Mystic Herb Catches Fire 

  Mystic Herb Catches Fire 

Posted by CN Staff on March 28, 2003 at 10:24:39 PT
By Sarah Shiner, The Washington Times 
Source: Washington Times  

A hallucinogenic herb traditionally used by Mexico's Mazatec Indians is being touted as a legal alternative to marijuana on numerous Web sites, attracting attention from teenagers seeking a psychedelic experience and parents concerned about their children's well-being.   Salvia divinorum, a member of the sage family, has been used quietly by soul-searching drug users for years but only recently seems to have caught the attention of the school-age crowd, said Dr. John Halpern, a professor of psychology at Harvard Medical School at McLean Hospital in Massachusetts.
Only a few specialists at drug institutes reached for comment by The Washington Times knew about salvia, also known as Mexican mint, magic mint or diviner's sage, but Web site vendors such as -- -- call the Mexican-grown herb a legal alternative to marijuana.   Others, such as -- -- say it should be used solely for meditation and self-discovery: "Salvia divinorum is an extraordinary herb used in shamanism, divination, healing and the exploration of conscious," the Web site reads.   "The fact is, it's out there and kids are learning about it," Detective George Chavez of the Dane County (Wis.) Narcotics and Gang Task Force told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.   The Drug Enforcement Administration is investigating salvia to decide whether it will classify it as a controlled substance like marijuana or heroin, says DEA spokesman Rusty Payne. Salvia can be smoked, chewed or made into a tincture.   The DEA investigation is based on the drug's availability, its potential for abuse and its physical effects. There is no timetable for the investigation, and Mr. Payne could not comment on any findings.   The lack of a DEA timetable and dearth of knowledge about the drug is a cause for concern, says Gayle Engles, education coordinator of the American Botanical Council.   "We don't know anything about what salvia really does, and not knowing more about it than we do, who knows what it might do?" she says.   Concerned parents don't have much information, making it all the more difficult for them to know how to guard against their children getting into salvia.   Sharon, a Milwaukee resident who asked for her last name to be withheld, told the Portland Oregonian she found a bag of salvia leaves in her son's car. After doing some Web research, she called her son's high school counselor, who had never heard of it even after returning from a recent drug seminar class.   "Somebody needs to get this out to adults," Sharon says. "Trust me — most of the high school kids know about it. Their parents need to know there is a new drug in town."   Dr. Ethan Russo, a neurologist and researcher of psychotropic herbs at Montana Neurobehavioral Specialists in Missoula, says the active ingredient in salvia, salvinorin A, is the most potent natural hallucinogenic discovered. He said it does not produce any known toxic effects and is not addictive.   Salvia users write on -- -- that their trip experiences include visions of the past, intense fits of laughter and the feeling of electricity flowing throughout the body.   One user writes: "I have never been so totally 'lost,' not even on the potent LSD available during the '60s. I am accustomed to thinking and traveling outside the box, but salvia put me in a place where there is no box and never was a box."   At the Gas Pipe, a head shop in Albuquerque, N.M., that sells salvia, employees recommend that all users take the drug in a secluded, safe atmosphere with only one or two other persons, manager Carrie Phelps said.   Miss Phelps says the drug is not conducive to a party atmosphere and emphasized the need for a "sitter," someone who watches over users during the experience to ensure they do not harm themselves.   Dr. Halpern says the drug will not be swept into mainstream culture because the effects are not physically addicting or pleasurable and habit-forming. He has spoken with former salvia users who describe the experience as "very unsettling and terrifying, and they wind up never trying it again."   The most high-profile incident involving salvia was in Rhode Island, where a 15-year-old boy stabbed another youth after reportedly using the drug.   "It doesn't matter if there are five Web sites or 500 Web sites. The same limited number of people are going to be interested," said Dr. Halpern, who wrote about salvia in a 2001 report he published in the American Journal of Psychiatry on different hallucinogenic drugs available on the Internet.   Salvia is being taken seriously, and legal action is being taken, in some parts of America. In St. Peters, Mo., an age restriction of 18 was enacted in January for those who wish to buy the herb.   The law was a response to increased calls to the police department concerning strange behavior in adolescents.   "We were beginning to see high amounts of abuse with the substance among youths high school age and younger," says Jeff Finkelstein, captain of the St. Peters Police Department.   In October, Rep. Joe Baca, California Democrat, introduced the Hallucinogen Control Act of 2002 in an attempt to classify salvia. The legislation died in committee.   One strong salvia advocate is Daniel Siebert, who as an ethnobotanist studies how plants are used in particular cultures. Mr. Siebert runs the salvia information site -- He says the drug's effects are so intense that he has used it only once in the last year.   The true spirit of the plant, Mr. Siebert says, is reflected by serious users today and is rooted in the plant's historical use by the Mazatec Indians in Oaxaca, Mexico. Salvia was used as a sacred plant by the shamans for spiritual meditation, healing and solving problems.   "It is important to recognize that this is not just a drug that some crazy hippie concocted and is trying to turn on America to," he says.   Fear that the government will move to control the substance angers advocacy groups, who view it as another area where the government's war on drugs encroaches on an individual's freedom, says Richard Glen Boire, co-director and legal counsel for the Center for Cognitive Liberty and Ethics -- -- a civil-liberties think tank in Davis, Calif.   "We need to acknowledge that people have always entered into altered states of consciousness," Mr. Glen Boire says, noting that popular anti-depressant medications can change a person's outlook.   "Paxil and Prozac are drugs that people can take to alter the way they view their environment," he says. "The government needs to come to terms with the fact that there is a distinction between drug abuse and drug use."   Some doctors acknowledge that the Mazatec users may not have experienced any known negative effects, but their intentions may have been different from the teenagers' today.   "This is a compound that was taken out of the shaman's medicine bag," Dr. Halpern says. "But that is probably where it should remain."   What should concerned parents tell their children about something that is still so obscure?   Dr. Halpern recommends they acknowledge the scarcity of information about salvia's effects on body and emphasize the fear of the unknown. They can say something like: "Are you willing to take the risk to experiment with your brain and health like that?"Source: Washington Times (DC)Author: Sarah Shiner, The Washington TimesPublished: March 28, 2003Copyright: 2003 News World Communications, Inc. Website: letters washingtontimes.comRelated Articles:A New LSD? - ABCNews.com Herb Sparks Interest as Legal Hallucinogen

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Comment #14 posted by charmed quark on March 29, 2003 at 12:35:03 PT
Will the DEA create anoher durug crisis?
I first heard of this stuff in the early 70's. I've never tried it as people who did said it was suitable only for serious spiritual quests and not to be taken lightly.This herb has been around in the USA for at least 30 years and never caused real problems. But if the DEA classifies it and then starts a scare campaign against it, I can almost guarantee that the publicity and "forbidden fruit effect" will make it become a popular drug of abuse with teengers.-Pete 
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Comment #13 posted by null on March 29, 2003 at 08:40:10 PT
won't catch on
As many others have mentioned, salvia isn't something you do often. 3 years ago someone gave me roughly an ounce of it as a gift. i had to try it 3 times to break my tolerance. it is indeed a most unusual experience. the was no euphoria to it. it was in many ways like being more sober than sober. I have done it a few times since but basically have nearly that entire ounce left... 3 years later! Salvia won't catch on. There won't be people selling it on the street corner. 
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Comment #12 posted by Ethan Russo MD on March 29, 2003 at 04:27:49 PT:
Link plus Information
I hope that all interested people had a look at the link.In just the past year, it was discovered that Salvinorin A is a specific and very powerful kappa opioid receptor agonist. That means that it stimulates only one of the 3 opiate receptors in the brain. Besides producing dissociative hallucinations at very high doses, kappa opioid agonists such as Salvinorin A actually help break addictive properties of alcohol, cocaine and other opiates. In other words, it may be a very powerful therapetic tool in medicine. Why anyone would think of banning this is beyond imagination. 
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Comment #11 posted by Duzt on March 28, 2003 at 22:44:44 PT
I smoked salvia 1 time in Amsterdam. I got the 10X extract from Mila (who is famous there for her knowledge of plants, especially peyote) and tried it exactly how she told me (in glass with a torch lighter) and I must say it was the most bizarre experience of my life. It is extremely powerful when taken correctly and I wouldn't suggest it for just anyone. It was a good experience for me, very, very powerful and strange, but good, but I can see how it could be very scary for someone who isn't used to something that powerful. Ayausca root is about the only experience I've had as strong, different and not as strange (I literally became a giant yellow and black checkered tire with the Salvia, I know it sounds wierd but it was so real) so I would advise people to be very careful with Salvia. The other good thing was that it only lasted about 10 minutes and I felt really relaxed and positive after, I also slept better that night than I have in years.
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Comment #10 posted by druid on March 28, 2003 at 21:53:22 PT
Didn't that already happen? Shrinks Tumors - Government Knew in '74 Posted by FoM on March 30, 2001 at 07:58:20 PT
By Raymond Cushing 
Source: San Antonio Current 
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Comment #9 posted by afterburner on March 28, 2003 at 20:26:27 PT:
Suppose They Found A Plant That Cured Cancer...
but also got you "high." Would the federal prohibitionists pounce on it and add it to Schedule One and let all the cancer patients suffer and die?ego destruction or ego transcendence, that is the question.
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Comment #8 posted by John Tyler on March 28, 2003 at 20:25:20 PT
Comment on Salvia
I met someone a while back who said it was a little hard to get the exact dose correct. He did get off once. He said it was of a relatively short duraton, but it was a very intense out-of-body experience. He didn't recommend it as a regular thing. Hey, the stuff is powerful. It lets you into the spirit world and lets you explore your soul. Do you really want to go there unprepared? You have to be careful with it. If you just want to get high with your friends their are other things that would be better. 
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Comment #7 posted by FoM on March 28, 2003 at 12:21:52 PT

Just a Note
I removed my comments because I wasn't comfortable and wanted to mention where they went.
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Comment #5 posted by Ethan Russo MD on March 28, 2003 at 11:18:09 PT:

More Info on Salvia
I said a lot more than this in the interview. For best information, see:
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Comment #3 posted by druid on March 28, 2003 at 10:44:43 PT

I have a half oz. of this stuff picked up at the local herb store. I have smoked it about 3 times and only once did I feel any effects and that was the first time. I just had a really odd waking dream before I fell asleep for the night. Others I have talked to say you need to get the extract at least 5x to feel any effects at all. Anyway I really hope this substance doesn't get scheduled.
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Comment #1 posted by TroutMask on March 28, 2003 at 10:35:05 PT

your answer
"Are you willing to take the risk to experiment with your brain and health like that?"Maybe so, maybe not. But it is not the government's business to mandate that decision through criminal law.-TM
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