Salvia divinorum(Sage of the diviners): characteristic and growing guide

In nature, there are a large number of plants that have very interesting active principles and are applicable in pharmacology. One of these referred plants is Salvia divinorum or as it is also known in a common name, diviners’ sage.

Very powerful active principles that cause hallucinations are housed in it, which is why it has been used since ancient times in shaman rites, especially by the Mexican Mayan people. In Gardenprue, all kinds of plants seem interesting to us, so we are going to describe their particularities and main characteristics.

The appearance of this plant is quite different from that of common sage ( Salvia officinalis ) or red sage ( Salvia splendens ), with smaller leaves and an interesting flowering that also make it an ornamental plant. In fact, its origin is totally different, since Salvia divinorum  is present in warm areas of Central and South America, especially in Mexico, and common sage is common in the Mediterranean area.


It was not until 1939, at the beginning of the Spanish Civil War, that a plant called Salvia divinorum with a herbaceous appearance reached the ears of Europe for the first time , the consumption of which caused hallucinations and visionary images, and which was commonly used by shamans to initiate their rites and “establish” connections with the afterlife.

However, it was not until 1962 when samples were taken to be able to study in the laboratory what the plant and its active principles were made of, since all these types of psychoactive substances can have applications in modern medicine and pharmacology.


Salvia divinorum belongs to the Lamiaceae family , and is quite present in different areas of Mexico, especially in the area of ​​Oaxaca. At first glance, it is nothing more than a small plant that can be grown in a pot, with large, bright green leaves and fast growth, something like a particular basil.

At the ornamental level it does not tell us much either, so the main applications have always gone hand in hand with the extraction of its active principles. This has also led to the fact that it is commonly consumed or sold illegally for its hallucinogenic powers, and that it is prohibited in some countries. This is the example of the misuse of botany .


  • Order: Lamiales
  • Familia: Lamiaceae
  • Genus:  Salvia
  • Specificity, Salvia divinorum



Salvia divinorum needs stable , warm and constant temperatures, which is why it is often grown in a greenhouse or indoors. Due to the morphology of its leaves, it needs high humidity to produce large, live leaves and prevent them from cracking.


The sage of the diviners is moderately consuming resources, and is closely related to leaf production. Therefore, we must guarantee a moist soil, good drainage and a high concentration of organic matter. The use of peat mixed with materials such as coconut fiber, perlite or vermiculite is frequent to achieve an ideal moisture retention texture and at the same time a good oxygenation.

As we have commented previously, Salvia divinorum can be grown both in substrate (pot or containers) and outdoors in soil, but we need warm temperatures like those in Mexico.


Obtaining identical species of Salvia divinorum is done by cutting the plant, a quick way to multiply. This is because the seeds have very little germination power and specific conditions are needed for their germination.

Another technique also used for its simplicity is to place the leaves resting on their entire surface on a moistened substrate, in such a way that it activates the emergence of new roots and the obtaining of a new plant. This method of plant multiplication is often used for different types of cacti.


The fact that Salvia divinorum is so well known to many in the world of medicinal plants is due to the fact that it has hallucinogenic active ingredients . Responsible for this consequence is the element salvinorin-A,  present in high concentrations in the plant and with a molecular structure that is diterpenic.

However, the great difference of this hallucinogenic active ingredient from Salvia divinorum compared to common hallucinogens is that it is not considered an alkaloid . It is classified as a non-nitrogenous opioid agonist (cell receptor).

In addition, new research has also classified other interesting compounds but without hallucinogenic activity, such as Divinorin-C , which enhances the effect of Salvinorin-A, and Salvinorin-B , without psychoactive activity.

Therefore, salvinorin-a is considered a very powerful active principle , offering activity in really small doses. We are talking about 0.2-0.5 mg.


As we have commented before, the way this active principle works is slightly different from how other hallucinogenic substances work. In this case, as it is not an alcolloid, it acts as an agonist through receptors. Its form of action is based on interacting with the kappa opioid receptors in the brain, where the regulators of visual perception, touch, hearing, etc. are found.

By acting on these receptors, it completely changes the feeling we may have of the environment.


The effects of its consumption are very powerful, of great intensity and suddenness, being quite different from the psychedelic effects of some mushrooms or other plants. In general, the mentioned effects speak of very pleasant introspective experiences (hence shamans used it in rituals) or high intensity, unpleasant and alarming effects.

Those who try it, assure that sound experiences can also be achieved, and that light causes different effects depending on the type of person. For this reason, its psychoactive properties are often experienced in conditions of darkness and absolute silence.

The consumption of the plant to take advantage of its active potential is usually carried out in several ways:

  • Direct consumption of fresh, chewed leaves. With an effect that usually lasts between 5 and 10 minutes depending on the level of saliva with active ingredient produced.
  • The dried leaves can be smoked by any of the current routes. Inhaled smoke also has psychoactive properties. Under this method, the effect usually acts quickly, in less than 1 minute.
  • Drinking the concentrated extract is one of the forms that creates the most effects, with rapid and sudden hallucinations.

Under any of these forms of consumption, the effects can be the following:

  • Physical or visual disability.
  • Intensive dissociation and isolation from reality.
  • Synesthesia (mixture of physical sensations such as hearing colors or hearing numbers, for example).
  • Uncontrollable laughter.
  • Dysphoria (unpleasant sensation) in some cases.


Savia divinorum is subject to special regulation, since the use of salvinorin-A as an active principle can cause unwanted effects in the population, as well as the greatest danger that it generates, its commercialization.

Since we are talking about a new active principle for pharmacology (the first plant arrived in Europe in 1962), there are currently controls but it is not subject to much international control.

Currently its care as its consumption is legal in European countries such as Sweden, Denmark, Italy, Finland or Germany, as well as in Australia. More and more countries require controls on this plant and classify it in almost the same way as marijuana .

In Spain, its use as an ornamental plant in the garden is allowed but its use as a medicinal plant has been prohibited since 2004.


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