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Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Salvia Trip

Salvia divinorum, also known as Diviner’s Sage,[2] ska María Pastora,[3] Sage of the Seers, or simply by the genus name, Salvia, is a psychoactive herb which can induce strong dissociative effects. It is a member of the sage genus and the Lamiaceae (mint) family.[4] The Latin name Salvia divinorum literally translates to “sage of the seers”.[5]

Salvia divinorum has a long and continuing tradition of use as an entheogen by indigenous Mazatec shamans, who use it to facilitate visionary states of consciousness during spiritual healing sessions.[1] The plant is found in isolated, shaded, and moist plots in Oaxaca, Mexico. It grows to well over a meter in height. It has hollow square stems, large green leaves, and occasional white and purple flowers. It is thought to be a cultigen.[6]

Its primary psychoactive constituent is a diterpenoid known as salvinorin A,[7][8] which is a potent κ-opioid receptor agonist. Salvinorin A is unique in that it is the only naturally occurring substance known to induce a visionary state this way. Salvia divinorum can be chewed, smoked, or taken as a tincture to produce experiences ranging from uncontrollable laughter to much more intense and profoundly altered states. The duration of effects is much shorter than that of other, more well-known psychedelics; the effects of smoked salvia typically last for only a few minutes. The most commonly reported after-effects include an increased feeling of insight, an improved mood, a sense of calmness, and an increased sense of connection with nature—though, much less often, it may also cause dysphoria (unpleasant or uncomfortable mood).[9] Salvia divinorum is not generally understood to be toxic or addictive. As a κ-opioid agonist, it may have potential as an analgesic and as a therapeutic tool for treating drug addictions.

Salvia divinorum has become both increasingly well-known and available in modern culture. The rise of the Internet since the 1990s has allowed for the growth of many businesses selling live salvia plants, dried leaves, extracts, and other preparations. Medical experts as well as accident and emergency rooms have not been reporting cases that suggest particular salvia-related health concerns, and police have not been reporting it as a significant issue with regard to public order offences. Despite this, Salvia divinorum has attracted heightened negative attention lately from the media and some lawmakers.

Media stories generally raise alarms over salvia’s legal status in some places and are often headlined with not necessarily well-supported comparisons to LSD. Parental concerns are raised by focusing on salvia’s usage by younger teens—the emergence of YouTube videos purporting to depict its use being an area of particular concern in this respect. The isolated and controversial case of Brett Chidester, a 17-year-old Delaware student who purchased salvia some four months prior to committing suicide in January 2006, has received continued media attention. Salvia divinorum remains legal in most countries and, within the United States, is legal in the majority of states. However, some have called for its prohibition. Most proposed bills have not been made into law, with motions having been voted down in committee, failed, died, or otherwise stalled. There exist more recent bills that are currently still in the early proposal stage, however. Thus far, there have not been many publicised prosecutions of individuals violating anti-salvia laws in the few countries and states in which it has been made illegal.[nb 1]

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