[Skip to Content]

Salvia

What It Is:

Salvia is an herb that's native to the mountains of southern Mexico. One type, salvia divinorum, has a substance called salvinorin A that can cause intense psychedelic experiences.

Salvinorin A affects structures in the brain called opioid receptors. This makes salvia different from other hallucinogenic drugs like LSD and mushrooms, which affect the brain's levels of a chemical called serotonin. 

Sometimes Called:

diviner's sage, magic mint, maria pastora, sally-d, seer's sage, and shepherdess's herb

How It's Used:

As a drug, salvia usually comes as fresh green plant leaves or dried shredded green leaves. Salvia can also be a liquid extract. Traditionally, users chewed the fresh salvia leaves or drank the extract, but now people also smoke the dried leaves.

What It Does:

Salvia's effects come on quickly, sometimes in less than a minute. They usually disappear about 30 minutes to an hour later. Salvia's effects on the mind can range from mild to intense. They may be frightening, depending on how strong a dose of the drug someone takes.

Common short-term effects include:

  • hallucinations and changes in visual perception
  • uncontrolled laughter
  • mood and emotional swings
  • difficulty concentrating
  • a sense of detachment from self and reality (not being able to tell the difference between what's real and what's imagined)
  • dizziness and lightheadedness
  • lack of coordination
  • slurred speech

Some studies suggest that, over time, salvia use may contribute to a condition called dysphoria that is characterized by feelings of depression, discontent, and restlessness.

Smoking any substance over a long period of time, including salvia, can lead to breathing trouble and other health problems.

The biggest problem with salvia is that it has such dramatic psychological effects. Because the drug can impair a user's coordination and reality so much, people under the influence of salvia can be a real danger to themselves. There is a substantial risk of injury or accidental death to salvia users.

Salvia is illegal in a number of foreign countries and in many American states. Possession or use of salvia in states where it is illegal is punishable by fines and jail time.

Reviewed by: Steven Dowshen, MD
Date reviewed: May 2018