Salvia: The Diviner’s Sage

By: Tyler Oberheim

Salvia divinorum, or better known by its street names as salvia, magic mint, or Sally-D is a psychotropic herb that belongs to the sage family. Salvia has long been used in religious and healing ceremonies of certain Native American tribes to induce a state of divine intoxication (Ott 1995). Salvia is part of a growing trend that is known as a “legal high drugs” because it can be purchased in various settings including tattoo parlors, gas stations, and tobacco shops (Singleton, Stogner, & Miller, 2014). The commercialization of salvia is able to occur because it is a naturally occurring plant and has been able to avoid federal regulation (Griffin, Miller, & Khey, 2008).

The active ingredient in salvia has been found to be one of the most potent naturally occurring hallucinogens with the effects it has on an individual often being compared to the effects of LSD (Serra et al., 2015). Knowing this, those that seek out and ingest salvia may experience intense and frightening hallucinations for the short duration that the psychoactive substance is present in their body. The neuropsychological effects of salvia intoxication include altered mood states, erratic behavior patterns, and altered cognitions (Johnson et al., 2011). Salvia can be ingested by chewing the leaves of the salvia plant, drank by extracting the juices from the leaves, smoking the dried leaves, or vaporized and inhaled through an e-cigarette device.

The National Institute of Drug Abuse states that the mode of action for salvia is that once it is ingested into the body it attaches itself to kappa opioid receptors on nerve cells. It is important to make note that these receptors are not the same receptors for traditional opioids, like heroin, which is why salvia produces psychoactive experiences for the user. However, the real dangers of salvia hide in the unknown. It is not known if ingestion of salvia can be fatal due to the lack of awareness of symptoms related to salvia ingestion. Also, due to the lack of research on salvia and its effects on the body it is unknown as to whether or not an individual consistently using salvia can develop an addiction to the substance. The DEA has labeled salvia as a drug of concern and hopefully this will make a call for research on the long term effects of salvia use and whether or not it can lead to addiction and/or if it can be fatal.


Griffin, O. H., III, Miller, B. L., & Khey, D. N. (2008). Legally high? Legal considerations of Salvia divinorum. Journal of Psychoactive Drugs, 40, 183?191.

Johnson, M. W., MacLean, K. A., Reissig, C. J., Prisinzano, T. E., & Griffiths, R. R. (2011). Human psychopharmacology and dose-effects of salvinorin A, a kappa opioid agonist hallucinogen present in the plant Salvia divinorum. Drug and Alcohol Dependence, 115, 150-155

Ott, J. (1995). Ethnopharmacognosy and human pharmacology of Salvia divinorum and salvinorin A. Curare: Journal of Medical Anthropology, 18, 103-129.

Serra, V., Fattore, L., Scherman, M., Collu, R., Spano, M. S., Fratta, W., & Fadda, P. (2015). Behavioural and neurochemical assessment of salvinorin A abuse potential in the rat. Psychopharmacology, 232, 91-100.

Singleton, M., Stogner, J. M., & Miller, B. L. (2014).Awareness of novel drug leagality in a young adult population. American Journal of Criminal Justice, 39, 425-435.


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About the Author

is a proud alumni member of WhiteSands Treatment. After living a life of chaos, destruction and constant let downs, Mark was able to make a complete turnaround that sparked a new way of life. He is serious about his recovery along with helping others. At WhiteSands Treatment, we offer support to you in your homes or when you are out living in your daily lives.