Dr. Thomas Dwan - Is It Bad For You? Approved by Dr. Thomas Dwan

Is Salvia Bad For You?

Also Known As: Salvia divinorum, Sage of the Diviners, Seer's Sage



Short answer

There's little danger of overdose or addiction with salvia. It's a potent psychedelic, however, and should be approached with caution and best practices in order to avoid hurting yourself or others.



Long answer

Salvia divinorum is a psychoactive plant from the mountains of Oaxaca. It can be smoked or chewed in a ball called a quid. The active ingredient, salvinorin A, produces an intense high that lasts for 15 minutes to an hour.

The high from salvia can cause synesthesia, distortions of time and space, visual and auditory hallucinations, depersonalization, and derealization. Physical effects include dizziness, slurred speech, and a loss of coordination. When the leaves are smoked, these symptoms peak after two to five minutes and largely subside after twenty. Oral ingestion prolongs the experience, although your results may vary depending on dose and metabolism.

If you're going to use salvia, take the time to make sure that your environment is safe for yourself and others. Choose a location where you won't have access to guns, knives, other dangerous weapons. Pick a private place where you won't be interrupted by visitors or phone calls, and avoid heights or open flames. Never drive or operate heavy machinery when high on salvia.

Find a friend who's willing to supervise as a "trip sitter." They should be calm, understanding, and trustworthy. Having a sitter to watch over you during the experience will significantly reduce the chance that you will accidentally hurt yourself. They can act as a psychological anchor and help to calm you down if the trip becomes too intense.

Anyone who has a personal or family history of mental illness should consult with a medical professional before using psychedelics. Salvia and similar drugs can inflame mental health problems or trigger latent tendencies so that previously unknown conditions develop.

Although interactions between salvia and other drugs have not been widely studied, consult with a doctor if you're taking medication that affects the brain and planning on smoking salvia. Some have postulated that the effects of salvia can be prolonged or intensified when mixed with MAOIs, although the interaction between the two drugs has not yet been established in a clinical environment.

A two-week toxicology study in mice published in the Journal of Psychoactive Drugs did not establish a toxicity threshold for salvia. Unless you're consuming unheard-of amounts, it likely isn't toxic.

Although salvia is available in leaf form, many people choose to smoke extracts. These are concentrated forms of salvinorin A - they can be 20, 40, or 100 times more potent than the leaves of the salvia plant. Use caution when smoking extracts, as the effects of the drug will be more intense.

Salvia smoke is very harsh. If you have asthma or a history of breathing problems, you may want to think twice before smoking it.

Do not mix salvia with other psychoactive drugs. The effects are unpredictable and might cause medium or long-term destabilization of your mental health.

Possible short-term side effects

  • dizziness
  • slurred speech
  • hallucinations
  • synesthesia
  • disorientation
  • depersonalization
  • derealization

Possible long-term side effects

  • interaction with latent mental health triggers

Thank you for your feedback!

Written by Sean McNulty
Published on: 09-07-2016
Last updated: 12-10-2016

Thank you for your feedback!

Written by Sean McNulty
Published on: 09-07-2016
Last updated: 12-10-2016

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