Substance Use

Salvia and Its Potentially Dangerous Effects

TABLE OF CONTENTSTable of Contents

salvia ground leaves pile

Salvia is commonly used as an ornamental flowering plant for gardens and landscaping features. This plant also has a long history of use as a fixture in religion, cooking, and more. However, a particular strain of salvia can be used as a hallucinogen. Over the last several years, this plant has become known for its presence as a drug alternative.

Although eventually, this plant was made illegal in some areas, it still has a presence today in modern society as a psychoactive substance used primarily by teens and young adults wanting to get high. This plant can cause severe side effects and reactions that are physically and psychologically dangerous to use. This plant can also become addictive and require professional assistance to overcome the desire to use it.

Attributes of Salvia

Salvia is a flowering plant that is part of the mint family. It has long been used and revered for its showy blooms that are bright and colorful. There are currently over 950 species of salvia growing globally. Many salvia types are ideal for use around the home for gardening and even cooking.

There are many versions of this woody, flowering plant globally, but perhaps the rarest is indigenous to Mexico. Salvia divinorum is the psychoactive variety that was categorized by Carl Epling and Carlos Jativa in 1962. They change the name to “salvia divinatorum” to describe its use in religious ceremonies.

Identification

Identifying salvia is easy because of its unique characteristics. This plant grows anywhere from one to five feet in height and has distinctive leaves. The leaves are oblong oval shapes with trichomes or small hairs. When this plant flowers, it has impressive white flowers with purple stamens.

These flowers are difficult to grow and must be pruned and grown from cuttings rather than depending on seeds. That is because these flowers uncommonly grow from seed and rely on propagation from growers and gardeners. In applications where it is smoked to produce a hallucinogenic effect, the leaves rather than the flowers are dried and ground. When they are dry, the leaves turn nearly black in color rather than their original shade of dark green.

History of Salvia

Salvia grows primarily in the mountainous regions of Oaxaca, Mexico, and is used by the area’s indigenous people. However, it’s not entirely clear where the plant originated from or where it began growing. Scientists still wonder if this plant is in its original form or if it was combined with another plant or varieties of plants to create a hybrid species. The indigenous cultures were away from its effects and medicinal properties for centuries. However, it wasn’t until Jean Basset Johnson, an anthropologist, became aware in 1939 and spread the word. He continued his studies on the plan and observed the shamans use it in religious ceremonies and practices.

The shamans used various other hallucinogenic and psychoactive plants and herbs in rituals, but salvia was a prominent feature in daily life. It was crushed and dried to be used as tea. The shamans used this mixture to help guide them into the spirit realm to communicate with various saints.

Many believe that the salvia plant is the incarnation of Mary and was named “ska maria pastora” or “Virgin Mary.” The substance that creates the effect of salvia was identified in 1990 by Daniel Siebert, who is an ethnobotanist. The findings were cited in a documentary released in 1998 called “Sacred Weeds.” This media attention put salvia in the UK and the US social spotlight. It quickly became known as a party drug, was seen in locations across both countries, and was primarily used by teens and young adults. If you or someone you know is using salvia, they can turn to Zinnia Healing to get the support they need. 

The Effects of Salvia and Methods for Use

The effects of salvia are mild to pronounced in the individual who consumes it. The plant can be chewed or drank in tea or extracted as the native Mexicans do for their cultural or religious ceremonies. However, there are many methods for ingesting this potent plant. One popular method is by producing a concentrated extract. The extract is then dropped under the tongue or sublingual doses and absorbed through the tissue into the skin and then into the bloodstream. 

Those who infused liquids drink it like tea or add flavoring. Some other unique ways of ingesting this plant include vaporizing it with a vaporizer or bong. It can also be smoked like tobacco or marijuana and rolled into a cigarette. Perhaps the most common form of ingestion for young individuals is smoking because it takes less time, equipment, and effort. Although less common, some choose to grind the plant into a powder and snort it. 

Once the drug is ingested or smoked, it begins affecting the user within a few minutes to thirty minutes. If it’s smoked, the effects are much quicker than if the plant is chewed, drank, or used under the tongue. The results can vary depending on the potency of the plant or extract and how it’s used. Some side effects to note other than hallucinations can include the following.

Side Effects of Salvia Use

Perhaps the most common side effects include slurred speech and uncontrollable laughter. There is also a noted decrease in the individual’s coordination. They may stagger when they walk or not be able to get around as normal. They may also become quite dizzy and disoriented while under the effects of salvia. Some other more severe side effects include the following. 

  • Nausea
  • Fatigue
  • Amnesia
  • Chills

It’s worth mentioning that salvia also affects the user’s heart rate. It can both increase the heart rate as well as decrease it. Body temperature may also decrease when using salvia.

Anyone using salvia is in danger and should seek assistance right away. Zinnia Healing is there to support and provide tools for recovery. 

Why Salvia is Dangerous 

Salvia can produce pronounced effects due to salvinorin A. It has been observed by researchers to bond to nerve cell proteins. In some cases, the individual can lose control of their motor functions when they use salvia. Additionally, this substance can significantly affect a person’s mood, level of pain, and memory. This is especially true if the drug is inhaled, which is its most potent form. Some individuals have been observed who have lost control over their motor skills on one side of the body.

 Others appeared to have seizures and twitching. Those who are under the influence of salvia can enter a lucid dreaming state and feel like they are in multiple places at a single time, which is further disorienting and can create a psychological reaction from the user. Once the individual begins to react in a disturbing manner, they can begin to act erratically and take actions such as putting themselves in danger of harming themselves. These psychotic episodes can last for several hours after ingesting or using salvia. It is believed that using this drug may also increase the odds of the individual developing a seizure disorder permanently.

The long-term effects of salvia are still unclear, although the immediate danger from using this drug is potential self-inflicted harm. The user may be unaware of the danger they are in a while under the influence. The seizures and threat of future seizures are also concerning. Although, some studies concluded that saliva might be a trigger for mental illness and depression in some individuals. This is especially true for young people who want to experiment with salvia.

Legalities Related to Salvia

Salvia is currently illegal in approximately 20 countries globally. It is still legal in Mexico, and many people bring it into the country for distribution illegally. It’s important to note that salvia may be illegal at a State or local level, but salvia is still not illegal federally. That means that salvia isn’t considered a controlled substance. 

However, it is illegal in many states, and those who possess or use it and get caught will be arrested and prosecuted in court. This can carry jail time and fines for adults. Those who are under 18 will be processed through the juvenile court system. This is another reason salvia is dangerous to young individuals who cannot obtain other illegal drugs to experiment with recreationally. This drug is very easy to get and can be used and ingested in many different ways.

Anyone currently using salvia or has a loved one who does should reach out to Zinnia Healing to get the professional attention and support they need to overcome their addiction. Salvia can put lives in danger and requires caring and compassionate assistance to ensure each person gets the personalized attention they need to recover and restore their lives.