The Salvia divinorum User's Guide

Now available in over 50 languages

Version date: April 17, 2010

( The most recent version can always be found at: http://sagewisdom.org/usersguide.html )

Created by "Sage Student", with contributions, editing, and HTML rendering by Daniel Siebert


WHY YOU WERE GIVEN THIS GUIDE
Perhaps a friend gave you a Salvia divinorum cutting, or maybe you bought dried leaves, an extract, or a living plant. If so, you need to read this guide. It was written to teach you how to work with this herb in a way that is personally rewarding, and how to do so as safely as possible. It will also teach you how to grow and care for your own Salvia divinorum plants.

Salvia divinorum is an extraordinary visionary herb. It is not a recreational drug. It produces a profoundly introspective state of awareness that is useful for meditation, contemplation, and self-reflection. Its effects are unique and cannot be compared with the effects of other drugs. The effects of Salvia do not appeal to many people (young or old). The people who are most drawn to it are both mature and philosophically minded. Beware of inaccurate information. There are many unethical vendors who try to lure naive customers by portraying the effects of Salvia as more appealing than they are. The news media often sensationalizes stories about Salvia, exaggerating its effects, risks, and popularity. Much of what has appeared in the popular press is inaccurate and misleading. Salvia is not "legal pot." It is not "legal acid." It is not a substitute for any other drug. Before trying Salvia, it is important that you know about its effects, appropriate uses, and the potential risks associated with irresponsible use.

Do NOT use Salvia until you have read through this guide. Salvia is unique. You cannot make assumptions about its effects based on experiences you may have had with other herbs or drugs. Salvia has much to offer: fascinating psychoactive effects, sensual enhancement, magical journeys, enchantment, apparent time travel, philosophical insights, spiritual experiences, and perhaps even healing and divination. It should not be used casually. It should always be used in a thoughtful, intelligent manner, and only by responsible adults that are of sound mind and clear intent.

IT'S FREE
No one should have charged you for this guide. It should be given to people free of charge whenever plants, leaves, or extracts are given away, or sold. No one should make a profit from it. It was written as a public service. The authors will not receive any royalties.

PRINT OUT COPIES FREELY, BUT COMPLETELY
This guide should be given free of charge to anyone who is interested in Salvia. Please print this guide in its entirety. Give it free of charge to everyone with whom you share leaves or plants. If you copy it, copy ALL of it. Do not change it. Supply it as is. As more is learned about Salvia, this guide will be updated. For this reason, it is important that the version date (above) be included in the copy you give out. That way, the person getting it will be able to know if their copy is up to date.

DO NOT COPY TO OTHER WEB SITES
This guide is updated frequently. The most recent version can always be found at: http://sagewisdom.org/usersguide.html. We do not want to see obsolete versions floating around on the Internet. So please do not copy it to other web sites. If you want to make the guide accessible from another web site, simply include a link to the above URL.

JUST A BEGINNING
This guide is just a beginning. After reading it, you may wish to learn more. An excellent resource for additional information is The Salvia divinorum Research and Information Center web site at: http://sagewisdom.org. This website, created by Daniel Siebert, provides a wealth of information, including:

  • The most up-to-date version of The Salvia divinorum User's Guide.
  • The Salvia divinorum FAQ.
  • Images of Salvia divinorum plants and the chemical structure of salvinorin A.
  • Experiential reports.
  • Scientific papers and articles about Salvia divinorum.
  • Links to many other Salvia sites.
  • Information on joining various on-line Salvia divinorum discussion forums.
  • Salvia divinorum inspired artwork.
  • A calendar of Salvia-related conferences, seminars, and lectures.

SALVIA DIVINORUM BASICS
Salvia divinorum is a species of sage (the genus Salvia). There are approximately 1000 species of Salvia worldwide, but Salvia divinorum is the only vision-inducing species known. Salvia is a member of a very large family of plants known as the Labiatae. Because mint is a well-known member of this family, it is sometimes referred to as the mint family. Salvia divinorum makes a beautiful house plant, and it can be grown just for that reason, but most people who grow this plant are interested in its fascinating psychoactive effects.

The botanical name Salvia divinorum means "Sage of the Diviners." Under the right conditions, taken in the right way, Salvia produces a unique state of "divine inebriation." For hundreds of years, it has been used in religious and healing ceremonies by the Mazatec Indians, who live in the province of Oaxaca, in Mexico.

The effects of Salvia are very different from those of alcohol; but like alcohol, it impairs coordination. Never, ever, attempt to drive under the influence of salvia--doing so could prove fatal!

Salvia contains a chemical substance called salvinorin A. Salvinorin A is responsible for Salvia's mind-altering effects. It is not chemically related to any other psychoactive drug. Unlike most visionary compounds, it is not an alkaloid. Pure salvinorin A is extremely potent. Doses of only several hundred micrograms (millionths of a gram) will have an effect, and doses above 1 milligram (1/1000 of a gram) are too much for most people to handle comfortably. Because of its extreme potency, pure salvinorin A should never be used unless the dosage has been precisely measured with an extremely accurate chemist's scale. Fortunately, Salvia leaf is hundreds of times weaker than pure salvinorin A; therefore, Salvia leaf can be used much more safely.

Salvia leaf is physically quite safe. It is very gentle on the body. Toxicological studies have shown that salvinorin A is extraordinarily non-toxic. No one has ever died from a Salvia overdose. Salvia is not habit-forming or addictive. People who choose to use Salvia, tend to do so quite infrequently. Salvia is not a stimulant, it is not a sedative, it is not a narcotic, it is not a tranquilizer. Like many entheogens, at sufficiently high doses it can induce visions, yet it is quite different from other entheogens. Dale Pendell, in his book Pharmako/poeia, assigns Salvia divinorum to a unique pharmacological class, which he calls "existentia." This term alludes to the philosophical illumination Salvia seems to shine on the nature of existence itself.

SALVIA IS NOT A PARTY DRUG
This is important to understand. Salvia is not "fun" in the way that alcohol or Cannabis can be. If you try to party with Salvia you probably will not have a good experience.

Salvia is a consciousness-changing herb that can be used in a vision quest, or in a healing ritual. In the right setting, Salvia makes it possible to see visions. It is an herb with a long tradition of sacred use. It is useful for deep meditation. It is best taken in a quiet, nearly darkroom; either alone (if a sitter will not be used, see below for discussion of sitters), or with one or two good friends present. It should be taken either in silence or (sometimes) with soft pleasant music playing.

CURRENT LEGAL STATUS
Salvia divinorum is a legal plant in most of the world. But, please be aware of the following exceptions:

• THE UNITED STATES: Salvia divinorum is classified as a controlled substance in the states of Delaware, Florida, Illinois, Kansas, Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Dakota, and Virginia. Salvia divinorum is also illegal in the states of Louisiana and Tennessee, but only if intended for human consumption. A local law prohibits possession of Salvia divinorum in Suffolk County, New York. Salvia divinorum is entirely legal in all other states.

• OTHER CONTRIES: Salvia divinorum is illegal in Australia, Denmark, Belgium, Italy, Germany, Japan, Poland, South Korea, Latvia, and Lithuania. Spain prohibits the sale of Salvia divinorum, but not possession or use. In Finland, Norway, Iceland, and Estonia, it is illegal to import Salvia divinorum without a relevant prescription from a doctor. Salvia divinorum remains legal throughout the rest of the world.

Additional information about Salvia's legal status, and pending legislation that might affect it, is available at: http://sagewisdom.org/legalstatus.html.

The authors of this User's Guide are not attorneys and cannot render a legal opinion. If you have a question regarding the legal issues surrounding Salvia divinorum or salvinorin, you should consult an attorney knowledgeable about drug law.

SALVIA EXPERIENCES: WHAT TO EXPECT
Salvia experiences range in intensity from subtle to extremely powerful. This holds true for chewed leaves, smoked leaves, and for oral tinctures, such as "Sage Goddess Emerald Essence®." The strength of the effects will depend on how much you take, the way you take it, and your individual body chemistry.

Salvia experiences differ from those produced by other visionary drugs or herbs, and Salvia has many advantages:

  • You cannot take a fatal overdose of Salvia leaves.
  • Salvia is not habit forming.
  • Salvia is legal in most countries.
  • Its effects are brief in duration, so you quickly return to normal.
  • Salvia seldom produces adverse side-effects or hangover.
Noise and distraction will interfere with the experience. When on Salvia, watching TV is nothing but annoying; sitting around a campfire in the woods at night, is wonderful.

Because Salvia divinorum can alter perception and behavior, it must never be used in a public environment--doing so could draw unwelcome attention. When the effects are intense, people often become immersed in a dream-like inner visionary state of awareness. Sometimes people in this state will move around as if sleepwalking. For this reason, you should always have a sober sitter present when using strong doses. The sitter is there to make sure that you don't do anything dangerous, like knocking over lit candles, or falling over furniture.

When Salvia is smoked the effects come on very quickly, in less than a minute. The effects are only strong for 5-6 minutes, and then they quickly taper off over another 20-30 minutes.

When the leaves are chewed, the first effects come on at about 15 minutes and gradually develop to peak about 30 minutes after ingestion. The peak level of effects lasts 30 minutes to an hour, and then gradually diminish over an additional 30 minutes to an hour.

When taken as a tincture held in the mouth, the effects begin in 10-15 minutes, and quickly develop to a peak level that lasts 20-40 minutes. The effects then gradually diminish over an additional 30 minutes to an hour. To be on the safe side, it is important not to drive or use machinery for at least an hour after the experience appears to be ended.

Usually people feel clearheaded and mentally refreshed after a Salvia experience. Occasionally some people experience mild headaches after smoking Salvia. It appears that such headaches are the result of smoke-induced sinus irritation. Like tobacco smoke, Salvia smoke is probably somewhat irritating to the lungs.

Salvia experiences can be divided into various levels of intensity. The SALVIA Experiential Rating Scale has been constructed to rate the various levels of effects produced by salvia. Each letter of the word SALVIA stands for another level of effects. The scale describes six different levels of intoxication, each one more intense than the previous. The overall intensity of effects is scored according to the highest scale level attained during the course of the experience.

The SALVIA Experiential Rating Scale

Level - 1 "S" stands for SUBTLE effects. A feeling that "something" is happening, although it is difficulty to say just what. Relaxation and increased sensual appreciation may be noted. This mild level is useful for meditation and may facilitate sexual pleasure.

Level - 2 "A" stands for ALTERED perception. Colors and textures are more pronounced. Appreciation of music may be enhanced. Space may appear of greater or lesser depth than is usual. But visions do not occur at this level. Thinking becomes less logical, and more playful; short-term memory difficulties may be noted.

Level - 3 "L" stands for LIGHT visionary state. Closed-eye visuals (clear imagery with eyes closed: fractal patterns, vine-like and geometric patterns, visions of objects and designs). The imagery is often two dimensional. If open-eyed visual effects occur, these are usually vague and fleeting. At this level, phenomena similar to the hypnagogic phenomena that some people experience at sleep onset occur. At this level, visions are experienced as "eye candy" but are not confused with reality.

Level - 4 "V" stands for VIVID visionary state. Complex three-dimensional realistic appearing scenes occur. Sometimes voices may be heard. With eyes open, contact with consensual reality will not be entirely lost, but when you close your eyes you may forget about consensus reality and enter completely into a dreamlike scene. Shamanistic journeying to other lands--foreign or imaginary; encounters with beings (entities, spirits) or travels to other ages may occur. You may even live the life of another person. At this level you have entered the shaman's world. Or if you prefer: you are in "dream time." With eyes closed, you experience fantasies (dream like happenings with a story line to them). So long as your eyes are closed you may believe they are really occurring. This differs from the "eye candy" closed-eye imagery, of level 3.

Level - 5 "I" stands for IMMATERIAL existence. At this level one may no longer be aware of having a body. Consciousness remains and some thought processes are still lucid, but one becomes completely involved in inner experience and looses all contact with consensual reality. Individuality may be lost; one experiences merging with God/dess, mind, universal consciousness, or bizarre fusions with other objects--real or imagined (e.g. experiences such as merging with a wall or piece of furniture). At this level it is impossible to function in consensual reality, but unfortunately some people do not remain still but move around in this befuddled state. For this reason a sitter is