What is Salvia divinorum?
Salvia divinorum is a perennial herb in the Labiatae (mint) family, native to certain areas in the Sierra Mazateca of Oaxaca, Mexico. It is a rare plant in the wild. I have heard some say that it is one of the rarest plants in the world, and under considerable threat in its native habitat. There is a good case for growing it even for those not particularly interested in its shamanic properties. It is a strange hybrid. It cannot usually manage to propagate itself by seed. It is killed by extreme cold, yet does not like too much direct sunlight or arid conditions. Fortunately however, it propagates easily from cuttings, and is quite easy to grow indoors, making it an ideal houseplant.
What are its uses?
The Mazatec Indians have used it for centuries for curing and divination. For more detail on this see the article on its 'ethnopharmacology' (on the Salvia Menu - back from here). - The article makes reference to its shamanic use as an adjunct to other naturally occurring plant allies, for example, mushrooms. It mentions Salvia's context in shamanic training, suggesting it is particularly appropriate for the shamanic apprentice.
What are its active constituents?
The primary psychoactive constituent is salvinorin A (a trans-neoclarodane diterpenoid with formula C23H28O8). Recent research has shown that salvinorin A is a remarkably potent and selective kappa opioid receptor agonist. It has been demonstrated that the effects of salvinorin A are blocked by kappa opioid receptor antagonists. This indicates that the effects of Salvia can be largely, if not entirely, attributed to kappa agonism. Salvinorin A is unique in that it is the only naturally occurring substance known to induce a visionary state via this mechanism of action.
What are its effects?
This is too vast an area to cover in a simple introduction. I include my own initial contributions in a separate section and there will be ongoing expansions on the subject. I also recommend the linked chapter from Dale Pendell's 'Pharmako/poeia'>> Other aspects such as methods of ingestion and advice as to plant care have their own pages on this site.
Is it addictive?
No, the question of dependency is a red herring. Actually it's more like a discipline. Salvia is not a cosy experience, - it's not a fuzzy, warm thing. It's interesting, potentially scary. It's not comforting, or escapist. For this reason it's much less psychologically addictive than, say, cannabis>. And it's certainly not physically addictive. In fact, the temptation to discontinue is more of an issue. I think that this is something unfortunate in the human condition, - a tendency to laxness and complacency. Some people will excuse themselves from further Salvia experience, "been there, done that, it has nothing new to show me." - Wrong [...^]
Salvia divinorum is still perfectly legal in the UK and most of Europe, but there are exceptions, and situations can change. More information on laws regarding Salvia divinorum can be found at Erowid's Salvia Law vault and at The Salvia divinorum Research and Information Center
I am not hard selling Salvia. Bear this in mind particularly if you are considering ingesting. It's not something to get you 'wasted'. It's not a cure for all. You may not like it, and you may find aspects of its revelation quite disturbing. There are perils with any venture into the unknown. Being of sound mind and body, and inquisitive by nature, I think that the benefits outweigh the risks. Salvia has been chewed for centuries without any known deleterious health effects. Having said that, the practice of smoking it is more recent. You proceed at your own risk. You are encouraged to find out further information. Visit other web sites and read how other people describe the experience. Try this linked quiz>> to test your knowledge. At the end of the day however, when it comes to a personal decision as to whether or not to take it, that's yours alone.