I wrote this blog in 2020 and this is an edited re-publish of it. Enjoy your reading.
DISCLAIMER: I am not encouraging anyone to use salvia with this article, and I am not making light of the circumstances surrounding the disposal of this substance. On the contrary, my aim is to make people aware of my experience of an altered state of consciousness under the influence of salvia and to warn them not to try something similar at home without proper preparation. And certainly not out of curiosity in the style of “I’ll take it, because I find those described states so cool and I’d like to see if it will do the same to me”.
Salvia divinorum is a very interesting plant. It contains a substance called salvinorin A, which is the strongest natural hallucinogen.
Its natural habitat is the dense forests of the isolated Sierra Mazateca region of Oaxaca, Mexico, where it grows in humid and darker conditions.
Salvia divinorum has a long and continuing tradition in the religious rituals of Mazatec shamans, who use it to achieve visionary states of consciousness during spiritual healing sessions.
The interesting thing about all this is that Slovak legislation does not criminalize the cultivation or distribution of salvia, despite its reputation; unlike in the Czech Republic, where any substances containing Salvinorin A are strictly forbidden. And thanks to the status of such a “mysterious banned” substance, salvia is understandably in much greater demand in the Czech Republic than in Slovakia.
Traditional method of consumption
Mazatec shamans used to crush 20 – 80 fresh leaves (50g – 200g) and extract the juice from them. They then usually mix it with water to create a kind of infusion, which they drink to achieve visions during ritual healing processes. Chewing and swallowing the leaves is one of the other Mazatec methods. However, when consumed orally, the effect is slower, ranging from 10 – 20 minutes, but the experience lasts from 30 minutes to one and a half hours.
The dose used for chewing usually exceeds the amount of active substances absorbed by smoking. When we calculate the concentration per leaf (approximate concentration is 2.45 mg in one gram of leaves), the approximate weight of the leaf (about 50 g represents 20 leaves, or 2.5 g per leaf) and the standard chewable dose, we find that the dose of the active substance ranges from 50 mg to 172 mg (several times more salvinorin A than when smoked).
If you open YouTube and type “salvia divinorum” into the search engine, 99% of the results will be videos of people who have gone to the crazy and unexplored corners of their minds by inhaling the smoke of salvia.
Dried salvia divorum leaves can of course be smoked in a classic pipe, but most users still prefer classic bongs. The temperature required to release salvinorin A from the plant material is quite high (about 240 °C). A cooler flame also works, but the direct application of a more intense flame, which a small gas gun or jet lighter, for example, can offer us, is undoubtedly a more effective solution.
The untreated dried leaves produce a very mild and light effect, which is why extracts are more widely used for smoking. The strength of the extract is indicated by a number followed by an ‘x’ (e.g. 20x). The multiplication mark indicates the relative strength of the concentrate, but care must be taken as there is no standard to guide this marking. Anyway, these numbers give us an approximate indication of the amount of active ingredient that is concentrated in a given product.
(You can find different concentrations of extracts on this website. Among other things, I ordered my salvia there.)
The overall potency of the extract also depends on the potency of the fresh leaves from which the product is made, as well as the efficiency of the manufacturing process. Extracts reduce the size of the inhalation that is required to take in the active ingredient, while also supporting the strength and depth of the sage experience. In other words — the bigger the number in front of the “x”, the more potent the trip in a smaller package. Simple arithmetic.
The traditional method of chewing salvia leaves continues in modern times. Nevertheless, salvinorin A is considered inactive when consumed orally, as the active substance is destroyed by stomach acids in the digestive system. Therefore, the new method of chewing involves keeping the leaves in the mouth for as long as possible to allow the active substances to be absorbed into the body through the oral cavity. At the end of this process, the sage leaves are spat out because swallowing them has no effect.
When chewing, more of the product is of course consumed than when smoking, but this method guarantees a longer-lasting effect.
I did try chewing, but the salvia extract was something so disgusting that I couldn’t keep it in my mouth long enough to get any effects.
A less common form is taking salvia extract in the form of drops. The tincture can be given dissolved in water; this method, although it reduces the effect somewhat, also avoids an unpleasant taste in the mouth, which makes it much easier to consume. The concentricity of the drops varies, as they can induce states ranging from hypnotically meditative to intensely visionary. With the drops, the effects and duration are similar to other oral ingestions, but can potentially be considerably more intense.
A bit about me and my preparation
At the time of my salvia consumption, I had for some time considered myself to be a fairly healthy person — or rather — a person who was becoming healthier and for whom health was the goal. I didn’t eat sugars and gluten, I had regular exercise, and I didn’t confront alcohol (all of the above still applies).
I was also interested in psychedelics. And of course, by psychedelic substances, we don’t necessarily mean something like psilocybin, LSD, or anything else that is legislatively criminalized. Psychedelic experiences can also be experienced in our country quite legally (if we are talking strictly and only about plants, we can freely buy the aforementioned salvia, Calea zacatechichi, or the Banisteriopsis caapi liana, which is used to make the hallucinogenic drink ayahuasca).
Since I had already experimented with a couple of substances that put me exactly where I wanted to be, I decided to try something that would be completely new and unfamiliar to me. And that little thing was sage.
I had studied a lot about salvia, and based on what I had learned about it, I had a tremendous amount of respect for it from the start (and it was with this tremendous amount of respect that I stared at a bag of “20x extract” from the Mysticshop for a few nights). So I set aside one nice evening when I could test the salvia.
However, I wasn’t planning on exposing myself to the full power of this plant right off the bat. I just wanted to casually get acquainted with it, so I decided that the best way to avoid being blasted into another dimension would be if I packed a tiny little joint like this with 0.5 grams of sage extract and thinned it out with a handful of dried peppermint (really, mint is a much better addition to any joint than tobacco — it’s non-addictive, smells nice, and causes much less physical harshness). However, just to be on the safe side, I reckoned that even such a careful dose might do more wonders for me than I would have expected.
I don’t remember what time it was exactly. It might have been something between 21:00 and 23:00. But I do know that it was a Friday in 2020, I’d had a beautiful day, and it was a wonderfully warm April evening around me with amazingly clear corona-sky and no “chemtrails” :))
I was walking along a sort of dirt road between the villages of Veľký Biel and Bernolákovo. I was all alone, no one was around, so I lit my salvia and put on my headphones with music.
I took a couple of puffs and felt pretty normal, except that my heart rate sped up a bit due to inhaling the thick smoke. However, thanks to the mint, it wasn’t anything terrible and the nasty toxic fumes were manageable.
Progress and philosophy of the trip
I can’t really comment on how the whole sage trip started in the first place. And that’s simply because I had forgotten that I had ever smoked salvia in my life. I had forgotten that I was a person, that I had ever been a person, that I had a body, that I had ever had a body, and that I had ever lived and perceived my life up to that point. I was in pitch-black darkness, and I was being pounded by a kind of electrifying color pulses that came at extremely rapid intervals and kept throwing my consciousness to one side only. It was like walking through walls.
It was an extremely bizarre experience, and its physiological sensation — though a bit smiley and childish, yet very aptly — is captured by the following image — with traditional psychedelics the user is taken on a deep philosophical journey into his inner self, with DMT he feels a state of having his consciousness shot out of his body, and with salvia he seems to be constantly being “kicked” to one side.
It certainly wasn’t exactly the harmless ” acquaintance with substance” I had imagined.
Before long, I was part of some gigantic colorful electrifying and spinning spiral that was echoed with a deafening buzz. Of course, I hadn’t heard the music from my headphones in a long time, nor had I perceived anything by touch, sight, taste or smell of the actual reality that was waiting for me in sight.
My mind was devoid of memories and any way of thinking — I was just a sort of base level of consciousness, a sort of “elemental consciousness” that merely registered everything that was going on around it. Or more accurately; everything that was going on within it.
I couldn’t tell myself that I was perceiving what I was seeing and feeling with my senses, because as an elemental consciousness I had no idea that I had eyes, ears, or a nervous system (or that I would ever have them). I didn’t know anything about anything. I was just my senses alive; not starting and ending anywhere, connected into one continuous flow of energy. There was no “I”, but there was every possible and impossible observation.
Tiny glimpses of a more complex consciousness began to be added to my elementary consciousness as time went on, and by degrees I began to think. The “I” began to emerge (even if it didn’t yet know who it was, it at least thought of itself as some separate entity in the environment). And this “I” then had the idea that some creatures from this crazy salvia world were probably trying to show it how much it was disrupting their habitat. The “I” had the feeling that the creatures didn’t want its presence there, and so, unfortunately, once it had entered their territory, they decided to wrap it up so that it would never have the urge to return to them again (I don’t know how the “I” formulated such a thought, but in short, at the time, it was “observing” something alive around it, and it either didn’t like it very much, or it welcomed it as a guest in an unreasonably harsh way).
If, for example, a person consumes a large dose of psilocybin (a psychoactive substance contained in lysohlavas, or so-called magic mushrooms), he or she may experience a very characteristic feeling of a kind of universal oneness — the feeling that consciousness is something that cannot be separated from the environment. Something that is equally contained in the whole universe.
On the salvia it was similar, but quite different. I really felt not separate (from that colorful electrifying carousel and the harsh host), but it wasn’t a nice feeling at all. It was incredibly scary, there was a lot of noise going on and I had absolutely no contact with reality.
Individuals under the influence of classical psychedelics, such as psilocybin or 1cP-LSD, also very often experience visual alterations of reality. Their brains search for fractal symbols in the structures of surrounding objects, symmetrically rearrange asymmetrical structures, accentuate spatial curvatures, etc.
But that’s the main difference between traditional psychedelics and salvia — on a salvia trip you won’t get any shape and structure rearranging, because there isn’t even any. You are in a completely different and unknown universe, and you perceive your own self on a completely different level than the sober human mind can imagine. It is a new world, a new method of thinking, a new “I”.
Myq Kaplan, an American stand-up comedian who took a hit from a bong filled with sage extract during the live podcast, described his trip in very simple and succinct words:
Salvia turned me into a lonely god…
The electrifying colourful carousel slowly quieted down and I began to feel like I was asleep and dreaming something very strange.
Slowly I could make out familiar shapes encoded in orange rays in the blackness of space. I briefly saw the lights of a neighboring village, but they clearly disproved my dream theory. Although the lights disappeared after less than a second, as they were drowned out by an extremely powerful electrifying holographic wall, I was immensely relieved because at least now I knew where I was. I’m human and I was smoking salvia. That was enough for me at that moment.
Slowly, I began to recognize other shapes as well. I discovered that one of the colored orange rays was a smoldering joint in my right hand. To be honest, I was quite scared at the time because I got scared that I might get burned in such an uncontrolled state, so I decided to throw the joint on the ground. Another electrifying impulse hit my brain, which made me see the joint not as a joint anymore, but again as an orange beam of pure light. However, I managed to open my fingers (which I couldn’t see at that moment) and drop it on the ground. I was pleased to see the amorphous ray sink irreversibly downwards and disappear from my sight, because it meant that I had indeed managed to drop the dangerously hot joint.
By this point, panic was starting to get to me. OK, I knew who I was, where I was, but I had a feeling I didn’t belong there. I had the urge to ask some good denizen of the salvia world and explain to him that this was not the universe for me. I wanted to go home.
The huge holographic electrifying colored walls began to crash into me with increasing intensity, and I have to admit that by the time I could slowly feel my body, I was in considerable physical discomfort. I could feel a sensation that I would liken to an extremely severely bruised limb being hit with a hammer going through my body in cycles from one hand to the other. My home universe was slowly revealing itself to me, but because of the violent impulses I still couldn’t register it fully. Even though I was standing in one place in my physical body, it all seemed to be carrying me dozens of meters in one direction. I wanted it to stop immediately because it was terribly uncomfortable and I couldn’t do anything about it. Cyclical intervals of paralyzing pain that felt like it was tearing my body apart.
Suddenly, I realized I had headphones with music on my ears. With a bit of concentration, I even began to hear it, and found that the frequency of the sound pulses from the headphones was identical to the frequency of certain vibrations that were tearing my body apart. So, I figured that if I took my headphones off, they should be able to stand up to this unpleasantness as well.
So I managed to hang the headphones around my neck, and although there was a little less confusion in my head after the music died down, the painful impulses unfortunately didn’t go away. For they weren’t just music that my conscious mind had transformed in this way.
But no matter, I was aware of who I was, where I was, and what was wrong with me. And that was the main thing. I replaced the discomfort of it all with a curiosity for what all this experience would give me when the salvinorin A wore off of me. Slowly the darkness receded, and though the pulses were still unpleasantly electric, I was able to see my home universe. I turned around and began to walk.
Sure enough, walking helped me shake off the painful sage electricity, and I felt some intense light flood my field of vision. It was a downright poetic moment as I stepped into the light at the end of the tunnel and felt like I was reborn.
Believe it or not, I had stayed on my feet throughout the entire trek and may have even walked a few steps.
The electrification had subsided completely and I quickened my pace with enthusiasm. It’s strange how normal I still felt at that moment; I didn’t have any feeling of fatigue or headache, which would be expected at a similar moment. The feeling of smallness and inferiority at being somewhere I was “not welcome” was replaced by the excitement associated with what a great journey I had just completed.
As I casually jogged my way home, I felt incredibly special. I was excited about the places I’d explored, but I wasn’t lacking a good dose of humility and self-reflection.
What after the trip? What are the consequences and lessons learned?
OKAY, OKAY, OKAY. So how did I decide to deal with this nourishing psychonautical material? First of all, I’d like to say that I got home after the trip, took a shower (it was probably the best shower of my life, by the way, because it got me all vibrant with such pleasantly massaging post-salvia electricity), and went to bed.
I slept very well, although I woke up a little earlier than I’m wont to.
After that wake-up, though, I felt quite different than I usually do in the morning. Not that I was immediately full of energy and jumping for joy when I opened my eyes, but I felt very pleasantly enriched. I still went out on the street that morning to take in the beautiful reality.
I don’t want to sound like some kind of freaky esoteric person, but I have to admit that the world seemed an unreal place to me that day. I found it so honest and loving that I felt incredibly grateful to be a part of it. I won’t be exaggerating at all if I say that even its colors seemed so much more vibrant to me.
Yep, and this is the main point of it all — I think that since this experience, I have begun to perceive reality quite differently and have come to appreciate even its many horrors and pitfalls that it offers. In the horrors and pitfalls I now see the brutalist beauty of the whole.
So I can understand people who say that reality is horrible, and I can also understand those who say it is wonderful. I’m one of the lucky ones who more or less likes it here so far. Salvia divinorum has just reinforced for me how much our comfort in the time between birth and death depends on getting our mindset right, and how important it is not to get lost in the unnecessary noise of chaotic thoughts and algorithms with unclear goals. As the brilliant Richard Alpert said, Remember, Just Be Here Now.