This site uses botanical names. Click here for an A to Z common name to botanical name converter.
Salvia divinorum, sage
A recent bete noir for the media but its mostly unpleasant effects mean it is not widely used.
Read more about Salvia divinorum, sage, in these blog
Salvia seems to have gone out of fashion, as expected.
Meaning of the Name
Possibly from 'salvus', meaning 'well', 'safe', 'alive'. Or, from 'salvo', 'I heal'.
From 'divinus', 'divine', 'godlike', 'prophetic'
Common Names and Synonyms
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 very high doses may lead to psychedelic experiences which are distressing.
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.
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.