Home » Drugs » Salvia

Other Names: Magic mint, Sally-D, Incense special, Diviner’s sage, purple sticky, Ska Maria Pastora, Lady Sally, Seer’s sage, Shepherdess’s herb, Maria Pastora, Ska Pastora, hierba (yerba) Maria, leaf of prophecy, Lady Salvia

It is part of the Lamiaceae family and bears a strong resemblance to the average mint plant. Unlike its more mundane relative, however, salvia contains psychoactive compounds that cause its users to see and feel things that are not there. In fact, the Center for Substance Abuse Research suggests that it may be the most potent natural-occurring hallucinogen in its category.

Compared to other hallucinogens, the effects of salvia are short but intense. Depending on the intake method, trips usually last within 30 minutes, with the peak occurring within the first two minutes. Its potential for addiction is also low. Some common effects include visual distortions, lack of coordination, and uncontrollable laughter.

By federal law, salvia is not illegal to use, making it a commonly used recreational drug. Since it can mimic the effects of other banned drugs like LSD and ecstasy, people often call it a “legal high.”

However, its legal status does not make it safe for use. The Drug Enforcement Administration, in particular, tags salvia as a drug of concern, which may pose a health risk for its users. Due to these concerns, multiple states—such as Delaware, Texas, and Illinois—have passed their own laws to regulate its use.

A Brief History of Salvia

The use of salvia began centuries ago. The Mazatec Indians in Mexico used the salvia as a crucial part of their religious ceremonies and shamanic rituals. The hallucinogenic plant is brewed into a tea, which healers drink to induce a visionary, dream-like state. Through this process, they can identify underlying causes of illnesses and their accompanying remedy.

Some locals brought up in the Christian tradition   call salvia the “Herb of Mary, the Shepherdess.” They believe that the plant is the incarnation of the Virgin Mary. This belief stems from the reports of several users, who claim to have seen a woman or other sacred objects during their trips. Due to its cultural significance, it is not surprising that its use is legal in Mexico and other countries in South America.

Meanwhile, in the United States, views on salvia use are divided. As mentioned earlier, the recreational use of salvia is legally allowed by federal law but heavily regulated in some states. Because of its short-lived effects, salvia tends to appeal to first-time drug users, which, unfortunately, also includes adolescents and teenagers.

In the 2000s, salvia became popular in this younger demographic. Due to its low addiction potential, easy obtainability, and few reports of side effects, young users thought that it was a safe hallucinogen to try. Teenagers recorded their trips and uploaded videos onto video-streaming platforms like Youtube. This happened so frequently that salvia was called the “Youtube drug” at one point.

Over time, salvia use has decreased, and the issues surrounding the plant were brought to light. Erratic behavior, the risk of accidents, and the potential long-term effects on mental health are some of the concerns researchers and government leaders grapple with.

Currently, there is no known medical use for salvia. Some studies suggest that the plant may be used in addressing several neurological problems, like Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. However, more evidence and research are needed to verify these theories before salvia formally enters the medicinal space.

How Does Salvia Work in the Human Body?

The active ingredient of salvia is salvinorin A, a chemical compound that disrupts select processes in the brain and causes the drug’s effects. Salvinorin A attaches to nerve cell receptors called kappa opioid receptors (KOR), which are involved in regulating perception. They also influence the processes of dopamine, which play a role in the body’s ability to move.

Bear in mind that the body needs to absorb a certain amount of salvinorin A first before its hallucinogenic effects appear. Once it meets that threshold, users will feel the most intense effects within a few minutes and slowly come out of the trip within the next half hour.

The length of time salvia stays in the body after its use varies based on different factors. Some of these include frequency of use, metabolism, age, hydration levels, weight, and physical activity. Testing for salvia is uncommon in standardized check-ups so determining its presence can be expensive.

How is Salvia Taken or Administered?

The method in which salvia is taken has a significant influence on how long the effects will last. This is because once salvia is swallowed, the gastrointestinal (GI) system quickly breaks it down and the effects wear off. Thus users often take the drug in three main ways: chewing the leaves, smoking them, or brewing them in a tea.

Through these methods, the body will be able to absorb salvia’s psychoactive components through the mouth’s mucous membrane and have them directly enter the bloodstream without going through the digestive tract.

What are the Immediate and Long-Term Effects of Salvia Abuse?

The long-term effects of salvia use are still being studied, but the immediate effects of salvia are well-listed. Like other hallucinogens, salvia causes its users to perceive and feel sensations that are not real, with a number of physical and mental effects, including

Physical Effects

  • Uncontrollable laughter
  • Physical or visual impairment
  • Talkativeness
  • Nausea
  • Lack of coordination
  • Slurred speech

Mental Effects

  • Visual distortions and hallucinations
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Confusion
  • Dissociation from reality
  • Synesthesia (a condition where physical sensations intertwine)
  • Dysphoria
  • Improved mood
  • Distortion of space and time
  • Recollection of memories, like places from childhood
  • Out-of-body experiences
  • Contact with entities from other dimensions
  • Feeling uneasy

Compared to other drugs like alcohol, there are currently no known hangover effects from using salvia after the effects have worn off.


Individuals who are under the influence of salvia become vulnerable during their trips. There is an increased risk for accidents and erratic behavior, which may result in injuries and other forms of harm.

Aside from physical risks, users leave themselves open to psychological harm as well. While the effects of salvia are short, the trip can be frightening, with vivid hallucinations and negative feelings. People with mental health issues are more vulnerable to these effects.

Overall, it is not appropriate to consider salvia as a safe drug for use. Without a clear understanding of its effects and how to properly use it, salvia still poses a risk for people who may take it.

Signs of Salvia Use Disorder

While the addiction potential for salvia is low, frequent use may result in developing a psychological dependence on it. According to the latest Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Disorder (DSM-5), frequent salvia users who exhibit at least two of the following symptoms struggle with substance use disorder:

  • Experiencing withdrawal symptoms from not using salvia
  • Taking more and more salvia than intended
  • Failure to stop using salvia despite personal wishes
  • Cravings for salvia
  • Putting in a lot of time and effort to get or use salvia
  • Continued use of salvia despite physical or psychological problems
  • Using salvia despite putting oneself in danger
  • Taking salvia despite the problems it causes in the user’s relationships
  • Failure to fulfill responsibilities at home, work, or school due to salvia use

Considering salvia’s popularity among the younger folk, parents need to be wary about the items that their children are consuming. Based on the National Institute on Drug Abuse for Teens, around 1.1 percent of 10th graders reported having used salvia in 2020. At this point in their lives, children are generally curious about the world and may turn to salvia as an experiment.

For parents, keep an eye out for the following signs:

  • Changes in behavior (like sleep and eating patterns)
  • Problems with hygiene or appearance
  • Health issues (such as depression)
  • Changes in mood and personality
  • School concerns (including missing classes and declining grades)

Moreover, parents and other mentor figures need to have an open discussion with minors on the danger of using these drugs and how these can affect their physical and mental health. By doing so, they can protect themselves and inform their parents, teachers, and other pillars of the community if they notice something amiss among their peers.

Rehab and Treatment for Salvia Use Disorder

Recovering from salvia use disorder is difficult to do alone. To safely heal from drug addiction, the guidance and direction of trained health professionals are paramount.

Generally the first stage of the rehabilitation process,  the detoxification program highlights the importance of medical help. Without it, detoxifying the body from salvia can be uncomfortable and even dangerous for the user. In rehab, health professionals will be able to assist them in safely removing the substance from the body, making the experience significantly easier for the patient.

Aside from detox, enrolled patients in rehab will have access to counseling sessions, workshops, and other lectures that will help them live a drug-free life. The road to sobriety is not easy, but the healing process becomes more effective with the right mindset and approach.

Currently, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not approved any drugs to treat salvia abuse. Hence, rehab facilities use proven therapy methods, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy, to help patients reach sobriety.

Get the Help You Need

By itself, healing from substance use disorder is already difficult. Make the recovery process significantly easier for you by contacting Better Addiction Care.

We specialize in helping individuals struggling with drug addiction find the right rehab center for them for effective recovery. Aside from this, we also help in compiling enrollment requirements, arranging transportation, and even looking for after-care programs.

Take that first step to life-long sobriety, and contact Better Addiction Care today.

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