Salvia divinorum is a shrub native to Oaxaca, Mexico, that indigenous Mazatec tribes have used for centuries for spiritual and medicinal purposes. It is a powerful natural hallucinogen that produces an intense psychedelic cerebral high. Today it attracts attention in the West for recreational use, but also little by little for its possible medicinal use.

The species salvia divinorum is a member of the genus Salvia , a large group consisting of more than 900 species belonging to the Lamiaceae (mentheae) family. Although the common name "salvia" refers primarily to Salvia officinalis from which the herb used for cooking is obtained, it can also refer to any other ornamental or medicinal plant within the genus.

The salvia divinorum plant, which we will refer to as salvia from now on, is a tall shrub with square, hollow stems and hairless, oval leaves that can also be serrated and be four to twelve inches long. The plant reaches more than a meter in height and its stems tend to break and drag along the ground, where they re-root strongly.

The flowers, which rarely appear, are white with purple calyxes and almost never form viable seeds. Instead, the plant tends to form new roots along the stem allowing vegetative reproduction to easily occur, which is the plant's main method of reproduction.

Where is sage found?

Sage grows in the cloud and tropical forests of the Sierra Mazateca, which is located in the northwest of the state of Oaxaca, and is present at altitudes between 300 and 1,830 meters above sea level. It usually grows along the banks of the many streams and rivers that run down the slopes towards the Rio Tonto, a major tributary of the Rio Papaloapan.

Sage thrives in humid, low-light environments and prefers black soils that are high in humus. For many years, Mazatec tribes hid the places where sage was found from the eyes of European botanists and taxonomists because of the plant's value and sacredness.

Growing sage seeds

In a way, salvia raises a question mark for taxonomists, since it is not known for sure if the plant is a cultigen (plant altered or selected by humans), a natural hybrid or a pure species. The uncertainty is due to the vegetative or asexual form of reproduction of the plant and its unusual sterility, which is more common in sterile hybrids (mules and donkeys are examples of this phenomenon in mammals) or in cultivated varieties (cultivar ) inbred.

More recent genetic research has indicated that the plant is not an interspecific hybrid , although its origin remains unclear.

Sage Cuttings: An Alternative to Seeds

Due to the lack of viable seeds, sage can only be cultivated through vegetative propagation ("cloning"). Cuttings are taken from a mature mother plant and can root with tap water in two to three weeks. Flowering depends on the photoperiod , as with cannabis, and occurs when the length of the day falls to twelve hours or less.

Salvia legality: the seeds and the plant

Sage is legal in most countries and in most US states . However, some consider its hallucinogenic effects dangerous and socially unacceptable and have therefore banned or are attempting to ban the plant.

At least thirteen countries have totally banned salvia, including Australia , Belgium , Croatia, Germany, Italy, Canada, Denmark and Finland . Some countries have banned it entirely, while in other places restrictions have simply been established (For example: Importation and sales are prohibited, but personal cultivation, possession and consumption are allowed).

In the List of Controlled Substances of EE. UU. There salvia as a controlled substance included, although several states like Oklahoma , New Mexico , Michigan and Florida (where possession can carry up to five years in prison) have passed their own legislation .

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