Salvia divinorum

Salvia, salvinorins and salvinorin derivatives

Research concerning Salvia divinorum is relatively recent and rather sparse. Early work identified a class of novel compounds which largely underly its psychoactive effects - the salvinorins, a subgroup of neoclerodanes. Within this group, salvinorin A has been of particular interest, and appears frequently throughout the literature. While the pharmacology of salvinorins is complex, their primary site of action is thought to be the kappa-opioid receptor.

Usefulness in the treatment of various conditions has been described, including obesity and addiction. Several semisynthetic and synthetic salvinorin derivatives have been synthesized following these lines of inquiry. In mainstream culture, Salvia divinorum has become increasingly problematic as a legal high and drug of abuse. Illicit abuse of this powerful psychotropic comes with physiological and psychological risks, and use within a recreational setting is strongly discouraged.



By Year



Selected Publications


  • Chemistry, pharmacology, and medicinal property of sage (salvia) to prevent and cure illnesses such as obesity, diabetes, depression, dementia, lupus, autism, heart disease, and cancer. | Hamidpour et al., 2014

  • From local to global-fifty years of research on Salvia divinorum. | Casselman et al., 2014

Early Work

  • Ethnopharmacology of ska María Pastora (Salvia divinorum, Epling and Játiva-M.). | Valdés et al., 1983

  • Salvia divinorum and salvinorin A: new pharmacologic findings. | Siebert, 1994


Safety & Toxicity

Misuse & Abuse








Salvia divinorum: Also known as the"sage of the diviners" or just "salvia," Salvia divinorum is a psychoactive species of the Salvia genus. Salvia has been used in ritualistic ceremonies for thousands of years, owing in part to its powerful hallucinogenic effects. Only recently has salvia become a drug of recreation, a well-known "legal high." With misuse comes greater risk, hence recent public concern over the popularization of the drug. Lesser known, however, is the budding field of inquiry into potential salvia-based pharmacotherapies. Some of this work can be seen above.

Salvinorins: These are a novel class of chemical compounds found in Salvia divinorum, and which are responsible for the bulk of salvia's psychotropic effects. They have demonstrated effects that are both potentially harmful in some studies and potentially beneficial in others. There are 10 salvinorins, A-J, with salvinorin J having two variations.

Salvinorin A:



Kappa-opioid receptor: