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Drug Facts

Salvia

What Is Salvia?

A S. divinorum plant.

Also known as: “shepherdess's herb,” “diviner's sage,” “seer's sage,” “Maria pastora,” “magic mint,” and “Sally-D”

Salvia (Salvia divinorum) is an herb in the mint family found in southern Mexico. The main active ingredient in salvia, salvinorin A, changes the chemistry in the brain, causing hallucinations (seeing something that seems real but isn’t). The effects are short lived, but may be very intense and frightening.

Although salvia is not illegal according to Federal law, several states and countries have passed laws to regulate its use. The Drug Enforcement Administration lists salvia as a drug of concern that poses risk to people who use it.

How Is Salvia Used?

Usually, people chew fresh S. divinorum leaves or drink their extracted juices. The dried leaves of S. divinorum also can be smoked in rolled cigarettes, inhaled through water pipes (hookahs), or vaporized and inhaled.

How Does Salvia Affect the Brain?

Researchers don’t fully understand exactly how salvia produces its effects. What is known is that salvinorin A, the main active ingredient in salvia, attaches to parts of nerve cells called kappa opioid receptors. (Note: These receptors are different from the ones involved with opioid drugs, such as heroin and morphine.)

The effects of salvinorin A are described as intense but short lived, generally lasting for less than 30 minutes. People who use salvia generally have hallucinations—they see or feel things that aren’t really there. They also have changes in vision, mood and body sensations, emotional swings, and feelings of detachment (disconnected from their environment). There are reports of people losing contact with reality—being unable to tell the difference between what’s real and what’s not. This last effect raises concern about the dangers of driving under the influence of salvia.

Learn more about how the brain works and what happens when a person uses drugs.

What Are the Other Effects of Salvia?

Physical and other effects of saliva use have not been fully studied. There have been reports that the drug causes loss of coordination, dizziness, and slurred speech.

In addition, we also don’t know the long-term effects of using the drug. However, recent studies with animals showed that salvia harms learning and memory.

Can You Get Addicted to Salvia?

It’s not clear if using salvia leads to addiction. More studies are needed to learn whether it has addictive properties.

Can You Die If You Use Salvia?

It is not clear whether there have been any deaths associated with salvia. However, because we do not know all of salvia’s effects, it is a drug that authorities are watching carefully.

How Many Teens Use Salvia?

 

What Should I Do If Someone I Know Needs Help?

If you or a friend are in crisis and need to speak with someone now, please call:

  • National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (they don't just talk about suicide—they cover a lot of issues and will help put you in touch with someone close by).

If you need information on treatment and where you can find it, you can call:

For more information on how to help a friend or loved one, visit our Have a Drug Problem, Need Help? page.

For More Information on Salvia

Drug Facts

NIDA:

Statistics and Trends

NIDA:   

Monitoring the Future (University of Michigan):

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration: