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Diviner’s sage – Salvia

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Family: Lamiaceae

Scientific names: Salvia divinorum

Authority: L. Epling & Játiva 

Common names: diviner’s sage, mystic sage, magic mint, Sally D, Maria pastora, purple sticky

Following Miley Cyrus’s 18th birthday (in 2010), a video of her using a bong was disseminated. It is alleged that Cyrus was smoking salvia, a magic labiate that is believed to be an incarnation of the Virgin Mary. 

In the past, Mazatec healers would harvest the leaves after a session of kneeling and prayer in the mountains and used it for curing and divination. Today, the herbal drug is widely used recreationally as a legal alternative to illegal hallucinogens, such as marijuana and lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD). 

Plant description 

Diviner’s sage, also known as salvia, comes from a plant called Salvia divinorum, a labiate that grows to a little over 1 m in height. It is endemic to Sierra Mazateca in the State of Oaxaca in Mexico and can be found growing in forest edges and along streams in shady (low light) and moist (humid) areas. The herb has a hollow square stem, large green leaves with a yellow undertone, and white flowers with purple calyces.  


Salvia is associated with the Virgin Mary, the Mazatecs believe that it is an incarnation of Virgin Mary, hence it is harvested with special care, avoiding damaging or tramping when picking the leaves. The Mazatec also calls the salvia leaf “the leaf of prophecy” (hoja de adivinacion) as it induces visions. 

The leaves are the most preferred parts of the plant. In the past, Mazatec healers would harvest the leaves after a session of kneeling and prayer in the mountains and used it for curing and divination. The carefully picked leaves are kept fresh by wrapped in bundles with larger fresh leaves – to retain moisture and keep cool. When dried the leaves can be dark green, brownish, or blackish in colour.  

Salvia can be purchased for recreational uses as fresh or dried leaves, extracts, or herbal mixtures. The extracts are usually more potent than the dried leaves. It is unknown how the extracts are produced, users have reported the use of acetone, denatured alcohol, and or isopropanol when making the extracts.

Salvia can be grown for personal use and the leaves dried. The rule of thumb is to wait until the plant sheds its leaves. Pick the leaves and dry at room temperature. Alternatively, dry using a food dehydrator, an oven or microwave, or calcium chloride. When using calcium chloride to dry the leaves, it should not touch the leaves.

Medicinal properties

The main active compound in salvia leaves is called salvinorin A, a non-nitrogenous neoclerodane diterpene. It is the most potent naturally occurring hallucinogen and also induces a dissociative state. salvinorin A, is an opioid-like compound that stimulates the opiate kappa receptors, sites in the brain and spinal cord where natural painkillers like endorphins bind. This is also where drugs like morphine bind. 

Salvinorin A is an extremely effective herbal drug with an onset of less than one minute and a short trip duration. It gained popularity among users experimenting with natural hallucinogens to expand their consciousness. It is popular because it is accessible, legal in most countries, perceived as safe, and cannot be detected on drug screening. It is used recreationally as an alternative to marijuana and lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD). Salvia also has antidepressant, antianxiety, and mood-enhancing activity. 


Salvia leaves are prepared in various ways, including the following:

  • Fresh and dried leaves are soaked in alcohol or water overnight before juices are pressed from leaves and can be consumed with alcohol or water. 
  • Dried leaves can be ground and the obtained powder dissolved in water. 
  • The powdered leaves are also used to make tea. 

Administration methods

Salvia leaves can be administered by smoking, chewing, ingesting, or vaporising and inhaling liquid extract. 

  • The leaves and extracts can be smoked using a pipe or a water bong. Smoking using a bong or pipe is the most common way of administration for recreational use since the uptake is high and fast – hallucinogenic effects within a minute for the duration of 15 – 20 minutes.
  • Fresh and dried leaves can be placed under the tongue for absorption of the active ingredient. Both fresh and dried leaves can be chewed on for 30 minutes. The effects come on more slowly after 10 – 20 minutes and will continue for around 30 minutes. The leaves are rarely ingested since the active ingredient is absorbed through the mucus layers into the bloodstream.
  • The leaves and extracts can be ingested as infusion or tea. 
  • The leaves and extracts can be vaporised and inhaled. Inhalation of vapourized extracts or dried leaves causes hallucinations within a minute, which may last up to 20 to 30 minutes. Inhaling (either by evaporation or smoking) creates a very fast pathway for the hallucinogen to cause effects. 


The Mazatec healers used the leaves for curing and in divination, in the following ways:

  • For centuries salvia has been used by the Mazatec healers in divination ceremonies by inducing visions. 
  • For curing, healers make a tonic infusion using about fifty to one hundred leaves. Higher doses are used for alcoholics or drug addicts.
  • Salvia has been used by healers to treat headaches and rheumatism (joint pain).
  • Salvia treats diarrhoea and stomach bloating.
  • Salvia regulates urination and bowel movement.
  • Salvia is used to treat semi-magical diseases.
  • Salvia has been used recreationally for its hallucinogenic effects.

Salvia is also used in combination with other legal and illegal drugs such as alcohol, cannabis, mushrooms, LSD,  and N,Ndimethyltryptamine (DMT).

Buy Salvia / Sage: ‎ and ‎

Safety precaution:

The use of traditional medicine in prescribed dosages will yield good results. Misuse and abuse may lead to complications. Overexposure to salvia can have adverse effects such as agitation, confusion, dizziness, flushed sensation, hypertension, tachycardia, hallucinations, and paranoia. Usage is discouraged when pregnant or lactating, suffering from depressions, heart and vascular diseases and liver disorders. To learn about correct dosage, consult a traditional healer or a herbalist. You can also visit or email: to learn more about traditional medicine.  

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