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Home > FAQ > How is Salvia divinorum consumed?

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How is Salvia divinorum consumed?

Infusion Most ethnographic accounts state that the Mazatecs make an infusion by rubbing leaves together and squeezing the leaf-juice into water. A couple of reports state that the leaves were first crushed on a metate (a flat stone). One ethnographic report described the preparation of a dose by merely piling up the leaves in pairs, face to face, and then rolling them into a cigar-shaped bundle, chewed, and swallowed (Blosser 1991–1993 in Ott 1999). Unfortunately, as far as a 'dose' goes, the available ethnographic data usually relates the number of leaves used per dose (frequently stated as so many 'pairs' of leaves, due to the Mazatec penchant for counting them in this manner). Such information may not be too useful because leaves can vary quite a bit in size, with some leaves being five or more times the size of others, depending on growing conditions, and the potency of leaves is believed to vary dramatically from plant to plant.

With regard to infusions, the number of leaves used to prepare a single dose reported in the ethnographic literature has ranged from 6 to 240 (Ott 1995). One paper (Ott 1999) described two doses as being a "large double-handful of leaves (plant tops, stems and all)", and another paper mentions using 20 to 80 or more pairs of leaves, helpfully also gave the weight of the fresh leaves as being about 50 to about 200 grams (Valdיs et al. 1983).

Contemporary studies into the chemistry and pharmacology of Salvia divinorum have discovered that the traditional infusion preparation is perhaps the least efficient method of consuming the plant. The plant's active chemistry is not soluble in water, and it is speculated that it may be partially deactivated via the stomach. Comparatively larger amounts need to be consumed, if it is taken this way. On the other hand, effects—which begin after about 15 minutes (Valdיs et al. 1983, Ott 1999)—may last longer than via other routes of ingestion; over 2.5 hours in one report (Valdיs et al. 1983), and up to 3 hours 20 minutes in another case (Ott 1999).

Modern psychonautical investigations have found two more effective methods of consuming the plant:

The Quid The quid method produces a somewhat shorter duration of effects than the oral infusion. With this approach, one takes fresh leaves, rolls them into one or two 'cigars', and then chews them while not swallowing the juice or saliva in one's mouth. In this manner, the active chemistry of the plant is absorbed via the mucous membranes in the mouth, which is a much more efficient method than absorption via the stomach. When taking the leaves as a quid, the effects tend to last about an hour.

The following has been reported as an effective dosing procedure using fresh leaves as a quid:

"Ten leaves averaging 3.4–4 inches wide and 9 inches long (and weighing 25–26 grams) have the midribs removed. These are rolled into two ‘cigars' of five leaves each. Laying in quiet darkness, the first cigar is placed in the mouth and held there, chewing it slowly with my front teeth. I do not swallow at all. After about 10 minutes I spit this out into a bowl, and start chewing the second cigar. Effects usually commence within about 5 minutes after beginning to chew the second cigar. I spit this cigar out after a 10 minute chew. The experience lasts about 45–60 minutes (from start to finish)." (Aardvark 1998) Smoking A shorter duration of effects can be obtained by smoking the dried leaves of Salvia divinorum. Repeated experimentation has resulted in a general consensus that using a bong is one of the most effective ways to smoke Salvia divinorum leaf because one can get large breaths full of the smoke quickly. There have been some reports of people smoking S. divinorum leaves rolled into 'joints', occasionally with effective results (and in a few cases people prefer this method). However, in the majority number of cases, people have reported little or no effects from smoking joints of leaves. Terence McKenna used to recommend a "gravity bong" as an even better way to smoke the dried leaves, saying "This does not fail."

A regular pipe lies somewhere between a bong and a joint, in effectiveness. People have suggested that using a pipe with a large bowl and a short stem is the best choice, as there is room for burning a lot of dried leaf this way, and the salvinorin A has less chance to condense out into the pipe when traveling though a short stem. With smoking, the effects come on much more rapidly, within a couple of minutes, and they are gone in about 20 minutes.

Several "bong hits" in rapid succession—each held in for about 20 to 30 seconds—generally is enough for effects; effects produced depend on the amount smoked, the potency of the leaf, and the sensitivity of the individual smoking. A dose range of 250 mg to 500 mg of dried leaf, when smoked via a bong, should be sufficient for most people using leaf of average potency (that is, leaf which contains 2 to 3 mg or salvinorin A per gram of dried leaf). It has been noted that the primary active compound, salvinorin A, needs a lot of heat to vaporize, and it is suggested that one hold the flame over the dried herb for the whole time that one is inhaling. Some people report better results when smoking by using a mini-torch style lighter.

Comparison of Consumption Methods As with any new substance, those who choose to experiment in a cautious and intelligent manner with Salvia divinorum will start off with smaller doses and work their way up. Many people find the quid method to be more enjoyable, due to it having a slower onset and longer-lasting effects. The rapid effects of smoked S. divinorum can be overwhelming and confusing. One drawback from any oral consumption is that the plant's leaves can be quite bitter. Oral ingestion is less efficient and thus more expensive, so many choose to experiment with smoking first.

Jonathan Ott (1995) has described "the probable descending order of potency" as follows: sublingual salvinorin A -> vaporized salvinorin A -> chewed leaf, quid -> chewed leaf, swallowed -> infusion of leaf.<.p>

Ott did not include smoked Salvia divinorum in his rating scheme, stating: "[E]ven 'though as few as 1–2 leaves may be active... for most people the effect is much milder than by oral ingestion (albeit of greater quantities). In a test with 20 people, each of whom was given a 'joint' of dried Salvia divinorum leaves to smoke (containing 1–2 leaves), roughly half felt nothing at all. Of the half who did feel the effects, all reported quite mild effects, except for 2 individuals, who had potent visionary effects. (Ott 1995)."

It is too bad that the weight of the dried leaves wasn't presented with this information, since basing dosage data on the number of leaves is less than precise (leaves can vary in size from less than a centimeter / inch to 15 inches (35cm) long) and up to 5 inches (12cm) wide. These experiments do show, however, that smoking via a joint is not a very effective method. People have had much more effective results using a bong, where a larger quantity of smoke can be inhaled at one time. Ott also didn't include data related to any of the concentrated 'X' extracts mentioned below, presumably as these were not commonly available when he conducted his studies.

To sum up, bong-smoked leaf, or smoked 'X' extracts of various strengths, or vaporized salvinorin A, all tend to come on much more quickly and don't last too long. And, all of these tend to use a relatively small amount of leaf material. The quid method has a slower onset and longer duration, and uses a larger amount of leaf material. And the infusion has the longest duration, and uses the largest amount of leaf material. Depending on what solvent is used, prepared sublingual extracts can use a fairly small amount of leaf material, up to about the same amount as that which is contained in a quid of fresh leaf. Ott found that 100 micrograms to 1 milligram of pure salvinorin A was active sublingually in a solution of acetone or DMSO (Ott 1995)Note; others have found 4 to 10 milligrams or more to be active sublingually in a solution of high-proof ethanol (diluted with 50% hot water, just prior to use).

Yes, Ott actually used DMSO and acetone orally. "Acetone is present in bananas." he quipped when asked about this practice.

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