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Potent Herb No Longer a Secret

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  • Aug 29 2001 07:44 AM
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Posted 29 August 2001 - 07:44 AM

By George Watson
Source: Press-Enterprise

For years, an intense hallucinogenic herb first hauled down from a Mexican mountain four decades ago was quietly traded by online merchants to a small collection of global connoisseurs, never popping up on the radar of thrill-seekers or federal regulators.
But now that a Texas company marketed Salvia divinorum at a recent major Las Vegas trade show for tobacco paraphernalia dealers and head shop owners, the lime-colored sage's anonymity may be deteriorating.

"They suggested it's like a dream quest, something used for meditating," said head shop owner Susan Neumeyer. At the show, she ordered Salvia divinorum for her businesses, The Joint Venture in Fontana and Huff-N-Puff in Hesperia. "It's new. I have never heard of it. . . . I hope it works out good. I hope no one else has it and I make a lot of money."

That attitude bothers many of the people who best know Salvia divinorum.

They point out the herb fails to work for everyone and is expensive, as much as $120 per ounce. Its impact is short, lasting as long as an hour and as little as five minutes.

It's not the party drug some Internet suppliers say it is. Those familiar with the drug say the herb makes people become introspective. While the powerful hallucinations can be enjoyable, they say it can be a terrifying experience at other times.

"Microgram-for-microgram, it's the most potent psychoactive drug out there," said Dr. Ethan Russo, a neurologist in Missoula, Mont., who studied the herb while writing "Handbook of Psychotropic Herbs."

"While the chance that someone is going to hurt themselves is very limited, I don't recommend this to anyone. It's a hard thing to use . . . and if you do, you need a handler, someone who is not taking it."

'Make a quick buck'

In recent years, herb users worried that selling the herb online would cause the Drug Enforcement Administration to crack down. Some of those Internet companies cast the plant as being much like illegal recreational drugs such as Ecstasy. One merchant's Web site, calling itself the "Temple of Ecstasy," tells customers which types of Salvia are "hot" and trendy.

Other companies simply dance around the subject. For example, Riverside-based Burton Services operates a Web site stating "Welcome Salvia Researchers" and yet offers the "highest grade" of herb, meaning the most potent, and a "FREE cute cigarette lighter" for purchases of more than one ounce. Company officials declined comment.

"You see some sleazy things that in my mind are people who are trying to make a quick buck," said Daniel Siebert, a Malibu resident who uses the herb and markets it on his Web site. "A lot of that stuff is just hype. It's disturbing to see."

Fear of impulse-buying

Offering the herb in head shops will convince people that it is only a recreational drug, some users worry.

They say window shoppers will stumble upon packages of the herb and buy it on impulse. Patrons of the shops, where marijuana users buy pipes or bongs sold as tobacco-using products, will sample it with little comprehension of what they are putting into their bodies, they say.

"Head shops change the picture because it puts it right into the community," Siebert said. "The Salvia experience is so profound and so bizarre; it's not something that's fun. It really makes you question whether you are going to come back from it. Everybody does, but there's a sense you might not."

But the owner of the company that brought the herb to the recent trade show said the 30 head shops and gift stores carrying his product deliver a one-page informational sheet to each Salvia divinorum customer.

"Our position is that with the Internet, it's a lot easier to get if you're a kid," said Brian Arthur, pointing out that buyers can even go to the online auction site eBay and bid on a plant that just went up for sale. "We feel it's important to get it out the right way."

At least for Yahoo chat room users, Arthur's Houston-based Mazatec Gardens' trade show appearance has generated a long debate among Salvia divinorum admirers.

One forum member forecast a scenario in which a young man experienced in marijuana buys the herb on a whim and tests it while driving home from a head shop: " . . . so the driver decides to try some and maybe he's highly sensitive and smokes some. Next thing you know he's gone into another world. Problem is, however, he forgot to take his moving automobile with him."

Arthur replied in the chat room that his company handles wholesale transactions responsibly and he chided Siebert for advocating in which venues the herb can and cannot be sold.

Not a DEA target

As far as drug enforcement officials are concerned, there are no plans to give the herb a controlled-substance classification, the same as drugs such as cocaine, heroin or Vicodin.

"We're aware of it. It's not something that we are targeting right now," said Special Agent Jose Martinez, a spokesman in the DEA's Los Angeles field office who said he also was aware that the herb was marketed at the trade show. "I guess if there was a public uproar or the medical community thinks it should be (controlled), obviously it's something we would look at."

Russo, the Montana neurologist, called the idea of regulatory intervention "preposterous" because he believes the plant's scientific potential is profound.

While scientists know the chemical compound, Salvinorin A, causes the hallucinations, they have not identified how it works. Many controlled drugs, such as marijuana, have been found to work by attaching themselves to the brain's neurotransmitters. While scientists have long known that the brain has neurotransmitters, those that connect with marijuana were found only in the past decade, Russo said.

"My suspicion is it will lead us to a new neurotransmitter system," said Russo. "My hope is that all this attention will translate to some interested party out there who would want to fund research."

Like Russo, Siebert has vast hopes for Salvia divinorum. He foresees it someday helping scientists better identify how the brain determines consciousness, and it may lead to new directions for psychiatry. He explained that some experience new but distinct memories of their childhood.

Long used for healing

Salvia divinorum was first cultivated from the Sierra Mazateca mountains in the southern Mexican state of Oaxaca. Shamans have used the herb, apparently for centuries, as a healing device to treat patients. The herb was brought to the United States in the 1960s but ignored by nearly everyone who sampled it because they failed to use it correctly.

Getting the herb to work is an arduous task, Siebert explained. Mazatec Indians chew the leaves. But to get the effect, a person must gnaw on many leaves -- which have a terrifically bitter taste -- for about 30 minutes. Smoking the leaf works, but users must completely fill their lungs several times with the harsh smoke. Siebert said most people find both efforts to be unpleasant.

Some people have heated the herb and used a commercial vaporizer to inhale the smoke. But Siebert said controlling the dose is difficult and the result can be equivalent to general anesthesia.

Sensational or sickening

Those under the influence describe slipping into deep trances where they experience out-of-body sensations, time or space travel, or visit different worlds. Some people vomit; others pass out and recall nothing. Despite the herb's strength, Siebert says it has no lingering effects such as a hangover, and no one, the DEA included, has heard of a person overdosing or experiencing long-term consequences.

"It was so bright that I looked at the sand and each grain of sand turned into a star and I was bathed in . . . light," wrote a user on Siebert's Web site under the heading "Trip report." "The light was so bright that I became disoriented and I thought I was walking on a sidewalk against the side of a building and the sun was reflecting off the cement, which I assumed was creating the bright lighting. Then the sidewalk and the wall began to `squeeze' me and I became sandwiched between the two planes and felt like I was being crushed."

For the past two years on Vancouver Island in British Columbia, Ian Soutar has been studying the herb's effects on meditation. He has worked with 10 people practiced in meditation, including some of Buddhist background, using tiny doses of the herb's extract.

"By everyone's account, it does work," Soutar said. "It helps when there are distractions and improves clarity."

The biggest fear for Salvia divinorum's admirers is that its newly found attention will eventually fade but federal regulators will still outlaw the herb, leaving the people who enjoyed the herb and treated it responsibly out of luck or treated like criminals.

Note: Salvia Divinorum: A business owner plans to sell the hallucinogenic plant at her Inland shops.

Newshawk: Ethan Russo M.D.
Source: Press-Enterprise (CA)
Author: George Watson
Published: Tuesday, August 28, 2001
Copyright: 2001 The Press-Enterprise Company
Contact: letters@pe.com
Website: http://www.inlandempireonline.com/
Comments: feedback@inlandempireonline.com

Related Articles & Web Sites:

Salvia Divinorum Research
http://www.sagewisdom.org

Handbook of Psychotropic Herbs
http://freedomtoexhale.com/ermd.htm
Replies (18)

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Posted 04 September 2001 - 11:23 PM

I have tried it ,and was not impressed at all.


>>>>"Microgram-for-microgram, it's the most potent psychoactive drug out there," said Dr. Ethan Russo, a neurologist in Missoula, Mont., who studied the herb while writing "Handbook of Psychotropic Herbs." <<<<


I am not a chemist but 'that' statement contradicts everything I have ,read ,heard and ,experienced.Also if what he says is true it would be illegal in the US already.

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Posted 16 July 2009 - 04:29 PM

Damn, that quote about the grains of sand makes me wanna do it. I wonder how it would be to smoke salvia during the peak of a mushroom trip.

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Posted 16 July 2009 - 07:33 PM

Salvia is ridiculous. After seeing the things I saw on my trip and seeing my girlfriend at the time absolutely freak the fuck out, I came to the conclusion that it is intense. I would probably only do it one more time. I'm surprised scientists don't have a strong grasp on how it actually works. I think it just takes you deep, deep into your own subconscious.

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Posted 16 July 2009 - 07:56 PM

ive tried it a few times. for one thing they're wrong about it being the most potent drug.. dmt is basically salvia x10 (havent tried it... its more illegal than heroin..).
its not that sick of a drug, impossible to get addicted to or get in a habit of doing. id recommend trying it atleast once tho, but definately have a sitter for your first time. just like if you try schwag or skunk, the effects depend on if your doing like salvia 5x, 10x, 20x,....100x. ive done around 15-20x and its really intense. kinda made me look at things a little differently for awhile. the first time i smoked salvia i had a full on hallucination for the only time in my life (all the iceplant on the ground looked like eyes all looking at me). ive read with like 50x and 70x trips can be so intense that you can live the entire life of another person, or live years as the paint on the wall, shit like that, all within the 10-20 minute trip.

so stupid that anyone would make it illegal tho, they dont even have a case for it... completely non addictive, not even cool enough to want to do all the time, only lasts about 15 minutes, isnt bad for you at all besides the obvious any smoke=bad for lungs.

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Posted 16 July 2009 - 10:02 PM

salvia is nuts, the first time i did it i thought i was in another world in my computer monitor and my bong was a person and trying to tell me something. its was like a cartoon.

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Posted 16 July 2009 - 10:05 PM

Damn, that quote about the grains of sand makes me wanna do it. I wonder how it would be to smoke salvia during the peak of a mushroom trip.



I know, that got me too.
I'm going to try some now.

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Posted 17 July 2009 - 02:56 AM

Smoked it 3 times, once to try it, second time cause I thought it would be legalized any day, and 3rd for a spiritual trip, but seriously I hate it, it's not even what I'd call "a drug" it's not fun, it's not very enjoyable, usually you have a "bad trip" and only had one that was ok. But honestly if they legalized it it wouldn't change my life in the slightest but I would like it to remain legal for those who do like it's effects. Overall, just ridiculous. Absolutely and for truly ridiculous.

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Posted 17 July 2009 - 03:17 AM

I didn't read that whole article I will tomorrow, so expect a follow up.

But I wanted to comment on the headline if nothing else. Salvia is no longer a secret because the media made a fuss about it. I hadn't really heard about it until a couple years ago. I had seen the name around and it was a "legal herb" to which my belief was all legal herbs rip all but rip offs, some have very mild effects, and they were really only worth a damn if mixed with weed to slightly alter the high.

Then the media started freaking out and governments started banning it which made everyone who would be interested in something like that stop and say "Wait...what? There's a legal drug that works? Where have I been? Where can I get some before they ban it?"

And the freak out was not warranted because best I can tell the majority of people try and say "Ok, that was interesting but I'm good on it. Even the people who continue use don't do it habitually so it wouldn't spread to widespread use anyway.

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Posted 17 July 2009 - 02:36 PM

I don't get sativa. I smoked some of the like x100 and all it did was make me sweat balls and laugh my ass off for like 30 seconds. I'd much rather toke some dank mary.

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Posted 18 July 2009 - 09:25 PM

I don't get sativa. I smoked some of the like x100 and all it did was make me sweat balls and laugh my ass off for like 30 seconds. I'd much rather toke some dank mary.


Gotta take like 2 or 3 huge hits and hold them in as long as you can. Then you will be hurled into the 4th dimension at light speed lol.

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Posted 19 July 2009 - 02:27 AM

I don't get sativa. I smoked some of the like x100 and all it did was make me sweat balls and laugh my ass off for like 30 seconds. I'd much rather toke some dank mary.



doesnt sound like you got 100x

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Posted 19 July 2009 - 03:31 AM

I didn't read that whole article I will tomorrow, so expect a follow up.

But I wanted to comment on the headline if nothing else. Salvia is no longer a secret because the media made a fuss about it. I hadn't really heard about it until a couple years ago. I had seen the name around and it was a "legal herb" to which my belief was all legal herbs rip all but rip offs, some have very mild effects, and they were really only worth a damn if mixed with weed to slightly alter the high.

Then the media started freaking out and governments started banning it which made everyone who would be interested in something like that stop and say "Wait...what? There's a legal drug that works? Where have I been? Where can I get some before they ban it?"

And the freak out was not warranted because best I can tell the majority of people try and say "Ok, that was interesting but I'm good on it. Even the people who continue use don't do it habitually so it wouldn't spread to widespread use anyway.


Haha, dude. This was posted like 8 years ago. ;)

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Posted 19 July 2009 - 03:37 AM

Yeh man tried this stuff before. It was alright got some weird Marilyn Monroe trip thing going on, not to heavy though. Seen a few people go crazy on it though, pretty sketchy sometime.

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Posted 19 July 2009 - 04:17 AM

Yeah salvia has been known for a while. if people are interested, this video explains why it hasn't been made illegal yet.
[ame=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PEPEV_NbfN8]YouTube - Terrence McKenna - Salvia Divinorum[/ame]

i watched it a while ago, but basically there is a certain compound in most natural hallucinogens. so since there's no law against hallucinogens generally, they made this compound illegal. salvia doesn't have the compound, so it took people a while to find out it was a hallucinogen, and the us gov't now has to find a pretense to make it illegal and they (presumably) can't.

my opinion on salvia is that it is very potent. i've only smoked extract. first you sort of forget you're high. then if you do potent stuff, you forget who you are. it sort of rips you away from all that you associate with your life, (i literally felt like "i" was sucked from my body at a high speed) and your only reality is this crazy vision state.
then when you come back after what may have seemed like forever, you can sort of feel yourself quickly running through the details of your life - it's quick an interesting transition back to reality. once in the half salvia-half real life stage which can happen if you don't do enough to induce a serious trip, i thought my entire life from the moment i was born was a part of the trip, which was a major mindfuck to say the least.
its not really fun, as in euphoric, at all. but it's what you make of it. like someone said a few posts up i think the "trip" is a visual representation of subconscious realizations and concepts that for whatever reason you can't understand or formulate consciously. i definitely think it's helpful. now if you combine it with weed thats a different story and it's fun as hell, and trippy. intense laugh attacks and such.
that is my take on salvia, but try it for yourself, and see what you think.

Edited by ohno!minotaur, 19 July 2009 - 04:28 AM.


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Posted 19 July 2009 - 09:43 PM

"DMT is like a trip to heaven, Salvia is like riding a rocket to hell"

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Posted 19 July 2009 - 11:40 PM

I've used it around 5 times or so, smoked extracts, chewed leaves, smoked leaves. Never had a bad trip, all of them were pretty strange and just altered my reality.

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Posted 20 July 2009 - 06:43 PM

Damn, that quote about the grains of sand makes me wanna do it. I wonder how it would be to smoke salvia during the peak of a mushroom trip.



oh my god.....

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Posted 20 July 2009 - 08:58 PM

where can i buy this shit and i am looking for a super potent super stinky skunk for commercial use




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