Substance Use

Salvia Use Disorder Treatment

salvia plant leaves

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Salvia Abuse and Addiction Treatment Options

Salvia is the genus name for hundreds of plants in the mint family, but one causes potentially dangerous effects and can even be addictive. While wide varieties of salvia are used for cooking, decorative shrubbery, and religious ceremonies, psychoactive salvia use is rising. Recreational use is increasing due to the effects of salvia. This is becoming a concern because it contains the strongest naturally occurring hallucinogen.

Due to the popularity and prevalence of this drug, it is important to be aware of the effects of salvia. Although not as many teens and young adults have been using salvia in the past, its availability is still attractive to those not old enough to get other legal or illegal substances. In addition, salvia use has been linked to other drugs and undesirable behaviors that could cause additional problems in your or a loved one’s life.

In this article, you will learn what salvia is and about the effects of salvia. You’ll also learn where it originated, what it is used for, consumption methods, and how it affects the mind and body. You will also gain a better understanding of why it is believed to be dangerous, along with measures you can take to avoid potential addiction.

If you think you may have a salvia addiction, reach out to Zinnia Health at (855) 430-9439.

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What Is Salvia?

Salvia divinorum (means “sage of the diviners”) is a rare species native only to southwest Mexico, where it has a long history of being used medicinally and religiously. There are more than 950 species of salvia, which is a herbaceous, woody plant found on almost every continent.

People use some varieties of salvia for cooking, such as mint and sage. Other popular flowering species are planted as ornamental annuals in temperate climates and perennials in tropical climates. However, some people are attracted to the psychedelic effects of salvia.

The genus and species name of this psychoactive plant, Salvia divinorum, is derived from the Latin words salvere (means “to feel well”) and divinorum (means “ghost”). In 1962, botanists Carl Epling and Carlos Játiva described and named the plant because of its use in divination and healing rituals. The correct name should be Divinorum (meaning “priest”). Salvia is called Hojas de la Pastora in Mexico, which means “shepherd’s leaves” in Spanish.

There are many common street names, including:

  • Salvia
  • Diviner’s Sage
  • Seer’s Sage
  • Sage of the Seers
  • Lady Salvia
  • Purple Sticky
  • Magic Mint
  • Leaf of Prophecy
  • Sally D
  • Lady Sally
  • The Female
  • Maria Pastora
  • Incense Special
  • Shepherdess’s Herb

Salvia is a herb that grows like a shrub from about 1.5 to five feet tall. It has hairy, egg-shaped leaves with jagged edges and square-shaped stems. The flowers have white petals surrounded by violet-blue appendages. Salvia rarely produces seeds that grow. Instead, new plants are grown from cuttings from the parent plant, which originally came from Mexico. When the leaves are dried and crushed, they turn a dark color from green to brown to almost black. These leaves are often smoked to feel the effects of salvia.

Brief History of Salvia

The history of salvia’s origins is unclear. Salvia naturally grows in the Sierra Mazateca mountain region of Oaxaca, Mexico. The indigenous Mazatec people refer to this area as “The Divine Land.” However, researchers are unsure if it is a wild plant that originated in Mexico or was introduced by the Mazatec Indians. They are also uncertain whether the plant is a hybrid (combination of different species) or a cultigen (evolved species due to human interaction).

The first record of salvia and its effects were noted in 1939 by anthropologist Jean Basset Johnson, who studied Mazatec shamanism. Mazatec shamans, religious practitioners believed to have connections with the spirit world, have used psychoactive plants, mushrooms, seeds, and tobacco for centuries. Shamans typically crush or ground fresh salvia leaves to extract plant juices, which they mix with water to create a tea-like drink. The effect of salvia puts them in a trance-like state. This helps them conjure up visions while performing rituals in honor of the Holy Trinity and various saints. The Mazatec people named the plant Ska María Pastora (means “leaf” and “Virgin Mary” and “shepherdess”) because they see the plant as an incarnation of the Virgin Mary.

In the 1990s, ethnobotanist Daniel Siebert studied salvia and identified salvinorin A, the substance responsible for the plant’s psychoactive effects. In 1998, Sacred Weeds, a documentary about how psychoactive plants affect cultures, was shown in the United Kingdom. The film included the investigations of Siebert and several other scientists.

Since then, salvia has become more available as a hallucinogen herb for recreational use, particularly among adolescents and young adults. The 2000s saw a social media trend in which teens shared YouTube videos of themselves using salvia, which received more than a million views

Are you or a loved one using salvia and wondering if it is harmful? Seek help from Zinnia Health if you are concerned about your use. 

Salvia is legally grown and made available in Mexico and most other countries, though about outlawed in about twenty countries. Seeds, dried leaves, and extracts can be purchased online and in specialty shops from places that aren’t subject to any regulations. This has made it easy for people to access the drug, especially those considered underage for alcohol.

Because it’s still relatively new in the United States, salvia isn’t considered illegal on a federal level. The effects of salvia can be very intense. However, according to the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), salvia is not a controlled substance. However, many states have their own laws against its use, which could result in fines and jail time, including:

  • California
  • Delaware
  • Florida
  • Hawaii
  • Illinois
  • Kansas
  • Kentucky
  • Louisiana
  • Maine
  • Maryland
  • Minnesota
  • Missouri
  • Nebraska
  • North Carolina
  • North Dakota
  • Ohio
  • Oklahoma
  • Tennessee
  • Virginia
  • Wisconsin

In 2008, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) reported that about 750,000 Americans ages 12 and older had used salvia at least once. In 2012, the number had risen to about 1.8 million people. That same year, Monitoring the Future (MTF) found that 1.4 percent of eighth-graders, 2.5 percent of 10th graders, and 4.4 percent of 12th graders in the U.S. had tried salvia at least once during the previous year.

Despite its long history of use for religious and medicinal reasons, salvia is increasingly abused by those unaware of the risks. Many more states have proposed regulations to make salvia illegal. Unfortunately, it is challenging to detect salvia misuse and abuse because it looks like an ordinary plant, has no odor, and is easy to grow.

The Effects of Salvia

Traditionally, the indigenous people of Mexico either chewed or sucked on the leaves or drank the extract. Today, salvia can be bought as leaves or extracts and consumed in various ways:

  • Chew fresh leaves
  • Smoke dried leaves in a rolled cigarette
  • Snort crushed leaves
  • Take pure extract under the tongue
  • Drink liquid infused with extract
  • Inhale using a vaporizer, pipe, or bong

People most commonly use salvia because they desire the drug’s intense visual and auditory hallucinations. These are the most well-known effects of salvia. Depending on how it’s taken, the effects of salvia usually only last a few minutes but may last up to 30 minutes. Users may experience many other effects, including:

  • Hallucinations
  • Slurred speech
  • Uncontrollable laughter
  • Lack of coordination
  • Dizziness
  • Chills
  • Lowered body temperature
  • Decreased heart rate
  • Nausea
  • Fatigue
  • Amnesia

These are just some of the effects of salvia. Some people may also experience different effects.

Although salvia is often compared to LSD and similar psychedelic substances, users typically experience different feelings. Both provide hallucinogenic effects, but the effects of salvia relate to different chemicals that activate different receptors in the body. LSD can be taken by mouth or injected into the veins; the effects last much longer (about 12 to 24 hours). Unlike LSD, salvia is not considered to be a party drug.

How Salvia Works and Why it’s Dangerous

Salvinorin A was found to be the active ingredient in salvia, but because it has not been thoroughly studied, it poses a great risk. The substance is unique in that it is a very potent agonist (activator) that targets proteins in specific nerve cells. When combined with opioid receptors—controllers for consciousness, memory, movement, pain, and mood—salvinorin A produces short-lived but high-intensity hallucinogenic effects.

When inhaled, even tiny amounts of salvinorin A (200–500 micrograms) can cause a person to lose control of moving their body. In extreme cases, they lose feeling on one side of their body or look like they are having a seizure. This is one of the lesser-known effects of salvia.

When in a vivid dream-like state as one of the effects of salvia, it can feel like being in several places at once. Some people run into walls or even find themselves in unsafe situations because they lose touch with reality. It is possible to continue to experience frightening psychotic disturbances for hours at high doses.

While there have been no reports of hospitalizations from the effects of salvia, it can still be dangerous to use. Some people may have a higher risk for a seizure disorder; others could accidentally hurt themselves. Very little is known about the drug, so there could be long-lasting effects from salvia use.

Salvia has a history of being considered a low-toxicity drug with a low potential for being addictive. However, recent studies show that salvia may cause mental illness and cognitive dysfunction and be associated with depression and anxiety. In addition, young adults who use salvia often use illegal drugs or exhibit risky behavior.

If a person is considering using salvia, they must carefully think about the potential risks and dangers. It may be best to avoid its use and talk with a doctor about the possibility of alternative therapies that are much safer and with fewer side effects.


Salvia is a type of plant in the mint family that has beneficially provided everything from spicing up favorite recipes to increasing the curb appeal of homes. The psychoactive species Salvia divinorum has been used by the indigenous people of Mexico for centuries. Although it historically served religious and medicinal purposes, salvia has now become a more common recreational drug abused by people of all ages. As its availability and use continue to grow, so do the dangerous risks associated with the effects of salvia. This hallucinogen has the potential to cause injuries, mental illness, and lasting effects.

Getting Help for Salvia Addiction

Salvia also poses a risk of addiction. If you are concerned about your salvia use, then there is always help available. Addiction is a very broad issue, so it can sometimes be difficult to tell whether you have developed an addiction. If the effects of salvia are becoming problematic to your day-to-day life, then you may need help from professionals

Some signs of addiction include:

  • Socially withdrawing unless salvia is involved
  • Failing to meet your responsibilities because of being under the influence of salvia or recovering from its use
  • Spending most of your time taking salvia, sourcing it, or recovering from use
  • Needing to take more to feel the same effects of salvia
  • Having difficulty sleeping and maintaining a normal sleep pattern
  • A lack of interest in hobbies or activities you once enjoyed
  • Neglecting your health or physical appearance
  • Finding it difficult to concentrate or remember new information

These are just some of the side effects of salvia addiction. You may experience all or some of these. You may also experience different effects. Addiction is different for everyone, so while the above symptoms are common, it’s always best to talk to addiction professionals if you have concerns about your salvia usage and the effects of salvia on your wellbeing and daily life.

Getting help is simple with Zinnia Health. Email or call us at (855) 430-9439.

Call us
Ready to get help?
(855) 430-9439
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