Salvia Divinorum

Key Insights

  • Salvia Divinorum’s Historical and Psychoactive Tapestry: Salvia intertwines spiritual practices with profound consciousness shifts, marked by its use in Mazatec rituals and communication with the spiritual realm.
  • The Intricate Dance of Salvinorin A: Salvinorin A, as a kappa opioid receptor agonist, impacts the brain’s reward system and cognitive centres, influencing perception and emotion and leading to varied effects from intense hallucinations to subtle shifts in perception.
  • Therapeutic Potential vs. Unpredictability: Salvia’s therapeutic promise contrasts with its unpredictable effects, highlighting the need for cautious, informed use and further research to navigate its therapeutic potential and ensure safe consumption.

Author: Zeynep Beril Sinanoglu. Neuroscience graduate from University College London. A scientific writer focused on psychedelic research, including the transformative effects of substances like Salvia Divinorum, hallucinations, and the impacts of music/meditation on the brain. Email [email protected] for enquiries. 

Salvia divinorum is the most psychoactive compound known to man, working in similar quantities as LSD. Salvinorin A is the principal compound of salvia, a dose of 200 micrograms is enough for psychoactive effects. Salvia divinorum is part of the salvia genus (Lamiaceae), of which mint is also a species. Little is known about the toxicology, adverse events and safety, as little clinical research has been undertaken with salvia.

It has psychedelic effects when consumed by chewing, smoking, or being drunk as tea. The chemical structure of salvia is distinct from other psychedelics, and it is a potent k-opioid receptor, so not a serotonin receptor agonist.

Unveiling the Impacts of Salvia divinorum on Human Consciousness

Historical and Cultural Context of Salvia

In the realm of botanical wonders, certain plants hold the mesmerizing ability to unlock altered states of consciousness, unveiling profound keys to both the vast universe and the depths of self-discovery. Among these remarkable psychoactive plants, Salvia divinorum, colloquially known as salvia, stands out with its unique capability to induce profound shifts in human consciousness.

Salvia has been woven into the tapestry of human history, particularly in the rituals of Mazatec shamans within the cloud forests of Mexico to induce spiritual enrichment, inner awakening, and healing. Mazatec shamans, the custodians of ancient wisdom, believed in salvia’s ability to facilitate divination, and communication with the spirit world. Hence, the plant was used in ceremonial rituals to induce visions and gain insights into the cosmos and the intricacies self.

In this essay, we will explore the effects of salvia divinorum on human consciousness, examining both the positive and negative aspects and delving into the potential therapeutic applications and concerns surrounding its use.

Psychoactive Properties of Salvia

At the heart of salvia’s transformative prowess lies salvinorin A, a potent kappa opioid receptor (KOR) agonist. These receptors, scattered throughout the central nervous system, orchestrate a symphony of effects on consciousness.

In the periaqueductal gray (PAG), salvia’s activation of KORs brings forth analgesic (pain-relieving) effects and coordinates defensive behaviours.

In the fascinating workings of the brain’s intricate landscape, the nucleus accumbens stands out as a key player in the reward system. Imagine it as a stronghold, where the activation of kappa opioid receptors (KORs) orchestrates a gentle dance, not just affecting our mood but also guiding the intricate movements of reward-related behaviours. This region, much like a conductor leading a symphony of pleasure and reinforcement, highlights how salvia’s salvinorin A can subtly shape our psychological experiences.

Taking a closer look at this mental symphony, we come across the hippocampus, amygdala, and cortex, each playing a unique role. The hippocampus, involved in memory formation, adjusts our memories to create a unique experience. The amygdala, keeper of emotions, witnesses the impact of KOR activation, delicately influencing our reactions, especially in areas like fear and anxiety while the cortex, responsible for higher cognitive functions, alters our perception and cognition.

In these intricate interactions, salvia’s salvinorin A reveals its ability to not only tap into the heart of our reward system but also subtly shape the complex interplay of memory, emotion, and cognition. It is in these mental landscapes that the effects of salvia unfold like a captivating painting, creating a portrait of altered consciousness on the canvas of the mind.

Psychoactive effects of salvia are typically short-lived but intense. Users commonly report hallucinations, altered perceptions of time, and a sense of detachment from reality. Importantly, these effects are unpredictable and can vary widely from one individual to another.

Positive Effects of Salvia

Salvia’s historical roots echo the positive resonances experienced by Mazatec shamans, transcending the mundane to usher in spiritual and mystical experiences. A dance with salvia opens gateways to a sense of interconnectedness with the universe, encounters with ethereal entities, and a deep comprehension of existential questions.

Beyond its traditional use, researchers and advocates explore salvia’s therapeutic potential. Under supervised conditions, salvia has the potential to aid individuals in confronting unresolved issues, alleviating anxiety, and fostering creativity through expanded introspection and consciousness.

Caution Amidst Complexity

The main concern that comes with introducing salvia for therapeutic use is the intensity and unpredictability of its hallucinogenic effects. As we have discussed earlier, salvia’s effects can vary widely amongst individuals, making it extremely difficult to use it for treatment. Users can find themselves in disorienting and stressful mental states, which can further deteriorate their condition.

Another concern arises due to salvia’s powerful effects on coordination as well as perception. Likelihood of accidents and injuries increases while under the influence of salvia since users may experience impaired motor skills. Hence, it is extremely important to consume Salvia in a safe environment.

Legal and Ethical Considerations

Salvia divinorum treads a delicate line between legality and restriction, with its status varying across jurisdictions. Responsible consumption in a legal and secure environment becomes paramount, emphasizing the need for a cautious approach mindful of potential risks.


Salvia is an extraordinary plant for altering human consciousness with a complex interplay of mystical experiences and altered perceptions. It is important to approach salvia with caution, respect, and understanding as society continues to explore its boundaries. For now, little research is done on salvia; therefore, further exploration is required to unlock its full therapeutical potential and establish guidelines for its responsible use for everyone.

Highlighted Institutes

These are the institutes, from companies to universities, who are working on Salvia Divinorum research.

Revixia Life Sciences

Revixia Life Sciences is a biotech company developing Salvinorin A (salvia) for substance use disorders (SUD), treatment-resistant depression (TRD), and pain.

Highlighted People

These are some of the best-known people, from researchers to entrepreneurs, working with Salvia Divinorum.

Linked Research Papers & Trials

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