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Salvia divinorum: Identification, Seeds, Propagation, Habitat, Biochemistry

Salvia divinorum is a perennial herb that can reach a height of 1-2 meters. It has big, heart-shaped, green leaves with a pointy apex. The hollow, square stem has a square form. Salvia divinorum has tiny, white flowers that are tubular in shape. They bloom in the late summer or early autumn and are grouped near the stem's end. Similar to other mint species, Salvia divinorum has a unique and potent scent: an earthy black tea and sage musk. Salvinorin A, a psychoactive substance found in it is known to have potent hallucinatory effects when swallowed or smoked (Giroud et. al., 2000), which is what makes this plant illegal in many U.S. states. 

FAQ: Where does Salvia divinorum grow? 

Salvia divinorum is a plant species that is indigenous to the cloud forests of the Sierra Mazateca region in Oaxaca, Mexico. It is a member of the mint family (Lamiaceae).  

salvia divinorum image

Propagation of Salvia divinorum:

Vegetative cuttings are a more dependable technique for propagating Salvia divinorum than starting from seed. Following are the steps for Salvia divinorum cutting propagation:

Choose a plant that is mature, healthy, and has not yet bloomed. Plants that have flowered may have a lesser chance of taking root effectively. Use pristine, razor-sharp scissors to take cuttings from the parent plant. Cuttings must have at least one set of leaves and be about 6 inches long. Only the top leaves of the cutting should remain intact after removing the leaves from the bottom half. This will encourage the cutting to concentrate its efforts on growing roots. Rooting hormone should be applied to the cutting's cut end. Plant the cuttings in a potting mix that drains well, being careful to keep the soil moist but not soggy. The cuttings can be placed in a propagator or covered with a plastic bag to generate a humid atmosphere. The cuttings should begin to grow roots in two to three weeks. Cuttings can be put in the ground or larger pots once they have developed a strong root system (Reisfield, 1993). 

In general, growing Salvia divinorum cuttings is a dependable and effective technique to create new plants, particularly for individuals who want to make sure the plant's psychoactive characteristics aren't lost.

Propagation through seeds:

Salvia divinorum can be challenging to grow from seeds for a number of reasons:

Only a small portion of Salvia divinorum seeds will actually sprout and develop into live plants due to their low germination rate. Even under ideal circumstances, Salvia divinorum seeds have a short shelf life and rapidly lose viability, thus they might not sprout. It is well known that Salvia divinorum has a high level of genetic variability, which implies that seedlings grown from seeds could not share all of the traits of the parent plant. In general, gardeners may have more success utilizing other techniques, such as vegetative propagation by cuttings, since it is possible to reproduce Salvia divinorum from seeds but it is sometimes a challenging and unreliable procedure (Hanna, 1999).


It is native to the cloud woods of the Sierra Mazateca region in Oaxaca, Mexico. High levels of humidity, chilly temperatures, and persistent fog in this area combine to form a special microclimate that is perfect for the growth of Salvia divinorum. The plant grows naturally in the forest's understory, frequently close to streams or other bodies of water. Salvia divinorum, a plant used for generations by the Mazatec people for its hallucinogenic effects, is a significant component of their native shamanic practices (Valdes et. al., 1987).

Biochemistry of Salvia divinorum:

Salvinorin A and Salvinor B, terpenoid and neoclerodane diterpenes, are among the Salvia divinorum's many active constituents. Salvia divinorum's most potent psychoactive component, salvinorin A, is what gives the herb its hallucinogenic properties. It's interesting that salvinorin A differs structurally from other recognized psychoactive substances like LSD and psilocybin, which affect the brain's various receptor systems. It is thus a special and fascinating plant for scientists researching the neurochemistry of psychedelic substances (Kutrzeba et. al., 2009).

Salvia divinorum has been discovered to contain a number of additional bioactive substances, such as flavonoids, terpenoids, and tannins, in addition to its psychotropic qualities. In addition to its hallucinogenic effects, some of these chemicals were shown to have antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and antibacterial activities, indicating that Salvia divinorum may have other potential medicinal benefits (Gruber et. al., 1999).

Similarities and differences from other sages:

Salvia divinorum differs from other sages in a number of ways, while also being comparable to them.


Salvia divinorum belongs to the sage family (Lamiaceae) and exhibits a number of traits that make this species distinctive, including square stems, opposite leaves, and fragrant chemicals. Most members of this family have medicinal value.


The psychedelic qualities of Salvia divinorum stand out as being unique from other sages. Salvia divinorum, in contrast to other sages, includes the substance salvinorin A, which when consumed has potent psychedelic effects. Salvia divinorum differs from other sages due to its unique morphology. It has a generally shrubby growth pattern and huge, wide leaves that feel velvety to the touch. Other sages, on the other hand, might have more upright growth habits and smaller leaves. While other sages have a larger geographic range and can be found worldwide, Salvia divinorum is native to a tiny area of Mexico (Sumnall et. al., 2011). 

FAQ: Is sage and Salvia divinorum the same thing?

No, sage and Salvia divinorum are not the same. Common sage is Salvia officinalis, and is used in various culinary recipes, while Salvia divinorum is a rare plant that should not be cooked into food to make meals. Also, while common sage is sold at the grocery store, it would be extremely unlikely to ever find Salvia divinorum for sale at any kind of grocery store. 

IUCN status of Salvia divinorum:

Neither the IUCN Red classify of Threatened Species nor the United States Endangered Species Act (ESA) presently classify Salvia divinorum as being endangered or threatened. The plant is scarce in the wild and is only native to a tiny area of Mexico. Due to its small geographic range, the plant is at risk of going extinct.

Susceptibility of Salvia divinorum:

Numerous diseases and infections, including the following, can affect Salvia divinorum:

Salvia divinorum can develop powdery mildew, a fungal disease that results in a powdery white or grey coating on the leaves and stems. The plant may become weaker and more vulnerable to other illnesses as a result.

It is also susceptible to fungus root rot if the soil is overly damp or insufficiently drained. Yellowing leaves, withering, and stunted development are symptoms.

Salvia divinorum leaves and stems may develop orange or reddish-brown pustules due to the fungus rust.

A fungus called leaf spot can create brown or black spots on Salvia divinorum leaves. There are numerous different fungi that might cause it.

Salvia divinorum and other plants in the sage family are susceptible to the disease known as bacterial wilt, which is brought on by the bacterium Erwinia tracheiphila. Wilting, yellowing foliage, and stunted development are all signs.

Salvia divinorum is a perennial plant, which means that with the right care, it can last for many years. Salvia divinorum can exist in the wild for a number of years, possibly even a decade or more, depending on the growing environment and other elements. 

Salvia divinorum can grow several stems or branches under the right conditions, which can be cut off and utilized for vegetative propagation to create new plants. It is crucial to remember that the generation of offspring through vegetative propagation may cause a decrease in genetic diversity and possibly enhance the plants' sensitivity to ailments or other pressures.


Giroud, C., F. Felber, M. Augsburger, B. Horisberger, L. Rivier and P. Mangin. 2000. Salvia divinorum: an hallucinogenic mint which might become a new recreational drug in Switzerland. J. Forensic Sci., 112(2):143-150.

Gruber, J.W., D.J. Siebert, A.H.D. Marderosian and R.S. Hock. 1999. High performance liquid chromatographic quantification of salvinorin a from tissues of Salvia divinorum epling & jativa-m. Phytochemical Analysis., 10(1), 22-25.

Hanna, J. 1999. Growing Salvia divinorum from seeds. Autumnal Equinox., 3(3): 110-124.

Kutrzeba,L.M., J.K. Zjawiony, H.J. Koo, E. McDowell, A. Laurentzi, D.R. Gang and F.E. Dayan. 2009. Biosynthesis of Salvinorin A: Overexpression and Biochemical characterization of carboxy methyltransferase from EST of Salvia divinorum Glands. Planta Med., 75: 51-60.

Reisfield, A.S. 1993. The botany of Salvia divinorum (Labiatae). SIDA, Contributors to Botany., 15(3): 349-366.

Sumnall, H., F. Measham, S. Brandt and J. Cole. 2011. Salvia divinorum use and phenomenology: Results from an online survey. J. Psychopharmacol., 25(11): 1496-1507.

Valdes L.J., G.M. Hatheld, M.Koreeda and A.G. Paul. 1987. Studies of Salvia divinorum (Lamiaceae), an Hallucinogenic mint from the Sierra Mazateca in Oaxaca, Central Mexico. Economic Botany., 41: 283-291.

Author bio: Dr. Taha Arooj

Dr. Taha Arooj works as an Assistant Professor at GC University in Lahore, Pakistan.  Dr. Arooj teaches various botany courses including courses on physiology, phytopathology, and ethnobotany. She holds a Ph. D degree in Botany from GCU Lahore.


Featured Horticultural Expert

Dr. Taha Arooj works as an Assistant Professor at GC University, where she teaches various botany courses including courses on physiology, phytopathology, and ethnobotany. She holds a PhD degree in Botany from GCU, Lahore.

Dr. Taha Arooj

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