Salvia is a general name for plants of the sage family (genus). One type of salvia, salvia divinorum has hallucinogenic properties.

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About salvia

The active component in salvia, Salvinorin A, gives the plant its hallucinogenic properties. Salvia disrupts consciousness more than LSD.

Its effects are unique among hallucinogens. Some effects compare to those of ketamine and some compare to LSD, marijuana and MDMA.

Some also compare to states achieved with:

  • yoga
  • trance
  • dreaming
  • meditation

Illegal salvia is distributed as:

  • dried leaves
  • plant cuttings
  • extracts and concentrates
    • produces stronger effects than leaves or cuttings
    • can then be:
      • taken alone
      • mixed with or sprayed on salvia leaves

Salvia is also known as:

  • puff
  • magic mint
  • diviner's sage
  • incense special
  • Sally D or Lady Sally
  • Maria pastora or ska pastora

Salvia is controlled under Schedule IV of the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act. Activities such as sale, possession and production of salvia are illegal unless authorized for medical, scientific or industrial purposes.

There are no industrial or commercial uses for salvia divinorum in Canada.

Other species of salvia seeds and plants that are not hallucinogenic are commonly sold for gardening.

Short-term health effects of salvia

The effects of salvia are usually fast and do not last long. They may differ from person to person and include both mental and physical effects.

The effects may also be different from one use to the next. This depends on factors such as:

  • how much you use
  • the strength and purity of the product:
    • salvia can be mixed with other substances to make it stronger
  • how it is taken:
    • inhaled
    • chewed
    • swallowed
  • your mood and expectations

Mental effects

The short-term mental effects of salvia may include:

  • hallucinations
  • anxiety, discontent
  • fear, panic, paranoia
  • social withdrawal, confusion
  • impaired recollection of the event
  • disconnection from reality (dissociative effects)
    • disorientation
    • decreased body and thought control
    • the perception that one is in several locations at once

Physical effects

Salvia may also cause physical effects, such as:

  • rapid heart rate
  • impaired speech
  • drowsiness, lethargy
  • uncontrollable laughter
  • reduced physical coordination

Long-term health effects of salvia

We know little about the long-term health effects of salvia, including whether it can cause permanent damage.

Risks related to salvia use

Since salvia impairs your thoughts and emotions and causes you to lose contact with external reality, it can lead to impaired judgement and risk-taking behaviour, leading to traumatic injuries and even death.

Salvia use may also increase the risk of psychotic episodes. These episodes are usually brief but may persist and require medical help.

If you have a mental disorder you may be at a higher risk of developing these psychotic episodes.

Salvia products are often laced with concentrated extracts or other drugs (adulterants) to increase their strength. This may lead you to take an unintended higher dose, resulting in a higher risk level of serious complications.

Co-use of salvia with large amounts of alcohol and other drugs may also increase the risks of side effects.

Substance use disorder and withdrawal

As with its long-term effects, we do not know much about salvia:

There are, however, isolated cases of tolerance, addiction and withdrawal symptoms in individuals who used salvia regularly in increasing doses.

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