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Salvia Trip: The Basics

Experiencing a salvia trip is tricky. Here’s what to expect before, during, and after the process.

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Salvia is related to the herb sage, but you won’t get the same experience from smoking its non-psychedelic cousin. That’s because the sage in your spice rack doesn’t contain the terpene known as salvinorin A, which gives the plant its hallucinogenic effects. 

Those effects are why salvia has been used for centuries in spiritual ceremonies by the Mazatec people of southern Mexico, where the plant grows wild in the mountainous region of Sierra Mazateca. Salvia’s long standing mystical use is preserved in its full name, salvia divinorum, which means “sage of the seer.” The Mazatec also used salvia for treating conditions like headaches, inflammation, and arthritis. But salvia packs way more punch than your typical painkiller, thanks to its active ingredient, Salvinorin A, which is considered one of the most potent, naturally occurring psychedelics on the planet. 

Here’s everything you need to know about tripping on salvia.

Salvia Trip: How To

Salvinorin A terpene
Salvinorin-A molecular structure | Wikimedia Commons

The two most common ways to consume salvia are to chew on or smoke the leaves of the plant. The first method works much like chewing tobacco: You crush a salvia quid (a wad of wet leaves) with your teeth and hold it and its juices in your mouth until the trip begins, which usually takes 15 to 30 minutes. When using this method, it’s important not to swallow the quid or its juices, as that will ruin the effect. Salvinorin A, the terpene that produces the salvia trip, is absorbed through the lining of the mouth rather than the stomach. 

Read: Is Salvia Legal and Where to Buy Salvia

Some researchers believe that chewing is the lowest-risk way to consume salvia for the first time, as it provides greater control over dosage, which can help you avoid a challenging trip. Chewing is also the traditional method in which the Mazatec people consumed salvia for its spiritual and medicinal benefits. 

Generally speaking, chewing 10 leaves should be enough for someone to experience a potent salvia trip. Since the leaves must be wet in order to be chewed, and it is hard to find fresh salvia leaves outside southern Mexico, consumers often buy dried leaves and soak them in a bowl of water for 10 to 15 minutes to rehydrate them before rolling them into a cigar-shaped quid and chewing it. 

Smoking salvia in a pipe or bong can produce a quicker and more intense experience, but it’s also a bit trickier to achieve. The smoke produced by the plant’s leaves is quite thick and a large amount of it must be inhaled within a short period of time (two or three minutes) in order to experience an immersive trip. Following those directions is crucial since salvia leaves do not contain large amounts of salvinorin A, so consumers must make the most of them. To get around that issue, many consumers buy ground-up salvia leaves that have been fortified with a salvinorin-A extract to enhance the dosage. These extracts are often advertised with a number indicating how many times the leaves have been fortified: For example, a “5x” extract means that the leaves have been fortified five times, while 10x means ten times.

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Smoking between one quarter of a gram to a full gram of salvia leaves is considered safe for beginners, according to Kimberly Holland of Healthline, who adds that smaller amounts should be smoked if a salvinorin extract has been added to the leaves. “For example, 0.1 to 0.3 grams of 5x salvia extract may be considered safe,” Holland writes. “If you try 10x salvia extract, a safe range may be between 0.05 and 0.15 grams.”

However, consumers should take any information about an extract’s potency with a grain of salt. It is nearly impossible to pinpoint an extract’s potency since the sale of salvia remains unregulated around the world. As a result, it’s usually best to start low and go slow when trying to trip on salvia, which is the same advice that novice psychonauts should follow when experimenting with other psychedelics for the first time.

Aside from smoking, salvorin extracts can also be inhaled through vape pens or added to drinks like tea.

What is a Salvia Trip Like?

Salvia divinorum leaf
Salvia divinorum rooted leaf | Wikimedia Commons

A salvia trip can produce immersive visual and auditory hallucinations, dissociative effects such as out-of-body experiences or feeling detached from reality, a distorted sense of time and space, and uncontrollable fits of laughter. Unlike magic mushrooms, acid and other psychedelics, salvia may not as commonly produce a sense of euphoria, so consumers hoping for a fun and uplifting experience might feel disappointed. 

Those with a great deal of experience report that a salvia trip comes from outside rather than inside the consumer, unlike with LSD, which typically reflects the mental and emotional state of the person who’s taken it. In contrast, salvia seems to have a spirit of its own that imposes a mind-altering experience on the consumer regardless of their mental state or intention for the trip. That spirit is often called “La Pastora,” meaning “the shepherdess.”

Some people find salvia trips overwhelmingly intense and even frightening, but many others have thoroughly enjoyed the experience. The following testimonial is from Reddit user psychonauticaldude, who smoked salvia for the first time with a group of friends and had an emotionally moving experience:

“I took my hit and held in the smoke until I felt the need to breathe,” psychonautical dude wrote in 2020. “I let it out and started to feel as though gravity became very intense….I started to laugh hysterically because I hadn’t felt anything like that before. I started to wobble and couldn’t find my balance.Then I started to breathe in and out rapidly and couldn’t stop talking fast….I was trying to describe to my friends what was going on but it was very hard to talk as I was unable to breathe normally, which made me laugh even harder. I had the sense that a spirit was playing my lungs like an accordion, controlling my lungs and making me breathe like that. I didn’t feel uncomfortable at all….Just a fun time with friends.”

Not everyone can achieve that otherworldly experience, but psychonaut Andrea Juillerat-Olvera did by chewing eight salvia leaves one morning before she experienced the feeling of leaving her human body behind:

All that happened after one puff of a 10x extract. To get a stronger experience, psychonauticaldude took two hits from a gravity bong and experienced a powerful but pleasant hallucination. 

“This time I felt the gravity sensation but more intense,” he wrote. “After a while, I became aware that I was now watching random scenes from some sort of television show…and as I watched, I realized that I was experiencing my own memories, the scenes from the tv show were actual moments in my life. I reminded myself of who I was and saw my girlfriend sitting next to me and I told her I loved her. The whole thing made me appreciate my existence. I did not travel to another world on my second trip and it didn’t feel crazy or profound. Just made me grateful and appreciative.”

Not everyone can achieve that otherworldly experience, but psychonaut Andrea Juillerat-Olvera did by chewing eight salvia leaves one morning before she experienced the feeling of leaving her human body behind:

“A turning spiral feeling began on all sides of my body, my hands sunk into my thigh, and the planes that define the perimeters of my form changed,” she later recalled. “I felt like a bird or flying creature moving in swirling, circular patterns swooping over a desert landscape. I was watching the bird while also experiencing myself as a bird. I seemed to be omnipresent. Suddenly, it turned upward and headed straight for the sky. I was viewing its ascension from an extraterrestrial perspective, looking down as it sped toward me.”

During that same salvia trip, she felt herself become one with the plant.

“Almost immediately after the bird’s flight resolved, I saw a clear image of a plant. The image was simplified, more like a drawing or animation of a plant. It reminded me of ‘Seymour’ in ‘Little Shop of Horrors’ and then, without hesitation, it ate me. I was chewed up and consumed by the plant. Surprisingly, I found the experience quite pleasant. The nature of this reflection was clear to me. I ate the salvia, and  now it had eaten me. This made me happy and more comfortable. I felt that now the salvia and I were better friends.”

How Long Does a Salvia Trip Last?

The duration of a salvia trip depends on the method of consumption. When chewing, the trip takes about 15 minutes to kick in, peaks after about 30 minutes and lasts for about an hour, ending in a gradual comedown. However, some consumers who have participated in Mazatec salvia rituals say that the trip can last for several hours

When smoked, the salvia trip often begins within seconds, peaks after 5 to 10 minutes, and diminishes over the following half hour, making the experience intense but relatively brief compared to psychedelics like LSD and magic mushrooms, which can last for over four hours. 

Read: What Is Salvia, Exactly?

Although a salvia trip is relatively brief, the experience can feel much longer because of the plant’s ability to distort your sense of time and space, making minutes feel like hours as your mind explores surreal states of being.

Do you Need a Sitter for a Salvia Trip?

Having a designated trip sitter (a sober person who looks after people who have taken psychedelics) is recommended during a salvia trip to ensure your safety. After consuming salvia, you may become completely unaware of your surroundings, which makes moving around potentially dangerous if unattended. A good sitter should monitor you, as well as the environment by removing any objects from the area that could cause harm.

The sitter can also help during a challenging trip by reassuring you that what you’re experiencing is the effect of a plant, which will wear off. This reassurance is especially important with salvia as consumers often forget that they have taken a potent hallucinogen, which can make the experience of hallucinations and other sensory distortions potentially frightening.

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To avoid having a challenging trip, researchers suggest that you avoid taking salvia if you are experiencing anxiety, depression or other negative emotions, as these can be amplified by the plant’s effects. 

Are There Any Negative Side Effects of Taking a Salvia Trip?

Dried salvia leaves
Dried salvia leaves | Flickr

The most common negative side effect of taking salvia is having a challenging trip. Experiencing immersive hallucinations can cause confusion, disorientation, paranoia, and panic attacks. Luckily, the salvia trip is relatively short, so these effects should diminish after 10 to 30 minutes and completely subside within an hour. Having a calming sitter on hand can also reduce the severity of a difficult experience.

Salvia trips can be very challenging, but the experience does not appear to be habit forming. Salvia consumers rarely use the plant regularly, let alone habitually, so the likelihood of developing a salvia dependency or addiction is slim to none. 

Researchers aren’t certain if there are any lingering physical or psychological effects of taking a salvia trip as the study of the plant’s long-term impact on humans is underdeveloped. For example, one study found that taking salvia can impair long-term memory and negatively impact learning, but that project was conducted on lab rats, so researchers aren’t sure if people will experience similar side effects.
Hopefully the recent renaissance in psychedelic research will see more studies that explore the properties of this plant and its potential side effects, as well as benefits. Based on preliminary research, salvia shows promise as a nonaddictive painkiller, neuroprotector, short-acting anesthetic, antidepressant, anti-inflammatory, and a treatment for addiction to stimulants and alcohol, but more research must be conducted to support the health benefits of taking a salvia trip.

DoubleBlind Magazine does not encourage or condone any illegal activities, including but not limited to the use of illegal substances. We do not provide mental health, clinical, or medical services. We are not a substitute for medical, psychological, or psychiatric diagnosis, treatment, or advice. If you are in a crisis or if you or any other person may be in danger or experiencing a mental health emergency, immediately call 911 or your local emergency resources. If you are considering suicide, please call 988 to connect with the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.

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