• a group of related compounds present in the leaves of Salvia divinorum ('Mexican mint', 'magic mint'), a rare variety of sage that is used by the Mazatec Indians of Mexico for religious and medicinal purposes and only became known to western society in 1962
    • the leaves or leaf extracts can be smoked to induce powerful hallucinations that last for a relatively brief period of time
    • when smoked, you start feeling it about 30 seconds after taking a hit, peaks in 5-10 minutes, and then effects disappear over next 20-30 minutes
  • only salvinorins A and D through F are hallucinogenic, producing effects similar to those of LSD
    • salvinorin A is the best studied of these and has a potency similar to LSD
    • unlike LSD, which acts via 5-HT2 receptors, these compounds are kappa opioid receptor agonists (there are three types of opioid receptors: mu, kappa, and delta - morphine is primarily a mu opioid receptor agonist)
  • potential toxicity has not been fully investigated in lab animals or humans - so far no toxic effects are known to exist

7 chemically inspired comments:

Al-Qemi said...

Thanks for the clean, even-handed post on Salvinorins, it was very interesting and drug-scare-hyperbole-free.

One thing you missed is that although many modern "psychonauts" do smoke Salvia and Salvinorin extracts to get high, smoking is not considered the correct traditional use.

Chewing the leaf, as the Mazatecs do, or orally using an extract, are much more rewarding spiritual experiences, and don't lead to the short dramatic freakouts that are filling the news accounts and endangering our access to any form of this sacred plant.

As a fellow fan of Paracelsus, I understand your blog is about specific chemicals, not whole plant use, but the Bombastic One also advocated for the understanding of the entire context of a plant's properties.

My hope is for people to connect with a more holistic understanding of Salvia, as I believe that the popular approach of treating it like a drug is the reason fans of the plant are being increasingly treated like drug users.

Strength & Wisdom,

CND said...

Thank you for your well-worded comment! As a pharmacologist, I'm interested in how a drug works, not in preaching how it should or should not be used.

Luker said...

I have first hand experience with this unique chemical group. It should be noted that salvinorin A lacks the nitrogen groups normally associated with active psychedelics (THC is another example of this). I would also disagree that the effects are similar to LSD or more classical psychedelics. A strong intoxication of this compound is much more "alien" and bizarre than even a strong dose of your favorite tryptamine IMO. Hearing someone try to describe this experience is always enjoyable because of the hyperbole of weirdness that always happens.

The Lil'est Naturist said...

Yah I agree...this stuff's effects are only superficially related to LSD's. It is truly bizarre. A friend who smoked too much of an extract told me that "I was just raped" by the plant. The physical sensations of being pulled like taffy, or spun around a fishing reel, or becoming a chair, or having your legs detached, etc, are overwhelming! Plus everything else goes apeshit.

I don't think this drug has a lot of potential for abuse. It's one of those things you try and then step back, unharmed, and say "Holy Lord Never Again."

alan said...
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alan said...

I have first hand experience with Salvia as well, and I can attest that it is indeed a POWERFUL substance. It is not a club drug or a drug to be abused or used solely to attain a euphoric 'high'. If you wish to experiment with Salvia, it should be taken in small increments, smoking a small pinch of standardized extract (the raw 'leaf' form is generally ineffective for most users)at a time until the desired effect is attained. Smoking large quantities (i.e. a joint or blunt's worth) half-hazardly would be akin to swallowing an entire vial of LSD and expecting everything to go well. As with any substance, it should be taken with caution and in moderation, particularly for those who are inexperienced with Salvia. However, when utilized properly it can offer a powerful, enlightening, and thoroughly enjoyable experience. It's unique mechanism of action (kappa-opioid receptor agonism) and apparent lack of deleterious effects commonly associated with traditional hallucinogens (i.e. neurotoxicity) make it an ideal choice for those who are looking for a truly one of a kind, and in some regards, a spiritual or other-worldy experience. The duration of it's primary effects will only last two to ten minutes in most cases. After which, most users experience an 'after glow' or uplifting feeling, somewhat like a caffeine buzz or low-dose of THC. The 'peak' effect varies from trip to trip and from user to user. Physically, I would generally experience a slight tingly sensation throughout my body reminiscent of LSD or MDMA, yet distinct from the two altogether. As the previous poster stated, it can almost be described a 'pulling' sensation. The dosage his friend had smoked was obviously too high and was most likely the result of reckless disregard and lack of respect for the power of such a substance. Aside from the mild, however distinct physical sensation, it generally exhibits a dissociative effect. For me, it was akin to separation from one's Ego and exploration of my very soul or subconscious. I personally found music and a visual (i.e. Winamp's MilkDrop plugin) to be a necessity, in order to make the most of such experiences. It should also be noted that though the active constituent in Salvia Divinorum, Salvinorin A, is a potent kappa-opioid receptor agonist, it also has an inhibitory effect on striatal dopamine levels, which likely contributes to it's temporary locomotive impairment and why some users develop an aversion to Salvia altogether. This particular effect could also contribute to Salvinorin A's apparent anti-depressant effects, as most dopamine antagonists are also effective for treating depression. It's effects on the kappa-opioid receptor also make it a promising treatment for opioid addiction. For more information regarding the potential clinical applications of Salvinorn A see the following:

Salvia divinorum and salvinorin A: an update on pharmacology and analytical methodology.

Acute physiologic and chronic histologic changes in rats and mice exposed to the unique hallucinogen salvinorin A.

Antidepressant Properties of Salvia Div.

Best Regards,
Alan Haggard

alan said...

The following is a description of a Salvia trip, taken by Gaia Vince, reporter for the British publication 'New Scientist' magazine:

"Lying back, exhaling: usually the last thing a person does before leaving this world. Only in this case it is the world that is leaving me.

A few minutes ago I smoked a pipe of Salvia divinorum, a powerful hallucinogenic herb that I bought openly and legally from a shop near my home. Of the £25 I handed over, more than £4 will find its way into government coffers in the form of sales tax. And salvia was just one of dozens of powerful but entirely legal psychoactive substances that I could have chosen.

All that was far from my mind as the salvia took me on a consciousness-expanding journey unlike any other I have ever experienced. My body felt disconnected from "me" and objects and people appeared cartoonish, surreal and marvellous. Then, as suddenly as it had began, it was over. The visions vanished and I was back in my bedroom. I spoke to my "sitter" - the friend who was watching over me, as recommended on the packaging - but my mouth was awkward and clumsy. When I attempted to stand my coordination was off. Within a couple of minutes, however, I was fine and clear-headed, though dripping with sweat. The whole experience had lasted less than 5 minutes."

The full article can be found here:
Mind-altering drugs: does legal mean safe? - being-human - 29 September 2006 - New Scientist