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Also known as: Magic Mint, Sally-D, Ska Pastora

Revised March 2019

What is salvia?

Salvia plan in a potPhoto courtesy of Wikimedia Commons/CC0

Also known as: Diviner's Sage, Magic Mint, Maria Pastora, Sally-D, Seer's Sage, and Shepherdess's Herb

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 usually last less than 30 minutes 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 Salvia is Used

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

What happens to your brain when you use salvia?

Researchers are studying salvia to learn exactly how it acts in the brain to produce its effects. What is currently known is that salvinorin A, the main active ingredient in salvia, changes the way the brain works by changing the way nerve cells communicate. Nerve cells, called neurons, send messages to each other by releasing chemicals called neurotransmitters. Salvia affects this signaling process.

Salvinorin A attaches to parts of nerve cells called kappa opioid receptors. (Note: These receptors are different from the ones involved with opioid drugs like heroin and morphine.)

Learn more about how the brain works and what happens when a person uses drugs. And check out how the brain responds to natural rewards and to drugs. 

What happens to your body when you use salvia?

Short-Term Effects

Salvia’s effects usually appear in less than 1 minute and last less than 30 minutes. Short-term effects can include:

  • intense hallucinations (seeing or feeling things that aren’t really there)
  • mixed senses (such as "seeing" sounds or "hearing" colors)
  • feelings of detachment (disconnected from one’s environment)
  • mood swings
  • sweating

There also are reports of people losing contact with reality—being unable to tell the difference between what’s real and what’s not. Many of these effects raise concern about the dangers of driving under the influence of salvia.

The long-term effects of salvia have not been fully studied.

Can you overdose or die if you use salvia?

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

Is salvia addictive?

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

How many teens use salvia?

Salvia has never been very popular among teens. In fact, less than 1 percent of teens say they have used it in the past year. The chart below shows the percentage of teens who use salvia.

Swipe left or right to scroll.

Monitoring the Future Study: Trends in Prevalence of Salvia for 8th Graders, 10th Graders, and 12th Graders; 2019 (in percent)*
Drug Time Period 8th Graders 10th Graders 12th Graders
Salvia Past Year 0.80 0.90 0.70

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: 

  • Call the 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 want to help a friend, you can:

If a friend is using drugs, you might have to step away from the friendship for a while. It is important to protect your own mental health and not put yourself in situations where drugs are being used.

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

Where can I get more information?

NIDA Resources:

Educator Resources:   

Chat Day Transcripts


Drug and Alcohol Use in College-Age Adults in 2015

Drug and Alcohol Use in College-Age Adults in 2015

Published: November 3, 2016

The 2015 Monitoring the Future College Students and Adults survey shows trends in the use of alcohol, marijuana, nicotine, cocaine, and other drugs in college students and non-college peers.

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