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Salvia Divinorum

Salvia divinorum (Diviner's Sage,or colloquially by its genus name Salvia) is a psychoactive herb which can induce dissociative effects. It is a herbaceous perennial in the mint family. The Salvia divinorum, was given because of its traditional use in divination and healing it literally translates to "diviner's sage" or "seer's sage".

Salvia divinorum has a long and continuing tradition of religious use by indigenous shamans, who use it to facilitate visions during spiritual healing sessions. It is naturally found in remote parts of Mexico, growing within shaded and moist habitat.

The plant rows to well over a meter in height. It has hollow square stems, large green leaves, and occasional white flowers.

Its primary psychoactive constituent is a potent κ-opioid receptor, Salvinorin A. It is the only naturally occurring substance known to induce a psychedelic state. Salvia divinorum can be chewed or smoked to produce experiences ranging from laughter to more intense altered states. The duration of effects is much briefer than those of other psychoactive compounds, typically only minutes in length.

Effects include an improved mood and sensations of insight, calmness, and connection with nature. Salvia divinorum is generally understood to be of low toxicity and low addictive potential. While not currently regulated by US federal drug laws, several states have passed laws criminalizing the substance and the DEA has listed Salvia as a "drug of concern".

Salvia divinorum was first recorded in print by Jean Basset Johnson in 1939 while he was studying Mazatec shamanism. He later documented its usage and reported its effects through personal testimonials. It was not until the 1990s that the psychoactive mechanism was identified.

Salvia divinorum has become both increasingly well-known and available in modern culture. The rise of the Internet since the 1990s has allowed for the growth of many businesses selling live salvia plants, dried leaves, extracts, and other preparations. Medical experts as well as accident and emergency rooms have not been reporting cases that suggest particular salvia-related health concerns, and police have not been reporting it as a significant issue with regard to public order offences. In any case, Salvia divinorum has attracted negative attention from the media and some lawmakers.

Salvinorin A is unique in that it is the only naturally occurring substance known to induce a visionary state via this mode of action similiar to those of LSD and mescaline. Salvinorin's potency should not be confused with toxicity. Rodents chronically exposed to dosages many times greater than those to which humans are exposed did not show signs of organ damage.

Shamans crush the leaves to extract leaf juices from about 20 to 80 or more fresh leaves. They usually mix these juices with water to create an infusion or 'tea' which they drink to induce visions in ritual healing ceremonies.

Salvia divinorum is becoming more widely known and used in modern culture. The National Survey on Drug Use and Health, an annual US based survey sponsored by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration for 2006 estimated that about 1.8 million persons aged 12 or older had used Salvia divinorum in their lifetime, of which approximately 750,000 had done so in that year. Modern methods of ingestion include smoking or chewing the leaf.

If salvia is smoked the main effects are experienced quickly. The most intense 'peak' is reached within a minute or so and lasts for about 1–5 minutes, followed by a gradual tapering back. At 5–10 minutes, less intense yet still noticeable effects typically persist, but giving way to a returning sense of the everyday and familiar until back to recognizable baseline after about 15 to 20 minutes. Chewing the leaf makes the effects come on more slowly, over a period of 10 to 20 minutes, the experience then lasting from another 30 minutes up to one and a half hours.

Effects may include:

* Uncontrollable laughter
* Past memories, such as revisiting places from childhood memory
* Sensations of motion, or being pulled or twisted by forces
* Visions of membranes, films and various two-dimensional surfaces
* Merging with or becoming objects
* Overlapping realities, such as the perception of being in several locations at once

First hand journalistic account has been published in the UK science magazine New Scientist:

the salvia took me on a consciousness-expanding journey unlike any other I have ever experienced. My body felt disconnected from 'me' and objects and people appeared cartoonish, surreal and marvellous. Then, as suddenly as it had began, it was over. The visions vanished and I was back in my bedroom. I spoke to my 'sitter'—the friend who was watching over me, as recommended on the packaging—but my mouth was awkward and clumsy. When I attempted to stand my coordination was off. Within a couple of minutes, however, I was fine and clear-headed, though dripping with sweat. The whole experience had lasted less than 5 minutes.
—Gaia 2006-09-29 (UK Media)

After the peak effects, normal awareness-of-self and the immediate surroundings return but lingering effects may be felt. These short-term lingering effects have a completely different character than the peak experience. About half of users report a pleasing 'afterglow', or pleasant state of mind following the main effects.

Research using rats has been used to suggest that Salvia divinorum may have "depressive-like" effects. However a survey of 500 people with firsthand experience of salvia found that 25.8% of respondents reported improved mood and "antidepressant-like effects" lasting 24 hours or longer. Only 4.4% reported persisting (24 hours or more) negative effects (most often anxiety) on at least one occasion

It has only low addictive potential with most most users reporting no hangover or negative after-effects the next day. This is consistent with the apparent low toxicity of Salvia indicated by research.

In the United Kingdom, following a local newspaper story in October 2005, a parliamentary Early Day Motion was raised calling for Salvia divinorum to be banned. However, it only received 11 signatures. A second Early Day Motion was raised in October 2008 attracting 18 signatures, with it being reported that Mann had also written to the Home Secretary Jacqui Smith saying, "Sadly the issue has come to light again as our young people are using the internet and sites like YouTube to broadcast their friends taking the drug and witnessing the hallucinogenic effects. Our young people are at risk and a wider cultural attachment to this drug seems to be developing that I am sure you agree - regardless of its legal status - needs nipping in the bud." The Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs, the independent body that advises UK government on drugs, has been asked to investigate further.

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