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Salvia, broken down and described


Onset : 30-180 seconds
Duration : 5-30 minutes
Normal After Effects : 30-60 minutes

 : 10-20 minutes
Duration : 30-90 minutes
Normal After Effects : 30-120 minutes

Salvinorin A is technically classed as an a-typical dissocitaive. It is unique in the fact that it is the most potent natural hallucinogen and it is not an alkaloid but a terpenoid. The molecule is structurally distinct from other naturally occurring hallucinogens (such as DMT, psilocybin, and mescaline) because it contains no nitrogen atoms.  

The only natural source of salvinorin A is Salvia divinorum, a Mexican plant which has a long history of use as an entheogen by indigenous Mazatec shamans but was first described and named by Alfredo Ortega and colleagues in 1982.

The reason it is so unique in terms of its subjective effects is because it has no action at the 5-HT2A serotonin receptor, which is the principal molecular target responsible for the actions of the classical psychedelics such as LSD, mushrooms and mescaline. Salvia is instead a kappa opioid receptor agonist with a method of action tied into interrupting Kappa-opioid tactile sensory pathways; these pathways mediate pain, gravity awareness, and feedback for determining physical orientation in space. This explains a few of the subjective experiences found on salvia which based on the predefined potential subjective effects index found here, I will now begin to breakdown and describe…

Physical effects:

The physical sensation of a salvia trip is almost entirely characterized by what many people refer to as “Salvia Gravity”. This is at least partially present during the mildest of trips and increases proportionally with dosage until it is all encompassing, beginning with a heavy sensation that pulls and tugs at the body.

As this increases, it inevitably becomes so powerful that it swiftly lifts the tripper up and out of their body at extremely high speeds and over vast distances in a direction that doesn’t quite make sense. They are pushed or pulled into a space vastly different from anything found on the classic hallucinogens.

For some unlucky people this is sometimes accompanied by the sensation of pins and needles all over a persons skin, which can quickly become very uncomfortable. Most people however will never experience this feeling.


Cognitive effects:

While most drugs usually enhance or heighten certain cognitive functions and simultaneously lower others, salvia does not do this. Instead it consistently lowers and suppresses all cognitive abilities and functions. It’s this effect that contributes to salvia being extremely confusing, creating for an experience devoid of introspection. salvia is best described as a substance that does not create profound personal insights, just profound and interesting experiences.

The average first time salvia user generally experiences a mixture of extreme gigglyness and confusion. Paranoia and panic are also very common for the unprepared and this can be accounted for by the fact that k-opoid antaganists have been shown to cause such feelings in people.

The prominent cognitive components of a salvia trip can be broken down into,

  • Ego suppression, loss and death - this trip feels particularly intense on a mental level due to the near instant cognitive transition into ego death which can occur very suddenly at moderate to high dosages. This feels as if you are receiving the sensory input of your trip, but not fully conscious enough to think about the implications of it until you come down.
  • Cognitive suppression - this can be described as an inability to process information and a slowness of thought accompanied by general confusion and disorientation.
  • Language suppression - this can be described as an extreme difficulty in formulating spoken words. Many users go as far as reporting that their thought processes become completely replaced with a completely garbled and nonsensical alien language.
  • States of unity and interconnectedness - this can be described as an effect which is only present during states of deep ego death. In comparison to states of oneness found on psychedelics such as DMT and LSD it is described as significantly more forceful, sudden and disorienting.

Visual effects:


When a user of this substance keeps their eyes open throughout the duration of a moderate - strong trip, a number of open eye distortions and alterations are usually present. These are significantly more simplistic from that of open eye distortions found with other classes of hallucinogen. They seem to play heavily on different sections of your vision and generally include,

  • Depth perception distortions - this effect is usually characterized by a total loss of depth perception and a complete flattening of the visual field into a 2-dimensional image. It can also make objects seem further away or closer in distance than they actually are.
  • Size distortions - this effect can be described as specific objects with the external environment or the surroundings as a whole changing in physical size and becoming impossibly huge or small in size.


At moderate to high dosages with darkness or closed eyes, a full array of level 1 - 4 hallucinatory structures. This is an effect which is most commonly found within dissociatives such as ketamine and DXM. They are distinctively different in style however and significantly more likely to be based on mathematical constructs such as vast and elaborate fractals.

In terms of stylistic appearance they also tend to contain significantly more detail to their style, with a greater variety of materials and abstract detail which comprise the structures. This often takes the form of extremely complex machinescapes with intricate interlocking mechanical parts which move between each other in a variety of ways.

Another key difference between the manifestion of this effect within salvia and those found within dissociatives is the extremely prominent sense that you are the structures that you are visually perceiving. This can be described as the sensation that you have become the structure itself and can feel every detail and moving part across itself. In comparison this effect is only present at level 4 within the classical dissociatives but is often present across all levels within salvia.

These constructs and structures are often so huge that they appear to expand across hundreds to thousands of miles and gradually change by means of panning, zooming and rotating slowly into view as more and more detail is gradually revealed. As dosage increases, so does the level of detail and intricacy of these structures. This continues until level 4 when the sensation of seeing the entire universe condensed into an infinitely vast and intricate self transforming machine form becomes present.

Hallucinatory states,

Salvia produces a full range of high level hallucinatory states in a fashion that is just as consistent of that of any classical psychedelics. These effects include,

  • Transformations - in comparison to psychedelics, the transformations found within salvia are significantly more solid, believable and realistic in appearance. They are commonly manifested as objects within the external environment coming alive or changing in some way and can only occur when the eyes are kept open.
  • Imagery - The imagery on salvia is described as more solid than psychedelics and does not seem to be composed of condensed visual geometry as with imagery found within psychedelics and dissociatives. It is often embedded within and across structures and are likely to become solid fractal representations of the original image.
  • Hallucinations - this particular effect commonly contains a full array of hallucinations with plots, settings, autonomous entity contact and scenarios. They are common at high dosages and can be described as mostly internal in their manifestation but occasionally external with open eyes. They are both lucid and delirious in their believability, fixed in style and often ominous and a little sinister in style.
  • Consistent 2nd person hallucinations - A unique aspect to the hallucinatory scenarios found within salvia are how commonly they are manifested with a 2nd person perspective in comparison to other classes of hallucinogens. This is commonly described as suddenly becoming a random object with common examples often include a conveyer belt, a wall, a book or a specific part of a building.


At the present moment the scientific literature is currently classing Salvinorin A as a hallucinogen which fits the criteria as either a dissociative or an A-typical dissociative.

I personally feel that although salvia shares states of hallucinatory structures and out of body experiences with dissociatives. This is not enough to argue that it falls under the same classification, for example the hallucinatory structures, although similar are vastly different in their style and complexity. Along side of this, out of body experiences with dissociatives are triggered by the way in which NMDA receptor antagonists block signals to the conscious mind from other parts of the brain and quite literally disconnect the user from its body. This is accompanied by a distinctive feeling of dissociation, disconnection and detachment which is simply not present on salvia as it works on an entirely different set of receptors.

The effects of salvia have a completely unique subjective style and pharmacology that is not found within any other category of hallucinogen and is thus an entirely new class of its own.

Health effects, potential addiction and tolerance:

Salvia is non-toxic: although it’s not known what the overdose (LD50) of Salvinorin A is, it is known that there has never been a death attributable to Salvia or Salvinorin A, this is especially reassuring because most doses do not exceed 25 milligrams, though doses of 2 grams of salvinorin A have been recorded.

The biggest danger with Salvia is paranoia and bad trips which have on rare occasion been known to cause people to accidentally harm or even kill themselves. This can be combated in just the same way that the paranoia induced with any hallucinogen can. Simply take Salvia in a safe, comfortable environment away from noise and groups of people, brush off all negative thoughts as irrational paranoia before they can even begin to develop themselves. If you are not experienced with the substance, be sure to have a close and trustworthy friend to reassure, calm and prevent you from getting into danger.

Salvia exhibits a reverse-tolerance effect - The effects of the substance become stronger with each use. It may take several uses before a user “breaks-though” into the full effects of the substance.

Legal issues:

At present Salvia divinorum remains legal in most countries. Countries where salvia is controlled in some manner include: Australia, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Italy, Japan, the United States, Russia, Spain, and Sweden.

The prohibitive degree of Salvia divinorum legislation varies widely from country to country. Australia has imposed its strictest ‘schedule 9’ (US Schedule I equivalent), and Italy has also placed salvia in its ‘Table I’ of controlled substances (also US Schedule I equivalent). In Spain, there are controls focusing only on the commercial trade of Salvia divinorum, personal cultivation (i.e. for non-commercial use) is not targeted.

Salvia legislation may prove difficult to enforce. The plant has a nondescript appearance; unlike many other drug plants, the leaves are non-descript, and without a detectable odour. Salvia divinorum can be grown as an ordinary houseplant without the need of special equipment such as hydroponics or high-power lights.

If you want to try this substance for yourself it is freely available through Google and local headshops with a search for the term “salvia leaves” or “salvia extract” coming up with many legitimate vendors on the front page.

Reader submitted trip reports:


In my opinion Salvia is perhaps one of the most confusing experiences a human being can possibly go through. Making it by far the most difficult of all substances which I have attempted to explain. 

Salvia may well be a difficult drug that is not for the faint hearted, but it is an extremely fascinating and very worthwhile experience that is worthy of exploration. 

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