Drug Policy

Salvia and Salivation

Is this trip worth a warm mouthful of spit?

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Staring at the brick wall above the fireplace, I see three faces. The one on the left has a yellow nose and a green turtle where its mouth should be. The one in the middle is heavily tattooed in a floral pattern. The one on the right has a mouth opened wide in surprise, perhaps because an armadillo is standing on top of its head.

These would be pretty cool Salvia divinorum visions, but they're actually wooden Indonesian masks that I bought at World Market. This is my second experiment with Daniel Siebert's Sage Goddess Emerald Essence ($65 for half an ounce), and the effects are once again a little too subtle for my taste. There is a definite sense that things are different, but exactly how isn't clear. The most articulable effect is a distortion of time, with an hour flying by in what seems like a few minutes.

The experience is especially disappointing because getting there is so unpleasant. The alcohol-based tincture tastes awful, like chlorophyll mixed with gasoline, and it stings, even when diluted (per the instructions) with a bit of water. Your first impulse upon squirting it into your mouth with the dropper is to spit it out. That is also your second and third impulse. But instead you're supposed to swish it around to thoroughly coat the inside of your mouth, then let it pool under your tongue for 15 minutes. Unfortunately, this is before the time distortion kicks in.

The "staggered dose method" is slightly less arduous. It involves holding one-third of the dose at a time, four minutes each. That way your mouth gets a brief break before the torture resumes. The directions warn that you don't want to dilute the tincture too much with your spit, but salivation seems to be an involuntary response to having something this disgusting in your mouth, so you end up with a mouthful of green fluid by the end. "If you prefer," the instructions say, "you can spit out the tincture, rather than swallowing it." I prefer.

The smoked method is much easier, especially with a water pipe, and more rewarding. Within a few seconds the world is vibrating, reverberating, echoing. Familiar objects are transformed. Looking down at my bent leg, I see a stoop on a city block lined with brownstones. Beyond the cityscape, the shoes sitting on the floor of my office resemble comical cartoon characters. Looking out the window, I stare at the knot on an oak tree, where I see the head of a human-sized cat wearing a knight's helmet, a wizard with a flowing beard, and a wolf with glowing eyes. I can make the images shift at will.

On another occasion, I return from a salvia trip with two firm convictions. One is that my bong glows in the dark, which does not seem to be true. The other, which I wrote down immediately afterward so I would not forget it, is this: "Arthbayim roomshalook." I can't vouch for the spelling.

I am using Siebert's "regular strength enhanced leaf" ($65 per gram), which is supposed to be about six times as strong as the natural plant, and I am aware that the visions are drug effects. But it is not hard to see how someone using the "20x," "40x," or "60x" leaf sold by Siebert's competitors (at much lower prices) might lose sight of that fact, especially if he didn't adjust his dose accordingly.

Even at 6x, the effects are interesting enough that I would try it again, although I'd prefer mushrooms or LSD if they were easier to get. I tend to agree with Rick Doblin, president of the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies, who says salvia can trigger "a peacefulness and an expansiveness," but the experience is not "as profound or deep" as those offered by other psychedelics. "Its popularity has been increasing because so many other things were banned," he says. "Very few people would be going to salvia if they had alternatives."

Jacob Sullum is a senior editor at Reason magazine.

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  1. One way nannys go about banning this kind of thing is to focus on the strange name of the product. I mean, alcohol is more damaging than “marijuana” but the latter sounds so foriegn and “Mexican” doesn’t it? I would name this Salvia Beer.

    1. I would name it Mom’s Old-Fashioned American Patriot Apple Pie Beer, with Diviner’s Sage. Salvia is too “latin-sounding”. All those concerned parents would be concerned their kids would take one hit and wind up in a Mexican donkey show.

  2. Is this what libertarianism has become? Salvia reviews instead of book reviews?

    1. Fuck yeah!

  3. The packaging shown is obviously intended to lure defenseless children to this illicit drug.
    We’re outraged!

  4. never again, thats all I’ll say.

    1. I’m with you. The only thing I got out of taking Salvia, other than an underwhelming 10 minute trip, was a really sweaty t-shirt.

  5. Very few people would be going to salvia if they had alternatives.

    What? Did you say something?

    1. Thought I saw angels, but I could have been wrong.

      1. Go cry me a song.

  6. I haven’t done it, but I have friends who described it as a 7-minute extreme trip. For all those looking for the mythical “lunch trip”, this looks like it.

    1. n,n-DMT

      1. DMT, from the Ayuhuasca root. That is the really crazy stuff.

  7. Is this what libertarianism has become? Salvia reviews instead of book reviews?

    Stick around, there’s book reviews too.

    All this talk about drugs may seem trite and pointless at first, but it’s of a piece with the issue of the government’s war on the idea that we own our own bodies, and have the ability to do with them what we will.

    1. Right on, Xeones.

      Magpie, why not complain about, say, corrupt-prosecutor reviews (instead of book reviews)?

    2. What this really does is demonstrate that the “concern” over this drug is irrational hysteria. OMG they’ll all become crazed zombies if we don’t do something RIGHT NOW!!!!

      I’ve got a great crack cocaine review I should query Reason with.

  8. Actually, it’s interesting to see Reason’s take on drugs, both their effects and their legal status. I’ve tried salvia a couple times, the “40x” kind. It’s a quick trip, makes you giggle uncontrollably and see cool patterns. It does make me feel uncomfortably hot and sweaty though. It’s best feature is that it’s legal, agreed.

    Maybe Jacob Sullum can provide more drug reviews? How about absinthe? That’s quasi-legal.

  9. How about absinthe? That’s quasi-legal.

    The ban on absinthe in the US lapsed some time ago. Check your local liquor store. Wormwood’s reputation as a psychedelic is completely undeserved, by the way.

    1. Absinthe just seemed like a way to get way too drunk, way too quickly when I had some. Which is why I only had a bit.

      Never heard of anyone I know hallucinating, why, it’s almost as if the government’s full of shit when it bans certain substances!

      1. Supposedly REAL absinthe gives everything a colorful “aura”.
        Not exactly hallucinating, but still pretty.

  10. Um nice of you to act as our psychedelic sommelier Jacob. Maybe Reason will make ‘soon to be illegal’ a regular feature.

    1. I can write a review on my high-deductible insurance plan combined with HSA for this ‘soon to be illegal’ feature.

  11. “The most articulable effect is a distortion of time, with an hour flying by in what seems like a few minutes.”

    OMG — The Internetz contain Salvia divinorum!!!

  12. I smoked some 30x this summer, it was one of the scariest things Ive ever experienced.

    1. im with you. I saw Jesus, my future, got lost in time, attacked my TV, and resigned myself to permanent psychosis in a 45 minute trip.

  13. Ur doing it wrong. You gotta smoke it. And use stronger stuff, you pussy.

    Not the greatest high in the world, but it’s different. A nice change of pace.

    1. If you want something different that is worth it try ibogaine.

  14. How’s it compare to bungee jumping, Jacob?

  15. I’ve never done it, but I’ve heard it described as “some Lovecraftian shit”, which makes me not inclined to.

    1. I liked it.

  16. I tried Salvia. It was the worst mistake of my life. The five minutes I was tripping felt like an eternity. Literally. Don’t mistake my words. I’m not speaking figuratively, like when someone says, “Damn, I spent an eternity in that DMV line.” It literally felt like I lived millions and millions of lifetimes. At the same time, I experienced a complete ego death, and a presence calmly explaining to me that nothing I thought existed actually did and that everything I believed was wrong, and everything I loved didn’t matter.

    Now, although this was an extremely disturbing experience, I would have been able to tolerate it if I hadn’t gone online afterward and looked up other people’s experiences and saw that there are NUMEROUS reports of people with trips not just kind of like mine, but EXACTLY THE SAME. One can’t help but begin to question reality after that.

    Salvia does not result in a fun little five-minute trip. It can change your life, the way you look at the world, the very state of your mental health. This is not a drug to be done lightly.

    1. me too. see above. very very scary.

      1. I’m stone sober and hold pretty much the same opinion. Psychotropic drugs are not required to achieve existential angst.

        1. Perhaps not, but they sure as hell help.

    2. I too have tried it, and had a very similar experience. I do not feel this was a mistake though, but an amazing experience that I would like to explore again.

      I had heard about peoples experiences with salvia, but when I smoked the extract my friend had given me, I found there were no words to prepare me for what I was about to go through.

      That experience was the most terrifying thing I had ever experienced. Though now I have been through it, I would like to see it again. But as Evan said above, this is not a recreational party drug.

    3. Looked at in the right light, that is exactly the kind of trip one should want. Ego death and questioning reality is what psychedelics are all about. If you’re looking for a fun drug, use Ecstasy. If you’re looking for transcendence, use something with a little more kick, LSD, mushrooms, mescaline, DMT, or (apparently) salvia divinorum.

      1. Um. I’ve tried LSD. This doesn’t sound anything like LSD.

        LSD can be “transdendant”, but for most people it’s recreational. Assuming a certain degree of emotional stability.

    4. “what are you doing here? you aren’t supposed to be here yet.” said the people in the white room that i couldn’t quite get to.

  17. Personally, I prefer to eat pussy.

  18. The trip itself wasn’t really the issue, it was the weird after-fog during which I began drinking heavily. Then shit got unreasonable. To all those people at that driving range in Myrtle Beach, I am truly sorry.

  19. To all those who have had “mild” or “underwhelming” trips on salvia: you’re doing it wrong.

    The correct way to smoke salvia, is in a bubbler/bong and use one of those torch lighters. Hold the hot flame over the bowl the entire time you’re drawing in. Take a lungful, and hold it in for at least 20 seconds.

    I did this with some 4x and had the most intense experience of my life. I also almost jumped off my friends roof, but that was pre-trip stupidity for wanting to do it there in the first place.

    Anyways, the point is, the Salvinorum A doesn’t come off in the smoke, you basically have to steam it out, which is why you need to keep a hot flame on it the whole time.

    BTW, I love Salvia 🙂

  20. Salvia is Weird Shit. Weirder than acid. Best way to describe it is “reality stutter with time-reversed memory”. Ok, that makes no sense… basically it was an alien mindfuck (but not in a bad way). Just be sure not to mix it with anything else, or you could have a horrible brain-frying experience.

  21. I wasnt a fan, but then again I have oppurtunities to get stuff like mushrooms, DMT and research chemicals all the time so yea. Not trying it again. It was like 5 minutes of an mc escher drawing come to life and 20 minutes of feeling dizzy and just generally ripped off

  22. The extent of my psychedelic experience (if you don’t count pot, of course) is a handful of shroom trips. The first few were fantastic and hilarious and enchanting; the last two were much more sinister but still interesting as shit.

    I guess I don’t get the appeal of the short trip. To me, one of the coolest things about the mushroom trip is the progression; the slow onset, the changing thought patterns, and the hours of psychonautic wandering. I’d still probably try Salvia in the right circumstance just for the experience, but a few grams of shrooms still sounds more appealing.

  23. My only point is that if you take the Bible straight, as I’m sure many of Reasons readers do, you will see a lot of the Old Testament stuff as absolutely insane. Even some cursory knowledge of Hebrew and doing some mathematics and logic will tell you that you really won’t get the full deal by just doing regular skill english reading for those books. In other words, there’s more to the books of the Bible than most will ever grasp. I’m not concerned that Mr. Crumb will go to hell or anything crazy like that! It’s just that he, like many types of religionists, seems to take it literally, take it straight…the Bible’s books were not written by straight laced divinity students in 3 piece suits who white wash religious beliefs as if God made them with clothes on.

  24. There is an art for smoking salvia divinorum, event different schools. I belong to the school which suggests to start with the leaves, and increment only if necessary. Don’t ask the breakthrough in the first experiences. Do it in the silence and the dark. Smoke up to the meeting of entities which explain how to proceed and if you are ready.
    Salvia divinorum does not just provide a ‘near death experience’. It provides a near death experience with a guide!
    It is not really for the children. Yet, for initiation parties, it is far less dangerous than alcohol, which kills often by overdose, at such parties.
    In my opinion and taste, the salvia divinorum is one of the most gentle product on this planet. OK, the ‘lady’ has her mood, and has some trick to teach you some respect …

  25. I too have tried it, and had a very similar experience. I do not feel this was a mistake though, but an amazing experience that I would like to explore again.
    ???? ????? ?????? ??????? ???? ????? ????? ???????
    I had heard about peoples experiences with salvia, but when I smoked the extract my friend had given me, I found there were no words to prepare me for what I was about to go through.
    That experience was the most terrifying thing I had ever experienced. Though now I have been through it, I would like to see it again. But as Evan said above, this is not a recreational party drug.

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