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Salvia divinorum, sage

Summary

A recent bete noir for the media but its mostly unpleasant effects mean it is not widely used.

Blog Entries

Read more about Salvia divinorum, sage, in these blog entries;
Salvia seems to have gone out of fashion, as expected.

Family

Lamiaceae

Meaning of the Name

Salvia
Possibly from 'salvus', meaning 'well', 'safe', 'alive'. Or, from 'salvo', 'I heal'.

divinorum
From 'divinus', 'divine', 'godlike', 'prophetic'

Common Names and Synonyms

Sage

How Poisonous, How Harmful?

Contains a psychoactive substance known as Salvinorin A which is a diterpenoid. This distinguishes it from other opioid receptor agonists which are alkaloids. It is reported to be of low toxicity and is also said to be non-addictive.

A 2006 survey estimated that 1.8 million Americans had used salvia at least once and 750,000 of those were within the previous twelve months. Aside from one suicide alleged to have been the result of salvia use, there are no reports of long-term ill effects. The one case, however, has been seized on by the media and many people believe salvia to be a very harmful substance which should be dealt with in the same way as heroin.

As with any substance, there are suggestions that some users have psychedelic experiences which are distressing. It has been suggested that this relates to very high doses but not enough is known about this substance for a clear dose/effect link to be established.

One of the biggest downsides of salvia use is that users may be unaware that they are having a 'trip'. Whereas users of LSD say that they can care themselves down by assuring themselves that the bad effects will pass when the drug wears off, salvia users say they don't understand the effects they are experiencing and that makes them frightened.

Incidents

For most of its history, the use of Salvia divinorum has been restricted to shamans in Mexico. It produces a quick, but short-lived, 'high' generally producing laughter but also having a profound effect on cognitive function.

Since becoming available in the rest of the world, salvia use has featured on a great many YouTube videos. These tend to confirm the view that it is not a 'party' drug since its effects last only a few minutes and its impact on motor function and coordination is large.

The earliest report of salvia being used as a recreational drug seems to come from France in 2002 where it was reported as being sold at music festivals.

Media reports have tended to label it as legal LSD but its effects are substantially different. Like all other substances apart from alcohol and tobacco the 2016 act made salvia illegal in the UK.

Its use seems to be largely related to young people daring each other to try it.

Folklore and Facts

Though there have been calls for salvia to be banned these have not received widespread support. In the UK, an Early Day Motion (a parliamentary device for drawing attention to a topic) calling for a ban received only 11 signatures. This was in October, 2005 before the plant attracted media interest but, in 2008, another EDM only attracted 18 signatures.

The UK government asked its Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs to look at a number of 'legal highs' to see if action should be taken and, as a result, three substances were brought within the Misuse Of Drugs Act but salvia was not one of them.

In 2016, the Psychoactive Substances Act became law in the UK. Under this act all psychoactive substances, except tobacco and alcohol, became illegal to supply.

Some countries and some US states have banned it but, as with all such prohibitions, there appears to have been little effect on use.

A 2013 paper (abstract here) found that rats tended to avoid repeat use of salvia or Salvinorin A. This is in line with many anecdotal reports that the majority of people only use it once.

IMPORTANT NOTE

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Introduction to the A to Z section
Abrus precatorius, rosary pea
Aconitum lycoctonum, wolfsbane
Aconitum napellus, monkshood
Actaea racemosa, black cohosh
Actaea spicata, baneberry
Aesculus hippocastanum, horse chestnut
Amanita muscaria, fly agaric
Aquilegia atrata, columbine
Aristolochia clematitis, birthwort
Artemisia absinthium, wormwood
Arum italicum, Italian cuckoopint
Arum maculatum, cuckoopint
Aspergillus fumigatus
Atropa belladonna, deadly nightshade
Brugmansia suaveolens, angel's trumpet
Bryonia dioica, bryony
Buxus sempervirens, common box
Camellia sinensis, tea
Cannabis sativa, marijuana
Catha edulis, khat
Chelidonium majus, greater celandine
Cimicifuga racemosa, black cohosh
Claviceps purpurea, ergot
Clematis vitalba, old man's beard
Colchicum autumnale, naked ladies
Conium maculatum, poison hemlock
Convallaria majalis, lily of the valley
Cynoglossum officinale, hound’s tongue
Daphne mezereon, spurge olive
Datura stramonium, thorn apple, jimsonweed
Datura suaveolens, angel's trumpet
Delphinium, larkspur
Digitalis spp., foxglove
Dracunculus vulgaris, dragon arum
Echium vulgare, viper’s bugloss
Eranthis hyemalis, winter aconite
Erythroxylum coca, cocaine
Euonymus europaeus, spindle tree
Euphorbia x martinii, red spurge
Euphorbia pulcherrima, poinsettia
Fritillaria spp., fritillary
Galanthus nivalis, snowdrop
Hedera helix, common ivy
Helleborus spp., hellebore
Heracleum mantegazzianum, giant hogweed
Hyacinthoides non-scripta, bluebell
Hyoscyamus niger, black henbane
Ilex aquifolium, holly
Jacobaea vulgaris, ragwort
Juniperus communis, common juniper
Laburnum anagyroides, laburnum
Lactuca serriola, prickly lettuce
Leucojum aestivum, snowflake
Lithospermum officinale, gromwell
Lolium temulentum, darnel
Malus 'John Downie', crab apple
Mandragora officinarum, mandrake
Mercurialis perennis, dog’s mercury
Narcissus, daffodil
Nepeta faassenii, catmint
Nerium oleander, oleander
Nicotiana sylvestris, tobacco
Oenanthe crocata, hemlock water dropwort
Papaver somniferum, opium poppy
Pastinaca sativa, parsnip
Polygonatum odoratum, angular Solomon's seal
Prunus laurocerasus, cherry laurel
Pulsatilla vulgaris, pasque flower
Ranunculus acris, meadow buttercup
Rheum x hybridum, rhubarb
Rhododendron spp.
Rhus radicans, poison ivy
Ricinus communis, castor oil plant
Rosmarinus officinalis, rosemary
Rumex obtusifolius, broad-leaved dock
Ruta graveolens, rue
Salix alba, white willow
Salvia divinorum, sage
Scutellaria laterifolia, Virginian skullcap
Senecio jacobaea, ragwort
Solanum dulcamara, woody nightshade
Solanum melongena, aubergine
Strychnos nux-vomica, poison nut
Symphoricarpos albus, snowberry
Symphytum spp., comfrey
Taxus baccata, yew
Toxicodendron radicans, poison ivy
Thevetia peruviana, yellow oleander
Urtica dioica, stinging nettle
Veratrum album, white hellebore
Verbascum olympicum, Greek mullein
Vinca major, greater periwinkle
Viscum album, mistletoe
Vitex agnus-castus, chaste tree