The Oppressed Shepherdess from Oaxaca

Mazatecs considered Salvia Divinorum the most important plant used by Shamans to aid in illnesses, the plant is well respected in Oaxaca for its strong effects and power to bring wellness and its strong effect. Natives have given various names for the plant, the most used being Ska Pastora, meaning The Shepherdess, and other names such as Hojas de la Pastora, Ska Maria Pastora, and Yerba de la Pastora, meaning the Herb of the Shepherdess

Salvia Divinorum var. Wasson/Hofmann
Credit to: Pharmacoasis

Natural from the Sierra Mazateca this plant was brought to light by the Ethnobotanist R.Gordon Wasson and Albert Hofmann, creating the name of one of the Salvia Divinorum Strains, Salvia Divinorum Wasson/Hofmann. However, this plant was only introduced to American Lands by Sterling Bunnell in 1962, leading to several misconceptions regarding the Wasson/Hofmann strain since it was believed that the plants were propagated from the samples collected by R.Gordon Wasson.

Years later Gordon Wasson proposed that Salvia Divinorum could be the unidentified ancient Aztec plant pipiltzintzinli, this hypothesis would carry an enormous impact as it would imply a long history of cultivation, use, and culture. Per contra, his proposal was not accepted and pipiltzintzinli remains an active mystery.

Just like the samples collected by Bunnel and Wasson, many other propagated samples were collected, between them, Blosser also named Palatable found by Bret Blosser in 1991 named for being less bitter when compared to other specimens, Cerro Quemado, collected by Valdes near the village of Cerro Quemado, this discovery lead to the first isolated Salvinorin A by Valdés, the trans-neoclerodane diterpene responsible for the psychoactivity in Salvia Divinorum, Delicious, and Julieta collected by Daniel Siebert, the first person to have what is now called a smoked salvia trip, Catalina, a sample collected by Kathleen Harrison in 1996.

In between the samples collected several distinctive clones were collected throughout the years, Luna, a sample collected by Siebert in Hawaii, is often considered a type of polyploid due to the leaf morphology and different characteristics and possible different chemistry, Appaloosa a variegated clone produced by an unknown mother plant, Paradox, a seed raised plant from the very unique Appaloosa, Julieta, a stronger Salvia strain collected from a Shaman in Hautla de Jimenez in 1999, La Fuerza, collected by Kathleen Harrison, Owens, a potent strain collected by Jack Owens, one of the major suppliers of Salvia in both Mexico and US, on Cerro Rabon.

The reasoning of why the plant contains Salvinorin A and if it does variate from strain to strain remains inconclusive, the substrate where most of the plants previously presented is mainly formed by limestone, sandy soils, allochthonous Jurassic sandstones, shales, mudstones, and thin limestones, the exception being Hawaii with rich coconut choirs, red clays, and sandy soils, being all of the substrates rich in organic matters and nitrogen, the metabolization of rich nitrogen soil for a higher percentage of alkaloids and stronger effects might be a hypothesis, whatsoever with the scientific improvement, new polyploid species can be created via Genetic modifications, Biotechnology and CRISPR for stronger, fast-growing and more durable against pests, fungi, and bacteria.

Despite the respect of the Mazatecs towards the plant, the history is told differently in the United States and Europe, after the viralization of several intense salvia youtube videos and media scare stories in the 2000s and later on, in 2010 Miley Cyrus experienced the plant giving it more recognition, Salvia was turned illegal in 2016 in most of the States in America and in most of the countries in Europe, however, the plant remains legal in Mexico and it is still used often, respectfully and as a medicine by Shamans.

Chemical structure of Salvinorin A

Unlike the classic psychedelic substances which bind mainly to Serotonin receptors, the chemistry of Salvinorin A is different, the substance lacks a Nitrogen bond and ionizable molecules making it unable to form soluble salts, and hard to be absorbed as a tea, instead, salvia must be absorbed by the oral mucous membranes or smoked.

When entering the body Salvinorin A binds to the Kappa- Opioid receptor (κ opioid), giving short-intense effects such as:

  • Mild hallucinations
  • Sedative effects
  • Dysphoria
  • Uncontrollable laughter similar to the effects of Nitrous Oxide

Making Salvinorin A is a potent psychedelic that shows effect at small doses of 200-500 micrograms lasting from several minutes to an hour.

Since the discovery of Salvinorin A as the only known naturally occurring non-nitrogenous kappa-opioid receptor agonist research leading to the clinical use of Salvinorin as a potential treatment for addiction, depression and neuroprotective properties for brain injury due to oxygen insufficiency has been present in medical literature. Studies observed in newborn pigs indicated that specific cerebrovasodilation effects happen while Salvia finds its way to several acute brain pathologies and vasoconstriction events.


Daniel Siebert: The Entheogen Review. 2003 Volume XII, Number 4, The history of the first Salvia divinorum plants cultivated outside of Mexico from

D.M.Turner: Salvinorin: The Psychedelic Essence of Salvia Divinorum

Jochen Gartz: Salvia Divinorum – Die Wahrsagesalbei

Ulises Coffeen and Francisco Pellicer : Salvia divinorum: from recreational hallucinogenic use to analgesic and anti-inflammatory action.

Edward Orton, PhD and Renyu Liu, MD, PhD: Salvinorin A: A Mini Review of Physical and Chemical Properties Affecting Its Translation from Research to Clinical Applications in Humans.

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