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What Is Salvia?

Updated on January 27, 2011

What is Salvia?

Salvia divinorum is a low-growing plant that is native to parts of Mexico and the southern United States. The extracts of the plants have been found to have psychoactive properties, and are often used to induce hallucinogenic effects. The leaves of the plant were once used in Native American rituals, including those of the Mayan and Aztec cultures. Today, there are still a handful of Native American tribes and medicine men that use the plant for medicinal purposes.

Salvia can be cultivated and grown in many regions of the U.S., as well as parts of Central America. The plant can be grown and sold legally in the United States, but is banned in other countries around the world. The recent popularity of salvia among teens and young adults who smoke the leaves of the plant and plant extracts in order to take advantage of salvia’s psychoactive properties has become a subject of controversy among parents of teens and legislators in the U.S.


The temporary effects of salvia divinorum include auditory and visual hallucinations, perceptions of bright lights, uncontrollable laughter, and an out-of-body experience. However, in comparison to marijuana and other psychedelic substances, the effects of salvia are short-term. Salvia is often referred to as Diviner’s Sage and Ska Pastora. Salvia extracts can easily be purchased over the Internet from a number of retailers and shipped to anywhere in the U.S.

A number of recent videos featured on YouTube that depict young teens smoking salvia and “tripping,” have many parents in an uproar. However, recent news that the suspect in the January 2010 shooting of Representative Gabrielle Giffords and ten other people in a Tucson, Arizona supermarket may have been abusing salvia, has prompted a call to ban the use of salvia in several states.

Salvia was officially banned in the state of Florida in 2008, and a number of municipalities have banned a combination substance referred to as “spice” that includes a substantial amount of salvia. Even in areas where salvia has already been banned, there is very little regulation. In most cases, smoking salvia is not dangerous and poses no real health risks, when proper supervision and care is used. However, many of today’s teens and young adults are so drawn to the plant’s psychoactive properties, that it is reported that many are abusing salvia. The long-term effects of salvia are still not known, and when used more frequently, there is an increased cause for concern.

Salvia is nothing new. It has been used for many centuries both in Central America and the United States, but it is the recent increase in popularity and widespread abuse of the plant that has prompted a need for further studies about the long-term consequences of the use of salvia.


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