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Salvia: Tricks of Use for the Best Experience

Salvia tips
Written by Sarah Friedman

Drugs are fun, sure, but sometimes you have to know how to do things right in order to get the best response. For example, if you eat regular cannabis in fresh form, you won’t get high. Just like if you smoke a magic mushroom, you also won’t get high. Knowing how to use something is just as important as having access to it. And so, here are a list of salvia tips and tricks, to ensure users get it right, and get the most out of it.

What is salvia?

What we call salvia, is actually a broad family of plants which includes well known kitchen ingredients like Salvia rosmarinus, aka rosemary, and Salvia officinalis, aka sage. However, the salvia that we’re talking about is Salvia divinorum, which comes with the particular designation of causing psychoactive effects.

It’s said that Salvia divinorum originated in the cloud forests of the Sierra Mazateca in Oaxaca, Mexico; but it’s also quite possible that it came from somewhere else and was brought to this location by other native tribes. Either way, the  plant flourishes in the moist and shady conditions of that particular climate; though these days its much more ubiquitous and can be found in many different parts of the world, including the US.

Salvia and its cousins like rosemary and sage, all reside in the Lamiaceae mint family. Salvia divinorum can be separated to ‘divinorum’ which comes from the word ‘divination’, and ‘salvia’ or sage. It translates to “diviner’s sage” or “seer’s sage.” Mazatec shamans used it for hundreds of years in spiritual, healing, and divination ceremonies. One use was to induce hallucinations and different states of consciousness. Some native cultures still use it in this way today.  

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It is customary for shamans to use fresh leaves to represent the Virgin Mary. Rituals often start with an invocation to her or other saints; which is done quietly, as its said Mary speaks with a quiet voice. Beyond spiritual use, Salvia has medical benefits, and is known to treat diarrhea, anemia, headaches, rheumatism, ‘swollen belly’, and as a diuretic.

Unlike other plants, like psilocybin mushrooms, opium, or DMT-containing plants, salvia is legal. It was never scheduled federally in the DEA’s Controlled Substances list. This oversight is likely because salvia was simply not known to the US at the time the government went through its flurry of illegalization measures in the latter half of the 1900s. Much like amanita mushrooms, not being in view, meant getting out of illegalization. There are, however, several states that did make policies against the plant in some form or another.

Internationally it varies greatly. Some countries like Estonia, Finland, Iceland, and Norway hold it as a medication requiring a prescription.  It’s illegal in a lot of Europe, but not all. In France and Spain, for example, its legal to possess it and grow it, but not sell it. This is true of Chile as well. In Russia, you can have it, but you can’t grow or sell it.

What does it do?

How exactly salvia works is not entirely known. It is known that one of the main active compounds is salvinorin A, which is classified as a diterpenoid. While it causes intense hallucinations, it acts differently than other hallucinogens. This may be in part because of a lack of nitrogen atoms, which separates it from other hallucinogens like psychedelics.

Salvinorin A makes for short trips of approximately 30 minutes to 1.5 hours. It causes the following: sedation (its an oneirogen drug); spatial disorientation; lowering of motor control; analgesia; amnesia; delusions; depersonalization; music appreciation; analysis, language, and memory suppression; uncontrollable laughter; time distortion; slower thinking; hallucinations (auditory and visual); spiritual feelings; feelings of near-death; and connection.

It goes further than this though, also changing how gravity feels, something called ‘salvia gravity;’ by making the user feel like they’ve morphed into something else, or are being stretched in some way; and spontaneous bodily feelings, like pins and needles. Salvia is known for creating very intense experiences.


Salvia tips and tricks for best use

This part is important, because not every entheogenic plant can simply be swallowed down to get the best effects. As stated earlier, swallowing down cannabis will get you a whole lot of nothing in terms of a high, just like lighting up a psilocybin mushroom, or eating an amanita mushroom raw, can cause problems. Likewise, if you eat a DMT plant without the Banisteriopsis caapi vine, you shouldn’t expect an ayahuasca trip, and if you take a bite out of the side of a San Pedro cactus, you’ll not get a mescaline effect. There are ways to do things, and ways not to.

Salvia is no different, and in order to get the best effects, it must be consumed properly. A lot of people will brush salvia off as a nothing drug. I certainly did when I first smoked it, but that’s because it was a long time ago, and I didn’t know what I was doing. In order to help others have a better experience than I did, I’ve put together these salvia tips and tricks, to ensure the best time possible.

Salvia tips and tricks – the smoking method. You can smoke salvia, though this isn’t a preferred method of intake. When smoking, the user is using dried leaves. Something about salvinorin A is that it only gets released with very high temperatures; meaning its better to use a torch lighter which burns hotter. Inhales should be done quickly, with little-to-no time in between. You should hold the lighter above the plant material and bring it down into the material while inhaling.

This is the fastest way to feel effects, which should start within a minute when smoking. Intense effects die down within five minutes with this method, and the entire trip is usually over in a half hour. The smoke should be held in the lungs for a full 20-30 seconds to allow uptake. Exhaling too quickly means absorbing way less salvinorin A. This is where a lot of people go wrong. If you don’t heat it with a high enough temperature, or you don’t hold it in long enough, you might not feel anything at all.

Salvia tips and tricks – the tincture method. The tincture method is one of the more intense ways to use the drug, but as with any tincture making, strength varies depending on preparation. A salvia tincture involves soaking the fresh leaves in a high proof ethyl alcohol, for at least two weeks. How long its left helps determine how strong the end product is.

After soaking the desired amount of time, the plant material is strained out, and the resulting tincture can be administered by the drop. It’s best to start with just one drop in the beginning to test strength, and increase accordingly. Drops should be held under the tongue, as they will not provide effects if immediately swallowed down.

Salvia tea tips
Salvia tea tips

Salvia tips and tricks – the tea method. This is one of the standard and traditional methods for consumption. It requires about 20-80 leaves to make a good tea, which is equal to about 50–200 grams (2–7 oz). The tea can be made in two ways. Either by juicing the leaves and mixing the extract with water. Or to infuse the leaves directly in hot water. Either dried or fresh leaves are usable for tea. Using dry leaves requires approximately 3-4 grams. For an infused tea, the leaves need to be boiled for five minutes, and then the tea cooled for 15.

There’s a trick with drinking the tea. Salvinorin A is destroyed in the gastrointestinal system when swallowed. Uptake must occur not through the digestive tract, but in the mouth. Therefore, keeping it in the mouth is important if a user wants to access all the effects. Each mouthful should be swished around for 15-20 seconds so the blood vessels in the mouth can absorb as much as possible. Drinking it straight down will minimize effects.  

Salvia tips and tricks – the chewing method. Just like tea, this method is not about consuming the leaves, but keeping them in the mouth for a while. Effects come on slower when chewing or making a tea, and can take 10-20 minutes. The Mazatecs actually did swallow down the leaves after chewing for several minutes, but since nothing comes from the swallowed part, this is unnecessary. This is the most time-consuming method, and the slowest one to make a person high, though ingestion this way lasts longer than smoking.

Essentially, the leaves are kept in the mouth as long as possible, and chewed to break down the plant material and release the salvinorin A. Should you quickly chew and swallow the leaves down, don’t expect anything to happen. These days most people spit out the leaves after chewing.

Salvia tips and tricks – the sublingual method – This method is similar to the tea and chewing methods in that it accesses blood vessels in the mouth for its main source of uptake. Like any sublingual administration, it means leaving something (fresh leaves) under the tongue for a couple minutes (or longer) to allow the many blood vessels to pick up the compounds. Technically, the difference between sublingual and both chewing and tea, is that sublingual relies on blood vessels under the tongue, and tea and chewing rely more on the mucous lining of the mouth.


So, there you have it. If you’ve been trying to use salvia and having issues, these tips and tricks should help out. As always, please use responsibly.

Salvia tips and tricks
Salvia tips and tricks

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About the author

Sarah Friedman

I look stuff up and and write stuff down, in order to make sense of the world around. And I travel a lot too.