Salvia divinorum, also known as "diviner's sage" and "leaf of prophecy," is native to Mexico. The Mazatec Indians of Oaxaca state have used it ceremonially for centuries to induce vision quests and assist healing of ailments such as alcoholism. Aurelia Aurora Catarino, a Mazatec shaman, has said, "The purpose ... is to purify, and to open the road. When it opens, it's as clear as the blue sky, and the stars at night are as bright as suns."
Salvia divinorum leaves are either smoked, eaten or squeezed and mixed with water and taken as a beverage. R. Gordon Wasson and Albert Hofmann, researchers in the 1950s and '60s, found that the effects of ingesting the leaves in any form are similar to the effects people experience when they take psilocybin mushrooms or morning glory seeds, which contain lysergic acid amide, the source ingredient of the chemical hallucinogen LSD.
In 1962, an anthropologist named R. Gordon Wasson and his wife Anita wrote of Salvia divinorum that they "saw only dancing colors in elaborate, three-dimensional designs." He also reported that after taking an infusion of the leaves they experienced similar effects as the psilocybin mushroom, although much weaker. Anita saw "striking, brightly bordered images" while Hofmann found himself in a state of "mental sensitivity and intense experience."
When taken, Salvia divinorum's effects induce a semi-delirious trance, which begins as soon as 15 minutes after ingestion. The person in the trance will speak, and it is from his words that a shaman will be able to diagnose the illness from which the patient is suffering.
Researcher Jose Luis Diaz studied the use of S. divinorum in the 1970s and reported an increase in the plant's effects each of the six times he experienced it with a shaman. He noted a "series of complex and slowly changing visual patterns that occurred only in complete quiet with closed eyes." No colored geometric patterns or auditory images occurred, but he did notice "peripheral phenomena, such as a feeling of lightness in the extremities and odd sensations in the joints." Towards the end of the plant's effects on the body, he experienced dizziness and nausea, lasting 10 minutes.
Effects on the Body
The Center for Substance Abuse Research at the University of Maryland reports that Salvia divinorum can be responsible for causing the following physical side effects: dizziness, lack of coordination, decreased heart rate, nausea, slurred speed and chills.