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The History Of Salvia Divinorum

Salvia is indigenous to the Sierra Madre Mountains located in Oaxaca, Mexico. It is mostly used in this region in several rituals by Mazatec curanderas and curanderos. The plant became more useful when these shamans thought that there was a need to find out the cause of a patient’s sickness in the world of the supernatural. The shaman got into a visionary trance which enabled him to see the steps that ought to be taken to heal the patient. This same use of Salvia is still present under the generation of Mazatec Indians. People also use this plant to search for divine, prediction, and meditation.

Before the Western discovery of Salvia divinorum in the 20th century, there was insufficient knowledge of the uses of the plant. Although it has been used for hundreds of years, the plant was not well-known until when the famous botanist R. Gordon Wasson came up with a specimen in the 1960s. After introducing this specimen, the plant then became an object of scientific study. He also introduced psilocybe mushrooms to the Western world. Meanwhile, it remained an enigmatic plant until the 1990s when Daniel Siebert started his research on the plant. Today, Salvia is well known around the world and is sold in several (web) shops. Although it is a popular plant, more research is yet to be carried into chemistry and the effects of Salvia.

In the 1930s, modern research into Salvia divinorum began. The first record of Salvia divinorum in Western literature was in 1939 written by Jean Basset Johnson. He researched the use of hallucinogenic mushroom in Mexico. He observed that the Mazatec Indians used the Hierba Maria’s leaves to incite visions. In the 1950s, R. Gordon Wasson continued his research and later confirmed the psycho-activity of Salvia. He did this alongside Albert Hofmann (who discovered LSD), and Roberto G. Weitlaner (who was the first to return with live specimens back to the west), where they sent one of those specimens in 1962 to Harvard University and was analyzed by Carl Epling.

It is still unclear to how long the use of Salvia has been among the native residents of Mexico. The plant was suggested to have been introduced after the victory of the new world. The only proof to back this up was the Mazatecs don’t have a native name for the plant; they used names like ‘’Hierba Maria’’ or ‘’ska Maria Pastora’’ (which was referred to Mary or sheep herding), while the Spanish introduced both Christianity and sheep. The Mazatecs devised a method of consumption that is not efficient, which clearly showed that they are unaware of the vast psychoactive potency.

R. Gordon Wasson and others after him, however, suggested that Salvia divinorum could probably be the same plant which is known by the Aztecs as ‘’Pipiltzintzintli’’ (which means ”the purest little prince’’). A Spanish author described it in the 17th century. A researcher, J. Valdes III in the 1980’s, continued to dig into the history of Salvia before the discovery of Wasson. He suggested that ‘’Pipiltzintzintli’’ is probably cannabis and not Salvia.


  1. https://www.salvia.net/history
  2. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Salvia_divinorum#History