Salvia divinorum: La Maria says in a low voice


Expert Pharmacologist
Jul 6, 2021
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Salvia divinorum (soothsayer sage, ska maría pastora, soothsayer sage, yerba de la pastora), a relative of sage, is a plant that grows wild in parts of Mexico but is also cultivated worldwide. The leaves of the plant can induce psychedelic experiences when consumed because of the psychoactive compound, salvinorin A. The leaves also have anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties. Salvia has been traditionally used by Masatec shamans for medicinal purposes and healing rituals for centuries. Surprisingly, salvinorin A has no nitrogen atoms, which is very characteristic of a compound with powerful psychoactive effects.

It is the most unique plant containing surfactant that is capable of inducing visions and other altered states of consciousness and spiritual experiences. In terms of potency, it is the most potent plant-based surfactant and the second most potent of all psychedelics (LSD, the «king of psychedelics», is a semi-synthetic substance). The plant is native to the rainforests of the isolated Sierra Mazateca in Oaxaca, Mexico.

Plant Description
Salvia has large green ovate leaves with a yellow tinge that reach 10 to 30 cm in length. The leaves have no hairs. They have a small petiole (or no petiole at all). The plant reaches more than 1 meter in height, has hollow tetrahedral stems, which usually run along the ground. Flowers bloom rarely. The flowers are 3 cm long, white, curved and covered with hairs, in small purple calyxes covered with hairs and nectaries. In its native habitat, flowering occurs from September to May.

In terms of its reproductive biology, Salvia divinorum is a highly specialized plant that reproduces primarily through vegetative propagation rather than by producing seeds. It produces small, white, tubular flowers with purple calyces, which are borne in loose, terminal inflorescences. The plant is capable of both self-pollination and cross-pollination with the help of insects.

The ecology of Salvia divinorum is closely tied to the cloud forest environment, which is characterized by high humidity, cool temperatures, and rich, well-drained soils. The plant is often found growing in the understory of forests, where it thrives in shaded, moist conditions. It is sensitive to drought and does not tolerate direct sunlight well.

Cultivation of Salvia divinorum outside of its native habitat has been challenging, as the plant is sensitive to changes in its environment and requires careful attention to moisture levels and temperature. In recent years, efforts have been made to cultivate the plant in controlled indoor environments, such as greenhouses, to ensure its sustainability and availability for research purposes.


Salvia stem height can reach two or more meters — it cannot grow higher, as it breaks under its own weight at large sizes. This is the basis of the principle of propagation of Salvia both in nature and in culture: falling on porous, humus-rich (fertile) soil, in high humidity and warmth, a part of the broken stem takes root within a few days. Salvia divinorum is a flowering plant, but attempts to propagate it by seeds usually fail.

For propagation in culture, cuttings 5-10 cm long with several leaves are used. They are rooted in water or in various favorable substrates (better in coarse river sand). When propagating in soil or sand, a small pot is taken, which is half filled with soil. Freshly cut under the forked cuttings of Salvia are placed to a depth of 2-3 cm in the sand, watered, covered with a plastic bag or glass container. The pot is placed in the penumbra. After rooting (after about 2-3 weeks), you can proceed to a weak feeding.

The roots of Salvia grow quickly and take up all the allotted space, so do not delay in transplanting the rooted cuttings into a larger container, so that the roots do not weaken. Adult Salvia plant is grown in large pots, requires regular feeding, but is very sensitive to overdose.

The plant begins to bloom when the daylight hours are shorter than 12 hours (starting in mid-October in some places), but this is quite rare, especially in urban areas.


History of a unique plant
As mentioned earlier, salvia can only be found in nature in one place, the Sierra Mazateca in Oaxaca, Mexico, where it is still used by the Masateca tribe, primarily in healing rituals or divination by shamans (shamanic divination).

S. divinorum is one of several plant species with hallucinogenic properties ritually used by Masateka shamans. Other plants used by them include certain hypomea seeds, psilocybin mushrooms, and various species of coleus. In their rituals, shamans use only fresh Salvia leaves. They believe that the plant represents an incarnation of the Virgin Mary, and their ritual begins by invoking Mary, St. Peter, the Holy Trinity, and other saints.

Ritual use traditionally involves staying in a quiet place after taking the leaf. Shamans say that «La Maria (Salvia) speaks in a quiet voice». Sage is also used medicinally in lower doses as a diuretic, and to treat conditions including diarrhea, anemia, headaches, rheumatism, and a semi-magical condition known as panzón de borrego, or swollen belly (literally, «belly of the lamb»).

The history of the plant is poorly known, and there is no concrete answer to the question of its origin, since the cultivation of this plant, for more than a hundred years, has been practiced by only one tribe, which still lives in a completely wild environment.

The history of Salvia in our time begins in 1939, when it was first described by the Swedish anthropologist J.B. Johnson, and the first sample of the plant was obtained by the famous ethnobotanist G. Wesson in 1962. An Indian shaman — curandero treated him to juice squeezed from 34 leaves of the sacred plant.

According to the scientist, the effects of the juice resembled those of psilocybin, but were shorter and weaker. That same year, another famous scientist, Albert Hoffman, traveled through Mexico with Wesson. He failed when he tried to isolate the active ingredient from salvia leaves, as the alcoholic extract of salvia he had brought from Mexico to Switzerland had lost its magic power during the trip. It was not until 1982 that A. Ortega was able to isolate salvinorin A. The amazingly powerful hallucinogenic effect of smoking Salvia leaves was experienced by D. Sibert in June 1993.


Composition and principle of action
The main active component of Salvia divinorum is a diterpenoid known as salvinorin A (chemical formula C23H28O8). This compound is present in the dried plant in an amount of about 0.18%; fresh leaves contain about 0.08%. Salvinorin A is not an alkaloid, meaning it does not contain a nitrogenous base, unlike most known opioid receptor ligands and other psychoactive substances in general. Salvinorin A is the first documented diterpene hallucinogen.

Salvinorin A is the most potent hallucinogen of plant origin. It is active already at doses as low as 200 mcg. Synthetic chemicals such as LSD (active at doses of 20-30 mcg) may be more potent than salvinorin A. Studies have shown that salvinorin A is a potent and selective agonist of kappa-opioid receptors. Salvinorin A does not affect the serotonin 5-HT2A receptor, unlike other «classic» hallucinogens (e.g. LSD or mescaline). The activity of salvinorin should not be confused with its toxicity. Rodents that were continuously given doses many times higher than those used by humans showed no signs of internal organ damage.

Other salvinorins (B, C, D, E, F) and related compounds called divinatorins and salvinicins have been isolated from the Salvia divinorum plant. But there is no evidence that these substances contribute to the psychoactive properties of the plant, as they do not act on receptors.

Salvinorin A is able to slow down (inhibit) excessive intestinal motility (e.g. diarrhea), due to its effects on a group of kappa-opioid and cannabinoid (mainly CB1 receptor) receptors in the inflamed, but not normal, gut, in vivo. The results of a small study conducted by an assistant professor at the University of Iowa suggest that salvinorin A may be a potential analgesic and therapeutic agent for the treatment of drug addiction. A pharmacologically important aspect of salvinorin A's antispasmodic action on intestinal tissue is that its pharmacologic activity occurs only on inflamed (not normal) tissue, resulting in fewer possible side effects of the substance.


Use of Salvia
There are several ways to use Salvia. In traditional Mazatec ritual, shamans use only fresh Salvia leaves. But nowadays, there are other ways to immerse yourself in the world of sage and feel like a shaman.

Traditional method
Masateca shamans crush the leaves (20-80 pc about 50 g) to obtain the juice. They usually mix these juices with water to make an infusion or tea, which they drink to enter a trance state during ritual healing ceremonies. Another method of the masateks is chewing and swallowing large quantities of fresh leaves. Swallowing the leaves increases the time of onset of the effects, which come within 10-20 minutes. The time of all effects, from onset of action, lasts from 30 minutes to an hour and a half. Doses for chewing are much higher than those used for smoking. Calculating the concentrations of the substance in a leaf («an average concentration of 2.45 mg per gram» of leaf), the average weight per leaf («about 50 g» per 20 leaves, or 2.5 g per leaf), and a standard chewing dose (about 8-28 leaves), it appears that the dose can range from about 50 mg to 172 mg.

The most modern method is smoking. Dried leaves can be smoked in a pipe or using a bong to cool the smoke. The temperature required to release salvinorin from the plant material is quite high (about 240°C), so it is recommended to use a turbo lighter, or a small burner. A cooler flame will be effective, you will have to smoke several times more.

Some people believe that untreated dry leaves produce imperceptible effects. Concentrated formulations or extracts have now become widely available that can be smoked in place of leaves. Such concentrates are described as a number followed by x (e.g., 5x, 10x), where the number will indicate the relative amounts of leaf concentrate, but there is no uniform standard for these designations.

Other sources may use a color code system such as «green», «yellow», and «red». The total activity of the extract will depend on the naturally varying activity of the raw leaf used in making the extract, as well as the efficiency of the extraction process itself. Extraction reduces the total number of breaths required for the onset of effects, making it easier to achieve a more potent trip.

When smoking sage, the main effects come on quickly. The most intense «peak» is reached within a minute or so, and lasts for 1-5 minutes, then the effects gradually diminish. At 5-10 minutes, less intense but still noticeable effects tend to persist, gradually bringing you back to the real world. A return to the original state occurs after 15-20 minutes.

Leaf chewing
The traditional method of chewing the leaves is still used today. However, salvinorin A is generally considered inactive when administered orally, as it is effectively broken down in the gastrointestinal tract. The leaves are kept in the mouth as long as possible to facilitate absorption of the active ingredients through the oral mucosa. They are then spit out rather than swallowed, as swallowing the leaves does not cause any effects. Chewing will require the use of more leaves than smoking, resulting in a more vivid and intense experience.

Use of tincture
Sage can also be used in the form of a tincture. It is administered sublingually (sublingually), e.g. with a glass pipette. Or you can dilute the tincture with water just before use, which may slightly reduce the intensity of its effects. But it may reduce the tingling sensation in the mouth caused by the presence of alcohol.

Tinctures can have varying levels of activity, and their effects can range from a mild meditative state to a more intense experience involving visions. When taken as an infusion, the effects and duration of action are almost the same as with other oral methods, although they can be much more intense, depending on the activity of the extract.

The effects of La Maria
Psychedelic experiences are always somewhat subjective. It is always difficult to describe them to a person who is not personally familiar with them. Naturally, the effects of salvia can vary from user to user. D. M. Turner's book «Salvinorin — The Psychedelic Essence of Salvia Divinorum» quotes Daniel Siebert's conclusion that salvia effects may include:
  • Uncontrollable laughter;
  • Memories of the past, such as being «transported» to places of childhood;
  • Feelings of movement, or a sense of being pulled down by some force;
  • D Seeing membranes, films, various two-dimensional surfaces, and fractal patterns;
  • Combining with objects or becoming objects of overlapping realities, such as perceiving oneself in several places at the same time.

Synaesthetic experiences are also possible. For example, you can see music or smell it. Glossolalia (speaking in tongues) is another effect reported by Reason magazine. It is speech consisting of meaningless words and phrases, but with some signs of meaningful speech; speech with many neologisms and incorrect phrase construction.

A survey of salvia users found that 38% of users described its effects as unique compared to other mind-altering methods. 23% said the effects were similar to those of yoga, meditation or trance.

The following is one first-hand journalistic account of a salvia user's experience, published in the British science journal New Scientist:
«Salvia gave me a mind-expanding journey unlike any other experience I have ever had. I felt like my body was «disconnected» from «me». Objects and people looked like cartoon characters, surreal and unreal. As suddenly as it started, it ended just as suddenly. The visions disappeared and I went back to my bedroom. I spoke to my «sitter», a friend who was watching me as recommended on the salvia package, yet my mouth was clumsy and disobedient. When I tried to stand up, my coordination was impaired. After a couple minutes, however, I was fine and clear-headed, however, doused in sweat. The whole experience lasted less than 5 minutes».

Several books have been published on the subject. One notable example is Dale Pendell's Pharmako/Poeia — Plants Powers, Poisons, and Herbcraft. The book contains a chapter on Salvia divinorum. It includes several user reports:
«This experience is very intense, I call it the 'stuttering' of reality, or the «lighting up» of reality. I believe that my experience as a test pilot, when I had to fly airplanes with only two feet of wing spacing, helped prepare me for this kind of research» — Pendell.

Others claim the plant gave them musical inspiration («Salvia divinorum» by the band 1200 Micrograms, «Salvia» by Deepwater Sunshine and «Flight 77» by Paul Dereas).

It's important to know! Why are there no effects?
The first thing to know is that after smoking Salvia Divinorum extracts, there are two main options: it can be a powerful short-lived psychedelic effect, or a weak to medium strength effect with no pronounced psychedelic effects.

The first variant represents an adequate action of Salvia, but the second variant requires explanation. A great number of people reported that Salvia «revealed» to them not immediately, but after several approaches. Hence the rumors that Salvia is a «woman» picky, accepts only certain people, etc. From an esoteric point of view this is true, but there are some other premises.
Salvia's psychoactive effects are new to those who have never encountered it, and are chemically unique nitrogen-free compounds. From a medical perspective, it is quite common to experience so-called paradoxical reactions to well-known drugs. For example, after taking psychostimulants, such as caffeine, phenamine, some people just ... fall asleep

Some patients become unsteady and agitated after being given benzodiazepine tranquilizers, many simply have no apparent reaction even at high dosages!

Many doctors are aware of cases when antipsychotic drugs (neuroleptics) caused aggravation and worsening of the condition, and sometimes even psychosis. There is something similar between the human reaction to such powerful psychotropic drugs and Salvia. Thus, we can talk about an individual reaction.

Salvia is often used by addicts and substance abusers who abuse certain drugs (including dissociative substances such as ketamine or dextromethorphan). It is important to remember that any drug leaves behind a trace in the CNS, and with prolonged abuse makes significant changes in it. Then the reaction to Salvia can be even more unpredictable!

In any case, many people who did not feel the effect of Salvia at first, began to slowly feel it after some time of use, and later, Salvia completely «opened up» to them. Set&Setting, relaxation and, of course, choosing the right concentration of Salvia extract are of great importance here.

Sometimes those who were not affected by the most powerful extract of 20x, felt the full effect of extracts of 5x or even ordinary leaves! This happened most of all after smoking leaves that were harvested from self-grown Salvia bushes, not from those bought in entheo stores.


Don't buy from me
Aug 19, 2023
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The last part made me think of this one time I smoked salvia leaves when on very small dose of shrooms and had an amazing DMT like experience. Just smoking the leaves barely had a noticeable effect and every experience I've had with extracts weather 5x or 60x was at best not enjoyable and at worst damn terrifying.


Nov 23, 2021
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The last part made me think of this one time I smoked salvia leaves when on very small dose of shrooms and had an amazing DMT like experience. Just smoking the leaves barely had a noticeable effect and every experience I've had with extracts weather 5x or 60x was at best not enjoyable and at worst damn terrifying.
tetr00The extracts are not to be trifled with, except for high concentrations, it is worth considering errors in the production of the extract. With certain reservations, we can say that the more natural, the safer and more congruent. Even when we talk about potentially harmful substances. And this is especially true for psychedelics.
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