Salvia divinorum (often just called “salvia”) is a species of sage plant with psychedelic properties. Salvia causes brief, intense hallucinations, as well as perceived near-death experiences.

Salvia is unusual among psychedelics. About 40% of people who take salvia say it causes unique hallucinations, unlike those you have on LSD, mushrooms, and other classical psychedelics. Salvia is also legal in parts of the United States, which sets it apart from most other psychedelics.

Here’s an in-depth look at salvia’s effects, timeline, risks, and benefits.

What Is Salvia?

Salvia divinorum (Latin for “sage of the diviners,” often shortened to “salvia”) is a species of sage plant with psychedelic properties.

Salvia is native to cloud forests in the Sierra Madre Mountains of southern Mexico. Local Mazatec shamans have used it for centuries as an entheogen—a way to reach altered states of consciousness for spiritual growth. 1

Salvia is rich in salvinorin-A, a psychoactive compound that causes hallucinations and other mind-altering effects.

In addition to its traditional ceremonial use, salvia is a popular recreational drug in the United States.

Other Names for Salvia

Salvia is also called:

  • Ska maria pastora
  • Yerba de la pastora (shepherd’s herb)
  • Seer’s sage
  • Diviner’s sage
  • Holy sage
  • Magic mint
  • Eclipse
  • Herbal Ecstasy

How Do You Use Salvia?

The most common ways people use salvia are:

  • Traditional methods (tea or chewing leaves)
  • Smoking

Traditional methods

Traditionally, Mazatec shamans prepare salvia as a tea. They squeeze juice out of the leaves, add the juice to hot water, and drink the mixture. Another traditional method is to chew a large quantity of fresh leaves.

However, salvia is not particularly strong if you ingest it orally. Your stomach and liver deactivate most of the salvinorin-A before it reaches your brain, and the resulting psychedelic experience is mild. 2

Smoking salvia

In the United States, smoking is a common way to ingest salvia. You can smoke dry leaves, although they often won’t produce strong effects.

Many smoke shops sell packets of salvia extract, which is the more popular way to smoke salvia. The packets typically contain dried salvia leaves infused with salvinorin-A for a more intense trip.

Most people smoke salvia with a glass pipe or water pipe (bong). Salvinorin-A vaporizes at about 460 degrees Fahrenheit, which is a high temperature, so it’s common to use a torch lighter to burn the leaves or extract.

It’s a good idea to have someone with you when you smoke salvia. The drug’s effects are intense and kick in immediately, to the point where you may drop your pipe as soon as you inhale. Salvia can also cause unpredictable behavior.

Sitters typically take the pipe from you as soon as your trip starts and keep an eye on you throughout your experience, so that you don’t accidentally do anything dangerous while in an altered state.

Salvia dose

When smoking salvia, a standard dose is to inhale for 3 seconds, hold the extract in the lungs for 3-5 seconds, and then exhale.

If you’re smoking an extract, note that most packets of extract are graded by their concentration (e.g. 5x, 10x, 20x), with a higher number indicating greater potency. You may want to start with a lower concentration to familiarize yourself with the drug.

Salvia Effects

Salvia causes a variety of mind-altering effects, including 3,4,5:

  • Distorted time perception
  • Hallucinations
  • Mystical experiences (feeling like you’re meeting spiritual/divine entities)
  • Mimetopsychosis (temporary symptoms of psychosis)
  • Dysphoria (lack of joy, depression)
  • Dissociation (feeling like you’ve left your body)
  • Irritability
  • Sweating
  • Headaches
  • Nausea
  • Dizziness
  • Constipation

Salvia is not as well-studied as many other psychedelics. However, compared to other psychedelics, salvia seems to have a greater likelihood of producing negative psychological effects, particularly at high doses. 6

A possible explanation is that salvia’s active ingredient, salvinorin-A, works differently in your brain. Unlike LSD, psilocybin mushrooms, DMT, and other classical psychedelics—all of which activate serotonin receptors—salvinorin-A causes hallucinations by attaching to your brain’s opioid receptors. 3

As a result, the effects of salvia are unique among psychedelics. According to a 2004 survey, about 40% of people who take salvia report that its hallucinations are unlike those of any other psychedelic. 7

The Timeline of Salvia in Your Body

Here’s a look at the timeline of salvia in your body, including:

  • How long salvia takes to kick in
  • How long salvia lasts
  • How long salvia stays in your system

How long does it take for salvia to kick in?

You feel salvia’s effects immediately after smoking it. If you chew salvia, you’ll feel the effects after about 30 minutes, and they will be more mild and gradual.

How long does it last?

A salvia trip is brief but intense. Effects peak about two minutes after smoking and typically last fewer than 10 minutes.

That said, salvia can cause considerable time distortion, so your trip may feel much longer than ten minutes while you’re experiencing it. Some people report feeling like their trip lasts hours.

If you chew salvia, the trip will last longer (sometimes up to an hour) but the effects will be milder.

How long does it stay in your system?

There’s no research on how long the active ingredient in salvia, salvinorin-A, stays in your system. Drug tests do not screen for salvia, so it should not show up on the results. That said, it’s a good idea to avoid all drugs if you are anticipating a drug screening.

Coming down from a trip

You may experience constipation, headache, and short-term confusion after a salvia trip. A bad trip may also cause lasting psychological distress.

Can You Overdose on Salvia?

There is no known fatal dose for salvia and there have been no hospital reports of people overdosing. However, high doses of salvia may cause psychological distress.

Salvia Risks

There are no known physical risks to using salvia, beyond the mild lung irritation that comes from smoking a substance.

Salvia comes with a degree of psychological risk. You may feel mental distress due to salvia’s negative effects, which can include frightening hallucinations, temporary psychosis, and dysphoria (low mood and lack of pleasure).

Salvia Safety Tips

Consider taking salvia with a trip sitter—someone you know and trust.

Salvia’s effects are sudden and intense enough that it’s a good idea to have a sitter to take your pipe after you inhale. Many people disconnect from reality so immediately that they will drop their pipe, which can cause burns or be a fire hazard.

Is Salvia Addictive?

Salvia is not known to be addictive. There is no evidence that it’s habit-forming and researchers consider its risk of dependence to be low. 6

Is Salvia Legal?

At the time of this article’s publication, salvia is legal or decriminalized in 21 U.S. states, including all states west of Wyoming and Colorado. It’s illegal in 29 states. Some states, like California, require you to be at least 18 years of age to buy or use salvia.

Check a map of salvia’s legal status before purchasing or using the drug in your state.

Salvia Frequently Asked Questions

Here are a few frequently asked questions about salvia.

Can I overdose on salvia?

There are no known cases of salvia overdose. Physiologically, smoking salvia appears to be safe, even at high doses. Psychologically, however, high-dose salvia may make you more likely to experience negative effects that include frightening hallucinations, temporary psychosis, and dysphoria.

Can I mix salvia with alcohol?

While there are no known drug interactions between salvia and alcohol, you’re probably better off not combining the two. Salvia is a powerful and unpredictable psychoactive drug, and adding alcohol to the mix may cause negative psychological effects that are difficult to anticipate.

Can I mix salvia with other drugs?

Avoid mixing salvia with other drugs. Salvia causes intense hallucinations and altered perception on its own, and mixing it with other drugs could cause unpredictable effects.

While we do not suggest using salvia, if you’re going to use it, you’re best off taking salvia on its own.

Can I drive while on salvia?

Do not drive or operate other heavy machinery while on salvia. Salvia causes a sudden and intense disconnection from the world around you, as well as impaired coordination. Always use salvia in a safe, controlled environment, ideally with someone you trust who can watch over you during the experience.

Can I microdose with salvia?

It’s not common to microdose salvia, although it could be possible in theory. Smoking salvia won’t work for microdosing because the effects only last a few minutes. You would likely want to chew a small quantity of the leaves, which would cause a milder and more prolonged effect.

Is salvia addictive?

Salvia is not known to be addictive. There is no evidence that it’s habit-forming and researchers consider its risk of dependence to be low. Salvia also seems to be physiologically safe, even at large doses. While research on salvia is scarce, it appears to be neither addictive nor physiologically dangerous.

Is salvia legal?

At the time of this article’s publication, salvia is legal or decriminalized in 21 U.S. states, including all states west of Wyoming and Colorado. It’s illegal in 29 states. Some states, like California, require you to be at least 18 years of age to buy or use salvia.

Check a map of salvia’s legal status before purchasing or using the drug in your state.

Final Thoughts

Salvia is an unusual psychedelic. It works on a different set of brain receptors than most psychedelics do. People report that it causes different kinds of hallucinations. Its psychedelic effects also only last a few minutes, compared to several hours for most hallucinogens.

However, salvia may also be more likely to cause a bad trip, which is something to consider before you take it.

If you choose to try salvia, make sure to check its legal status in your state or country. You may also want to have someone in the room with you to ensure that your trip goes smoothly.


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2. Siebert DJ. Salvia divinorum and salvinorin A: new pharmacologic findings. J Ethnopharmacol. 1994;43(1):53-56. doi:10.1016/0378-8741(94)90116-3

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6. Mott PL. A Literature Review on the Status and Effects of Salvia Divinorum on Cognitive, Affective, and Behavioral Functioning. undefined. Published online 2011.

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