who performs rituals of magic, divination, and healing, and acts as an intermediary between ordinary reality and the spirit world; a medicine man.


Salvia divinorum is an herb of the mint family indigenous to the highlands of the Sierra Mazateca of Oaxaca, Mexico. The plant grows about 24-36 in (61-91 cm) in height, with leaves about 6 in (15 cm) long. For centuries, the leaves of the plant have been used by the natives of that region as a hallucinogen in rituals of divination and healing. It is one of several hallucinogenic plants which have been used for these purposes. Other plants are peyote (peyotl), psilocybin mushrooms (teo-nanactl), and morning glory (ololiuqui).
Reports of the use of psychotropic plants in Mexico date back to the Spanish invasion in the sixteenth century. Following the Spanish conquest, ritual practices involving these plants were banned throughout most of Mexico by the Catholic clergy, who were following the dictates of the Inquisition. However, knowledge of the plants and the traditions connected with them persisted among isolated groups in central Mexico. In the 1930s, expeditions to Oaxaca by Richard Schultes and others studied the hallucinogenic plants and the associated rituals, which had continued among the Mazatec Indians of northeastern region of the state. One such plant was Salvia divinorum. Around 1960, R. Gordon Wasson and Albert Hoffman brought samples of the plant to the United States, where it was identified as a new species of Salvia (sage).
When used by Mazatec shamans for divination or healing, the foliage of Salvia divinorum is collected as needed. Only the leaves are used. They are squeezed, crushed, or ground, and brewed as a tea of extremely bitter taste. A dose of four or five pairs of fresh or dried leaves is used to restore regularity to elimination, relieve headaches, and function as a tonic for generalized weakness, aches, and pains. The herb is deemed a cure for swollen belly, an illness known as panzon de barrego, which is believed to be due to a sorcerer’s curse. In doses of 20-60 leaves, the plant causes the user to experience hallucinations.
Shamans make use of Salvia divinorum to induce hallucinatory experiences for several purposes. When someone suffers from an unknown illness, the plant may be used as an aid in diagnosis. A shamanic healer, known in Spanish as a curandero, ascends a mountain where the plants grow to obtain some leaves. Before harvesting the plant, he kneels in prayer. Then, returning to the patient, the curandero prepares a dose of 50 leaves. If the patient suffers from alcoholism, the dose is doubled. They go to a quiet place, along with one other person, who serves as a helper. The patient drinks an elixir of water in which the leaves have been squeezed. In 15 minutes, intoxication sets in and the patient enters a trance. During the trance, he speaks out, and it is believed that his words describe the true nature of his illness. Afterward the patient throws off his clothes, as if to free himself, and then goes to sleep. The next morning, the curandero bathes the patient. It is believed that as a result of this treatment, the patient is cured.
Another use of the hallucinatory experience is to help the victim of a crime find the perpetrator. For example, if a robbery has occurred, the curandero listens while another person ingests the plant. It is believed that the intoxicated person will divine the nature of the deed that was done. Shamans also use Salvia divinorum to find lost animals and objects. After taking a dose under the supervision of a curandero, the person who has lost something goes to sleep in the presence of one other person, who stays awake. The sleeper speaks in his sleep, while the other listens. It is believed that the sleeper will tell the other one the location of the lost item. The next day they go to find it.
Practices such as these also occur among other indigenous peoples of this region, and other hallucinogenic plants are also used in these ways.
The Mazatec curanderos believe that the hallucinogenic trance induced by Salvia divinorum allows them to travel to heaven and learn from God or the Saints. For this purpose, the herb is used to train new curanderos. Because Salvia is considered a weaker hallucinogen than morning glory seeds or mushrooms, it is usually the first of these three hallucinogens to be employed in the training program.
Originally, Salvia divinorum grew naturally only in the remote mountainous regions the Sierra Mazateca. However, the Mazatec shamans transferred the plant to lower elevations near their villages, where it has continued to grow in cultivated plots and in the wild. After Salvia divinorum was brought to the United States, it was first grown in university greenhouses for research. In recent years it has been cultivated in California and Hawaii by persons interested in its effects. There have also been reports that the plant has been spotted growing in the wild in California.
The psychotropic effects of Salvia divinorum have generated interest among psychopharmacologists and other scientists. Chemical analysis of the plant has succeeded in identifying the active substance, which is now known as salvinorin A. Research on animals and human volunteers indicates that the psychoactive effects of salvinorin A are comparable to those of mescaline. As little as 200-500 meg of salvinorin A will reliably produce hallucinations in people, when the crystallized substance is vaporized over a flame and inhaled. On the basis of effective dose, salvinorin A is the most potent natural hallucinogen known. The leaves have been determined to contain \-A mg of salvinorin A per gram of dry weight.
At the present time, Salvia divinorum is a legal plant in the United States, and no federal laws apply to its possession or use. It is grown for sale by cultivators in Mexico, Hawaii, and California. In recent years, Salvia has gained some popularity as a legal psychedelic drug. A wide range of people has used the plant for recreation, as an aid in meditation, or for herbal healing. As information about Salvia has spread on the Internet, the notoriety of the plant has increased. The psychedelic potential of salvinorin A has become the subject of numerous websites and chat rooms.
The leaves and other components of Salvia divinorum are available for sale on the Internet. Users may obtain fresh or dried leaves, an extract of the leaves in alcohol and water, or an extra-strength leaf product fortified with the extract. Pure crystallized salvinorin A, which is sold for use in scientific experiments, may also be obtained. Prices currently range from around $100 per 1 oz (28 g) for the leaves to $20 per mg for purified crystals of salvinorin A.
Although most hallucinogenic drugs are believed to induce their effects by acting on the serotonin receptors of nerve cells in the brain, Salvia divinorum does not act in this way. At present, the mechanism of the hallucinogenic activity of the plant is completely unknown. Salvinorin A has been tested on more than 40 different receptors in the brain and other tissues, including serotonin receptors. So far, no activity has been detected on any of these receptors.
The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) is currently aware of Salvia divinorum, and the agency is monitoring the plant’s increasing availability and use. The agency states, “There has been a growing interest among young adults and adolescents to re-discover eth-nobotanical plants” that can induce hallucinations or “mystical” experiences. The agency explains, “Salvia is being smoked to induce hallucinations” that are similar to those caused by tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). The DEA states that it has no plan to classify Salvia divinorum as a controlled substance at the present time.

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