Mexican Herb Sparks Interest as Legal Hallucinogen

Mexican Herb Sparks Interest as Legal Hallucinogen
Posted by FoM on September 03, 2001 at 16:15:18 PT
AP Science Writer
Source: Associated Press 
A Mexican plant that contains the most powerful natural hallucinogen known is being sold legally over the Internet and is drawing the interest of medical researchers and law enforcement. Anecdotal accounts of use of the herb, called Salvia divinorum, describe hallucinogenic trips that make the user feel like an inanimate object or worse. You've heard of watching paint dry, how about feeling like paint drying? 
"I don't know anyone who has ever taken it and said, 'Gee, that was fun,"' said Dr. Ethan Russo, a Missoula, Mont., clinical neurologist and expert on psychotropic herbs. The plant's effects can vary from mild to extreme, making even regular users wary. Experts said interest in the plant, a member of the sage family, springs from its use as a ritual herb by an Indian tribe near Oaxaca, Mexico. Other hallucinogens, like the South American brew ayahuasca, have similar followings. "People get captivated with the idea of using hallucinogens as a way of connecting with the spiritual world as used in indigenous cultures," said Jim Miller, curator and head of the applied research department at the Missouri Botanical Garden in St. Louis. For now, the hallucinogenic plant is legal and is commercially grown in its native Mexico, as well as in Hawaii and California. However, the Drug Enforcement Administration is reviewing it. "We are gathering information on it to see if it needs to be controlled," said Rogene Waite, a DEA spokeswoman in Washington. Some, like Russo, find it an intriguing resource for exploring the brain's chemistry. How Salvia divinorum produces its hallucinogenic effects is unknown, since its active component, Salvinorin A, does not work on any neurotransmitter sites affected by other hallucinogens, including THC, the active component of marijuana. Nor does it contain nitrogen, which makes Salvinorin A unusual as a psychoactive molecule. "We don't know much about its toxicity -- we just don't know much about it, other than the experiences that many report, which don't sound very pleasant," said Dr. Alan Trachtenberg, who works for the substance abuse office within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. No federal laws govern the plants, even though, by weight, the active component of Salvia divinorum is more powerful than that found in peyote, psilocybin mushrooms or any other natural hallucinogen, Russo said. Although related to the sage used in cooking, Salvia divinorum is an entirely different plant. There is no evidence that use of the hallucinogen is increasing, according to the federal Center for Substance Abuse Treatment in Rockville, Md. Nor do drug treatment experts report problems with people abusing the little-studied plant. "We don't know much about treating it because we don't have people showing up with an addiction to it," said Trachtenberg. Indeed, most of those who do try it apparently never repeat the experience, doctors said. "It's not pleasant in anyone's conception that I have ever spoken with," Russo said. The drug's effects last anywhere from a few minutes to an hour and more. During that time, users can lose all perception of reality. Salvia users and foes alike emphasize it should never be taken while alone. "It seems to be something that completely alters -- and not in a completely happy direction -- people's consciousness," Trachtenberg said. Traditionally, the leaves of the plant are chewed by Mexico's Mazatec Indians during ritual ceremonies to produce mild hallucinations. In contemporary usage, however, users exploit the plant's potency by smoking its dried leaves or ingesting extracts in tincture form, which boost its effect by allowing it to be more readily absorbed by the body. When taken in that way, Salvia divinorum can produce extremely intense hallucinations. Daniel Siebert, an amateur botanist in Malibu who grows, sells and uses the plant, collects subjective "trip" reports on a Web site. He said users can feel as if they have merged with inanimate objects. One person reported feeling like fresh paint as it was spread on a wall. "It's definitely not something people can do very often, because the effects are very profound," said Siebert, 40, who uses the plant every two months on average. Russo, the clinical neurologist, said he hoped the drug was not outlawed. "That would be crazy on numerous levels -- first, we don't even know how this stuff works," Russo said. "It's possible Salvia and Salvinorin A can lead us to a better understanding of our own neural chemistry." Complete Title: Mexican Herb Sparks Interest as Legal _ for Now _ Hallucinogen On the Net: Source: Associated PressPublished: Monday, September 3, 2001 Copyright: 2001 Associated Press  Related Articles & Web Sites:Salvia Divinorum Research Handbook of Psychotropic Herbs Herb No Longer a Secret Legal Hallucinogen, at Least for Now Suppliers Use Loophole To Sell Magic Mint 
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Comment #8 posted by FoM on January 18, 2002 at 15:16:18 PT
Legally High - Published December 13, 2001
Salvia divinorum -- one of the drug world's best-kept secrets.
By Chris Harris 
Published 12/13/01
For years, many have searched for the legal buzz -- the Holy Grail of drug use. It may be time to call off the search party -- it seems the quest for the perfect legal drug, one that actually kicks your ass the way you want it to, may at long last be over. Until it is banned that is. 
Introducing Salvia divinorum, an obscure Mexican herb that contains the hallucinogen Salvinorin A. It's totally legal in the United States -- it's so far managed to slide beneath the Drug Enforcement Administration's radar and remains to this day uncontrolled and unregulated. 
No federal laws govern Salvia divinorum, even though by weight the active component of Salvia divinorum is more powerful than that found in peyote, psilocybin mushrooms, or any other natural hallucinogen, says Dr. Ethan Russo, a neurologist from Missoula, Mont., who researched the drug for his book, Handbook of Psychotropic Herbs. 
"This is not a prevalent agent," says Russo. "Though it needs to be treated with a great deal of respect, it's not inherently dangerous the way a lot of other drugs are." 
Salvia divinorum is a type of sage plant that can induce intense hallucinations, out-of-body experiences, and when taken in higher doses, unconsciousness and short-term memory loss. Anecdotal accounts of Salvia trips, provided in encyclopedic detail on websites like, describe sensations of passing through time and space, assuming the identities of others, and even fusing with inanimate objects. More often than not, Salvia is smoked. 
"When someone uses Salvia, first of all most people find that nothing happens," says Russo. "When someone does have a full-blown experience, the worst that could happen is two things: First, they will disassociate from their surroundings. Things may not look as they really are in front of them. They could wander off and get hurt. Second, they can scare the heck out of themselves from this experience. It's one reason why most people do not choose to repeat it." 
How Salvia divinorum produces its hallucinogenic effects is still something of a mystery to researchers, in that it doesn't work on any neurotransmitter sites affected by other hallucinogens. Although considered a new drug in a strictly "recreational" sense, this hallucinogenic herb has been used for centuries by Mexico's Mazatec Indians for the purposes of divination. Plus, science has known of Salvia for at least 40 years. Researchers continue to study it because the effects of Salvia on the brain and body aren't fully understood. 
Salvia has never been more popular outside of the confines of Mexico than it is today. It's only been within the last five years or so that this herb has started gaining in popularity with recreational drug users. That, says Daniel Siebert, a neophyte botanist living in Malibu, Calif., could be problematic. 
"It's not an alternative to anything," says Siebert, who sells Salvia divinorum through his website,>, for as much as $120 an ounce. "Salvia has unique effects that are distinctive. People who are interested in a recreational, social kind of drug experience, something that might be equivalent to marijuana or ecstasy, are just disappointed in Salvia because most people are interested in a more recreational thing, something with a mild effect that they can handle more easily." 
Siebert says he too fears Salvia divinorum's criminalization. "It's got useful properties and certainly a lot of people are using it that way so making it illegal would be a shame because you're taking something away from people that's very beneficial," he says. 
Russo says there's no real potential for abuse -- as there is with most illegal substances -- with Salvia divinorum, a drug he classifies as a "disassociative hallucinogen." Should the DEA step in and set controls on its use, "it would make it more attractive to people," Russo predicts. 
Russo also fears strict controls could cripple ongoing research: "This is a fascinating agent from a biochemical standpoint," he says. "Salvinorin A has been tested against 100 different neurotransmitter systems with no clear explanation for its mechanism of action. It's totally possible that Salvia divinorum will lead us to a new understanding of neurotransmitter systems in our brain." 
Now for the bad news. The recent surge in popularity has helped make DEA officials aware of its recreational uses. Says a DEA spokesperson: "It's not currently controlled and we're actually collecting information on it." Stock up now, kids! 
Handbook of Psychotropic Herbs
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Comment #7 posted by HerbinMike on September 07, 2001 at 00:40:03 PT:
Why Salvia will probably never be banned
I am not going to say that every Salvia trip is a confrontational "bad trip". Like the dude above me said, some people have had fun experiences on it. However, the recreational potential of this plant is so limited for the following reasons:* It doesn't make you feel good* It doesn't make your day better* It doesn't ease life's pain* There's a really good chance you'll freak out and never try it againSalvia is psychonaut material only, and I think the DEA is much more concerned about drugs that have appeal to wide sectors of the population and could thus become the next "teen scourge". Salvia could never fit this description. Perhaps this media attention itself will lead to a short spurt of experimentation with Salvia, followed by a desire on the large part of recreational experimenters never to try it again.
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Comment #6 posted by Aaron on September 05, 2001 at 07:27:13 PT:
People and their stupidity
"I don't know anyone who has ever taken it and said, 'Gee, that was fun,"' said Dr. Ethan Russo. What is wrong with this shit hole country. Some doctor comes along and says "this drug is bad", so what happens? The dumb fucking media hears this, and believes it to its fullest extent. From there on you guys know what happens."We are gathering information on it to see if it needs to be controlled," said Rogene Waite, a DEA spokeswoman in Washington. Can any of you believe that they haven't already gathered info on salvia. What she really means is that since the Government isn't makeing any money off of salvia, lets make it illegal. 
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Comment #5 posted by Lehder on September 04, 2001 at 14:02:58 PT
a Vancouver newspaper with various good articles
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Comment #4 posted by TroutMask on September 04, 2001 at 07:45:01 PT
You're both right.
You're both right. The intensity and type of experience are extremely variable from individual to individual, from plant to plant and often from individual experience to experience. Making a blanket statement regarding the effects for any given person is practically useless.-TM
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Comment #3 posted by mark on September 04, 2001 at 07:05:13 PT:
salvia divinorum
It's not bullshit because ive tried it. It sucks. ive had plenty of experience with other hallucinogens and salvia is not like any of them. It is extremely intense and it isn't enjoyable in the least. It does provide you with a different perspective on things but it is far from pleasurable. The article explains it perfectly. It makes you feel like an inanimate object. I haven't even tried an extract. I get these effects after just one hit. The first time it took me two bowls off of a small pipe to feel anything. you become less tolerant to it the more you smoke it. This drug shouldn't be illegal but it shouldn't be marketed as a pleasurable experience.
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Comment #2 posted by Will the Chill on September 03, 2001 at 23:02:38 PT:
total bullshit
I've smoked salvia, both enhanced and regular leaf, onseveral occassions. I've also used the "tincture" thearticle refers to - an alcohol-based extract you hold underyour tongue for a few minutes. Of the half dozen or soSalvia-induced psychedelic trips I've taken, NONE OF THEMWERE UNPLEASANT OR NEGATIVE IN ANY WAY. I've introduced atleast 6 close friends to the herb, and NONE OF THEM REACTEDNEGATIVELY TOWARD IT. Granted, all psychedelic trips aresubject to the "set and setting" rule - your mindset andphysical setting play a very large part in determining themood of the trip itself - I would never use a sacred plantlike Salvia Divinorum in an irresponsible manner, so theprobability that either myself or my fellow trippers wouldhave a bad time is cut down quite a bit. I just felt that somebody needed to say that all that crapabout it being such a downer trip are total bullshit andcocksukery, for the record.-Will the Chill
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Comment #1 posted by Buddha on September 03, 2001 at 22:04:29 PT
Has anyone ever seen the movie "The Blob"? Does our government ever remind you of that bacteria that eats everything it its way? Disgusting.
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