Science news

Salvinorin A: A potent naturally occurring nonnitrogenous k opioid selective agonist.
This paper reports the landmark discovery that salvinorin A activates kappa opioid receptors.

Salvinorin C, a New Neoclerodane Diterpene from a Bioactive Fraction of the Hallucinogenic Mexican Mint Salvia divinorum.
This paper describes the structure of a novel compound isolated from Salvia divinorum.

Salvinorins D-F, New Neoclerodane Diterpenoids from Salvia divinorum, and an Improved Method for the Isolation of Salvinorin A.
This paper describes three novel compounds isolated from Salvia divinorum.

Divinatorins A-C, New Neoclerodane Diterpenoids from the Controlled Sage Salvia divinorum.
This paper describes three novel compounds isolated from Salvia divinorum.

Antidepressant Effects of the Herb Salvia divinorum: A Case Report.
Describes some aspects of the theraputic potential of Salvia divinorum.

Acute physiologic and chronic histologic changes in rats and mice exposed to the unique hallucinogen salvinorin A.
Experiments in rodents indicate that salvinorin A is extraordinarily low in toxicity.

Legal status

Australia was the first country to prohibit Salvia divinorum and salvinorin A. The comittee responsible for the ban has admitted that there is "no evidence of a major public health hazard." The ban went into effect June 1, 2002. Anyone living in Australia or its territories who is considering being involved with this plant is urged to first obtain professional legal advice. Readers are urged not to ship Salvia divinorum, or products made from it, to Australia or its territories because the person who receives the shipment could face severe criminal penalties. Please go here for more details on this recent action by Australia's government and to learn what you can do to fight it.

Salvia divinorum and salvinorin A have been placed in category B of the Danish list of controlled substances. Category B includes psilocybin mushrooms, cocaine, amphetamine, and several others substances that are only legal for medicinal and scientific purposes. Possession of Salvia divinorum in Denmark now carries a penalty of up to 2 years in prison. The law went into effect on August 23, 2003. The text of the law can be found here. Further details can be found here.

In August 2002, Finland passed legislation making it illegal to import Salvia divinorum without a relevant prescription from a doctor. For information about this decision, in Finnish, please go here.

The United States
Salvia divinorum is legal throughout the United States. However, on January 23, 2003 the city of St. Peter's, Missouri passed an ordinance that prohibits the sale of Salvia divinorum to anyone under the age of 18. The restriction is modeled after the state's tobacco law. St. Peter's is the first, and so far only, city in the nation to restrict the sale of Salvia divinorum. The Salvia divinorum Research and Information Center has always advised that vendors not sell Salvia divinorum to minors. We believe that such a prohibition is responsible and appropriate.

In October of 2002, a bill was introduced to the United States Congress that proposed to place Salvia divinorum and salvinorin A in schedule 1 of the Controlled Substances Act. The bill was passed amongst various committees, but no action was taken on it. Ultimately, it died with the dissolution of the 107th Congress at the end of 2002. The author of the bill, Representative Joe Baca of California (democrat), has recently stated that he will not reintroduce the bill.

The DEA is currently studying Salvia divinorum and salvinorin A, and considering whether or not they present a risk to public safety that would justify making them controlled substances (and consequently further infringing on the personal freedoms of American citizens). Given that there is no evidence that would suggest that Salvia divinorum presents a significant risk to public safety, I am hopeful that the DEA will be reasonable and not schedule this beneficial plant unnecessarily. If they do decide to schedule it, it will take a minimum of 30 days after they give public notice of their intentions (in the Federal Register) before the change of legal status takes effect.

During the year 2003 two bills were introduced to the Oregon State Legislature that proposed to criminalize Salvia divinorum and salvinorin A in that state. Fortunately, both bills died upon adjournment of the Oregon Judiciary Committee. House Bill 3485 (introduced March 15, 2003) sought to impose particularly severe penalties. If it had passed, possession would be punishable by a maximum of 10 years' imprisonment, a $200,000 fine, or both. Delivery would be punishable by a maximum of 20 years' imprisonment, a $300,000 fine, or both. Senate Bill 592 (introduced February 22, 2003) only proposed to make delivery a crime. If it had passed, delivery would be punishable by a maximum of one year's imprisonment, a $5,000 fine, or both.

The rest of the world
We are not aware of any attempts to prohibit Salvia divinorum in countries other than Australia, Finland, and the United States.

Recent articles and news reports in the Media

Salvia divinorum has received quite a bit of Press coverage over the last couple of years. Unfortunately, much of this has been highly inaccurate, misleading, and sensationalistic. The Media has a strong tendency to demonize consciousness-altering substances, so please remember to take what you read with a grain of salt. Some of these stories say more about the authors' own fears and prejudices than they do about Salvia divinorum. Strangely, the Media often portrays salvia as something that is becoming popular. This is not the case at all. The profoundly introspective nature of salvia's effects discourage casual or recreational use. Salvia will never become popular, because the effects do not appeal to many people (young or old). Following are links to most of the news stories that have come out since 2001. They are listed in order of publication or broadcast date. If you know of other recent news stories about Salvia divinorum, please bring them to my attention. Many newspapers only make their articles available on-line to the general public temporarily, so some of the links shown here may no longer work.

The New York Times. July 9, 2001 edition.
"New Cautions Over a Plant With a Buzz." Richard Lezin Jones. New York, USA.

The Times. July 10, 2001 edition.
"New Hip Drug is Legal in America." Anonymous. London, U.K.

The Sydney Morning Herald. July 10, 2001 edition.
"Little-Known Hallucinogenic Herb a Growing Concern." Anonymous. Sydney, Australia.

Corriere della Sera. July 10, 2001 edition.
"New York, in erboristeria l’allucinogeno legale." Anonymous. Milan, Italy.

Independent. July 11, 2001 edition.
"Hallucinogenic Sage Sells for $120 an Ounce to New Yorkers with a Recipe for a Good Time." Andrew Buncombe. London, U.K.

The Sunday Times. July 15th, 2001 edition.
"Drug Suppliers use Loophole to Sell 'Magic Mint.'" Adam Nathan. London.

Die Zeit. July 18, 2001 edition.
"High: New York im Drogenhimmel." Von Orson Willis. Hamburg, Germany.

The New Zealand Herald. July 19, 2001 edition.
"Mexican Mind Bender Like a Legal LSD, Say Users." Bridget Carter. Auckland, New Zealand.

Der Spiegel. July 23, 2001 edition.
"Azteken-Drogen erobern die Welt." Anonymous. Hamburg, Germany.

The Los Angeles Times. August 14, 2001 edition.
"A Legal Hallucinogen, at Least for Now." Anne-Marie O'Connor. Los Angeles, USA.

The Press-Enterprise. August 28, 2001 edition.
"Potent Herb No Longer a Secret: SALVIA DIVINORUM: A Business Owner Plans to Sell the Hallucinogenic Plant at Her Inland Shops." George Watson. Riverside, USA.

The Associated Press. September 3, 2001.
"Mexican herb sparks interest as legal-for now-hallucinogen." Following its release on the AP newswire, this article was published, under various headings, by a great many news providers. The above link will take you to the article as it appears on C-Health. Andrew Bridges. Los Angeles, USA.

Daily Press. September 9, 2001.
"Hallucinogenic Herb Hits Shelves at Local Head Shop." William Finn Bennett. Victorville, California, USA.

The Hartford Advocate. December 13, 2001.
" Legally High: Salvia divinorum--one of the drug world's best-kept secrets." By Chris Harris. This article was also published in The Fairfield County Weekly.December 27, 2001 edition. and in The Valley Advocate. January 3, 2002 edition.

The Associated Press. March 10, 2002.
"Legal Hallucinogen Moves to Market." Will Weissert. Mexico City, Mexico.

Voir. March 14, 2002.
"Drogue: la salvia--Trip légal." Isabelle Porter. Canada. April 1, 2002.
"A New LSD?: Mexican Herb for Sale Online Comes With Divine Claims, Warnings." Dean Schabner. USA.

The New York Times. May 8, 2002.
"The Place for Trips of the Mind-Bending Kind." Tim Weiner. USA.

La Repubblica. September 11, 2002.
"Carabinieri scoprono salvia speciale: fumata, è allucinogena." Italy.

The Oregonian. October 20, 2002.
"Meet the most potent natural hallucinogen--and it's legal." Margie Boulé. USA. (Caution: This is one of the most prejudiced and inaccurate "news" stories about salvia ever published.)

The Milwukee Journal Sentinal. December 21, 2002.
"Plant from Mexico has U.S. drug officials on alert." Reid J. Epstein. USA.

St. Louis Post-Dispatch. January 22, 2003.
"St. Peter’s police and mayor want to restrict sales of herb." Susan Weich. USA.

St. Louis Post-Dispatch. January 26, 2003.
"City bans sale of Salvia divinorum to youths." Kristin Stefek. USA.

The Washington Times. March 28, 2003.
"Mystic herb catches fire." Sarah Shiner. USA.

WDSU NewsChannel 6 (New Orleans). Aired May 15, 2003.
"Herbal High Legal -- But Is It Safe?" Richard Angelico. USA.

Southeast Missourian. June 21, 2003.
"Unregulated hallucinogenic drug available at local outlet" Bryce Chapman. USA.

USA Today. June 23, 2003.
"Teens, and now DEA, are on trail of hallucinogenic herb." Donna Leinwand. USA.

CNN. Aired June 24, 2003 - 07:41 ET.
"House call: what is salvia?" Guests Dr. Sanjay Gupta and Dr. David Nichols.

CNN. Aired June 24, 2003 - 19:28 ET.
"New recreational drug poses questions for DEA." Guests Daniel Siebert and Carol Falcowski.

News Channel 5 - Cleveland, Ohio. Aired June 24, 2003.
"Agents on lookout for new drug attracting teens: officials taking steps to outlaw Mexican plant."

Tucson Citizen. June 25, 2003.
"'Head shop' herb leads to 'psychic black hole' - or no effect." Luke Turf. USA.

The Windsor Star. June 30, 2003. (Also published in the Vancouver Province, and the Leader-Post (Regina).
"Salvia herb on DEA hit list: U.S. wants it classified illegal." Chris Hornsey. Canada.

The Record. July 6, 2003.
"Hallucinogenic herb attracts DEA interest." Mitchel Maddux. USA.

WBAL News Channel 11 - Baltimore, Maryland. Aired July 10, 2003.
"Local Teens High On Legal Substance: Officials Warn Parents About Mexican Herb." The web page includes a link to video of the story. It is playable using Real Player.

Daily News - New York. July 20, 2003.
"Stronger than LSD and legal." Richard T. Pienciak. USA.
Reprinted on July 27th as “DEA issues warning on salvia use” in the Charleston Gazette (West Virginia) and as “Hallucinogenic herb is stronger than LSD, drug agency warns” in the Orlando Sentinel (Florida).

Toronto Star. July 28, 2003.
The article is divided into two sections, both by Scott Simmie. Canada.
"Herb inspires high expectations / Ancient drug stirs modern interest / Salvia divinorum not for recreation."
"Drug's roots are in spiritual ceremonies."

First Coast News - Jacksonville, Florida. Aired August 13, 2003.
"Potentially dangerous drug "salvia" is popular in the party scene." Jamie Muro. USA.
The web page includes a link to video of the story. It is playable using Real Player.

The Miami Herald - Florida. August 21, 2003.
"This (salvia) isn't your father's marijuana." Georgia Tasker.

The Vancouver Sun - Canada. September 20, 2003.
"Salvia slips into our consciousness." Jennifer Moss.

Houston Press. - USA. October 30, 2003.
"Stoner Science: Our staff risks all to determine if a plant will get them high or if it’s just another Internet lie." Margaret Downing.

Lancashire Evening Post - UK. November 5, 2003.
"10 Minutes and £10." Staff writer.

Tinker Take Off - Oklahoma City Air Logistics Center at Tinker Air Force Base. December 19, 2003.
"Plant could land airmen in legal hot water." by Jeanne Grimes.