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In the News: The Truth about Salvia and Salvia Divinorum

by KC Compton

Tags: Sage, In the News, At My Place, Salvia, Salvia Divinorum,


From the Baby-Out-With-the-Bathwater Department, this just in: States and local governments are rushing to outlaw salvia because of its hallucinogenic properties!

Goodbye sage dressing, goodbye pretty sages in the flower garden, goodbye … What? They’re only banning one sage species? One exceedingly uncommon species, Salvia divinorum, also known as “diviner’s sage” or “sage of the seers”? One persnickety, hard to cultivate little salvia species that likes low light, high humidity and a few thousand feet of elevation? Well, why don’t they say so?

(Click here to read more about how to keep your sage plants alive.

Photo by cdunx/Courtesy Flickr

Across all media, this story is being reported in terms like, “Salvia: High—and legal!” or “Salvia: A little-known, legal hallucinogen.” Frankly, this worries me. Maybe it’s far-fetched to think these lawmakers could be so pinheaded as to ban “salvia” without making the distinction “divinorum,” but then again, I have come to belive some of our lawmakers are not strangers to pinheaded choices.
One of my favorite genuses (genae?) is being tarred with a very broad brush and I would like you to join me in a mission: Every time you see a newspaper article or hear a bit of broadcast news discussing the new societal scourge of salvia, please contact the author or broadcaster (or, better, their bosses and sponsors) and set her or him straight: There are more than 900 salvia species in the world, found on several continents. Humankind has used salvia for hundreds of generations to heal minds and bodies in many different climates and a zillion cultures. Just because a few American kids get it in their heads to smoke one specific, uncommon species doesn’t mean the whole genus represents a threat to health, hearth and home.

(Click here to discover the many sage species.)
In fact, just how much a threat Salvia divinorum poses is much to be debated.  It’s been used for centuries by shamans for certain indigenous people in Mexico as an aid in diagnosing sickness and promoting visions. The fact that a handful of U.S. residents got hold of the plant, smoked it, made videos of themselves laughing like hyenas, then posted the videos on YouTube shouldn’t necessarily lead to lawmakers expending a lot of energy legislating a nationwide ban on the stuff.

Photo by swanksalot/Courtesy Flickr 

But, politics being politics, this seems to be the direction we’re headed, so at the very least, it would behoove those of us who know and appreciate salvia in all its other uses to make sure a distinction is made between divinorum and the whole other world of salvias. Getting busted plucking a few sage leaves for my Thanksgiving turkey isn’t exactly the way I want to spend the holidays, thank you.

And while we’re all getting worked up about this particular little purple flower, we might take into account a large body of research and statistics that show more teens and young people are being injured and dying due to alcohol than all other illicit drugs combined. What are we going to do about that?

Drop me a comment and let me know your opinion over this matter!