Saturday, August 2, 2008

A Case in Defense of Salvia divinorum

I was recently approached by Brent McDonald & Kevin Sack from the New York Times who were producing a newspaper article and video story on Salvia divinorum with an emphasis on its current legal struggles. One of the producers contacted me to arrange a telephone interview which after reviewing some of Brent and Kevin's work, I accepted and conducted on August 1, 2008. While I believe these journalist and film makers are honorable people wanting to share a fair and honest story. I have some trepidation as to how the editors and executives of national news corporation will influence the final version of the story. So as soon as the interview concluded. I wrote down my version of what was said. This entry was written from those notes.

I did my interview today and am pretty pleased with how it went. At first it seemed their primary interest in me was my perspective as the proprietor of Gaian Botanicals. However I tried not to focus too much on that and steered our conversation more towards the plant and the issues that encompass it.

The first thing I said was go to and read what the members had to say about this interview. I consulted them the day prior, seeking their input and wisdom.
I asked the journalist interviewing me if he had tried Salvia divinorum? Unfortunately he replied with a no. I recommended that any professional investigator preparing a national story on an ineffable experience should at least invest 15 minutes and try the herb. It's like someone reporting on a religion and the person being interviewed said, "Do you want to meet my god?" And the interviewer says, "No." Why wouldn't you? It’s safe and legal. I honestly do not believe anyone could possibly comprehend Salvia divinorum without directly experiencing it. Maybe he will try it, maybe he won’t. That’s his personal and private choice, but I hope he does.

He was familiar with most of the major the scientific literature already so there was really no point in repeating what he already knew. I made it clear the Salvia divinorum is NOT like any other psychedelic.

Yes this includes Marijuana, LSD, Magic Mushrooms or any other of more commonly known psychedelics. This comparison is all too commonly used by the media and is more inaccurate then claiming all food tastes the same and has the same nutritional properties or that all medicine is the same. These analogies are absurd.

I continued with the my main question, why make Salvia divinorum illegal? It is likely that over the past decade at least a million of people from around the world have tried it in some form. No one has died, became ill, addicted, mentally deranged or suffered any other from of disability due to Salvia. This is even with production of extracts and cultivation being somewhat underground. Not regulated like food or medicine offered at your retail store and still no ill effects with Salvia. The chemicals sold by your neighborhood pharmacy are probably more toxic.

The government technically does not have the authority to declare something Schedule 1 unless it’s a hazard to public safety, addictive and / or has NO medical use. Salvia divinorum is not a threat; it is the opposite of addictive and has demonstrated significant potential medical use in the treatment of depression, addiction, among other possibilities. Doctors will not be able to determine its best medicinal uses until they have had an opportunity to thoroughly investigate and research it.

This plant is unique. Fist of all Salvinorin A is a Diterpenoid which acts as a kappa opioid receptor agonist. This is important because it is the first known compound with such action that is not an alkaloid. All of the other known hallucinogens are Tryptamines and Phenethylamines which act on the Serotonergic system.

Salvinorin A practically sets a speed record for how fast it crosses the blood brain barrier. If one were developing medicines which must rapidly reach the brain, Salvinorin would be a good compound to study. What all of this means to science and medicine is that Salvia contains a completely unique pharmacological action previously unknown thus it extremely valuable to humanity. Not only to learn more on how the brain works, but also for its potential medicinal value. Shouldn’t these discoveries be celebrated instead of persecuted?

Most legislators argue Salvia is similar to illegal substances therefore it too should be illegal. The Federal government all ready has a law that makes any substance similar to illegal substances also illegal. It’s called the Analog Act. This only further proves (as previously mentioned) that Salvia is special and is not like the other classic psychedelics.

Please keep in mind when these things are made illegal, they are not only restricted for use by ordinary people. They are restricted from scientific study. Unless your a government lab trying to maintain the illegal status. Well except a few recent scientific studies which have been allowed for DMT, Psilocybin and MDMA. The authorities were finally forced to admit that the most powerful substances known to act upon the human mind may have some medical use? Something most people who have experimented with them already knew.

My friend Fraser Clark once said only two things can change a person in a single instant: Psychoactive drugs, and direct religious experience. The greatest transformation would then come via a synthesis of these two: a religious experience created by psychoactive drugs. This is a very wise and true observation. The ancient institution of Shamanism has relied on these powerful tools for such purposes since pre-history. In fact it is completely plausible that entheogens have played a significant role in our human evolution. But that’s another story for another day. When addressing the public in general, I don’t want to get too far out of their current belief system.

Back to the legal status. Today we have let some thirty-five years of potential scientific study be wasted. In a field of medicine with the potential to aid victims of war, rape, molestation, abuse, assaults and traumas. Medicines that can reduce the anxieties of the terminally ill dying from cancer and other horrible diseases. Help them come to better terms with their death.

Drug addiction and alcoholism could have been cured. Making families more loving, healthy and happy. Over 35 years of scientific and medical progress lost, all due to paranoia of entheogens? Well that’s sorta off topic of Salvia, but I wanted to lay out some of the consequences of illegalization. Lets just end this point by stating the issue is not that Salvia is threat to public safety; the issue is that the establishment fears psychedelics. Free thinking isn’t conducive to controlling a population. They want everyone to fit within the cultural paradigm of being good little consumer robots who go about playing their game and following the rules with out questioning their authority or motives. In the 60's the US government wanted to escalate the war in Vietnam and large parts of the population were using psychedelics. The authority’s propaganda was not effective and the people would not tolerate the actions of their government. Therefore the government had to put an end it to it all. Of course many mistakes were made by the drug users of that era. It was all too new. We know much more about these things now.

California and Maine have taken very reasonable and wise steps in regulating Salvia. No sales to minors. Everyone in the Salvia divinorum community applauds this. We hate to see kids acting stupid on YouTube more then anyone. I wish Salvia were inaccessible to minors. I am a parent and I don't want my kids using anything either. My wife and I are very involved with our children's life and take the responsibility to educate them and raise them to make wise decisions. My interest in entheogens is private; I don't talk about or use anything in their presence. If when they are responsible adults, they choose to explore this domain. I will be glad that I have some wisdom and guidance to offer on the topic. Not what most uninformed parents offer.

When it comes to teens. As it’s always been, some will be determined to get high. If Salvia is what they get their hands on. It’s allot better then what this demographic has used in the past. Paint, glue or solvent huffing, computer duster inhaling, prescription drug abuse or even worse. Dangerous and addictive drugs that poison the mind and body and can lead toward destructive and criminal lifestyles. That’s not what Salvia is, nor will it ever be. Not in the least. This distinction must be made crystal clear.

This is about Americans just surrendering their rights and not caring about freedom. We have become so conditioned to just doing what we are told. As the late Terence McKenna said. "If the words 'life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness' don't include cognitive liberty, then the Declaration of Independence isn't worth the hemp it was written on." I didn’t have the exact quote with me in my car, but I like my version better.

He asked me of the Salvia users I knew, what are they like? Based on my circle of friends and people I know from the net. Most who choose Salvia. Do so initially because they don’t want to be made criminals. It’s a legal option as many have families and jobs that would be threatened by using illegal drugs. Also if you have just a half-hour with no kids, work or other responsibilities. You could have an effective entheogenic experience. It brings some magic and amazement to your day. An alternate perspective for self reflection and you don’t need 8 hours of nothing to do to have this experience. As I said most users I know, are responsible tax paying citizens. They just choose to make this experience part of their life. They find it a useful tool. For many reasons. Some people I know try it and never want to try it again. Salvia isn’t a match for everyone; in fact its not for most. It can be a totally boundary dissolving, reality model smashing experience. For some it totally astonishes them, they come back and can’t believe it. They run to a mirror to see if they are indeed themselves awake and not dreaming and if what they witnessed really happened. It gives one a lot to think about.

I’ve always valued entheogens for reflecting on my own self. It helps reach clarity to what’s most important in your life. What work must be performed on yourself and in your relationships. What habits you must end and what interests you should peruse. Prior to my first being turned on. I felt like a cultural robot executing the code I was programmed to follow. This was my individuality and freedom I thought I had.

Being an medically diagnosed insomniac, back in the early 90’s I ended up an underground party in search of a little fun. Upon entry someone I slightly knew handed me a piece of Starburst candy that had LSD dropped on it. I didn’t even know it until another friend said you’re going to get really high. I thought how potent could a Starburst be? I danced all night, the music, lights, colors and people where all amazing. My senses have never been so inundated. I had these thoughts I never thought before. I discovered my inner voice. Separated not only from my friends, but reality. I recall wandering the day glow lit warehouse in a state of trance, and then I heard a voice say. “Ok walk over here, find your friends. Don’t look at the two guys making out in the corner. Don't eat, drink or smoke anything. Sober up.” Then I thought. Who said that? Voices? OK Symptom A your insane. No. Once I learned I had this voice that was commanding my being. I was able to make some positive changes in my life. I was able to deal with my subconscious and change my mental programming.

Well not by this experience alone. I was greatly influenced by some really amazing people who I was fortunate enough to encounter back then. Mainly Timothy Leary, Robert Anton Wilson and Terence McKenna along with many other individuals with extraordinary ideas and philosophies. In fact as I speak to you know I can hear the bard’s novel voice, sorta as if I am channeling him or perhaps just straight out plagiarizing. But in this case I don't think he would mind. With out this experience, I would have never taken the path I have and that would be a tragedy. To deny this experience to people should be the crime.

I must make it clear for the record. I do not use or posses any illegal substances. At this phase in my life, Salvia and psychedelic thinking are more then enough to satisfy my entheogenic needs. Mostly I enjoy the philosophy and theory of it all. I like to read, participate on forums and listen to podcasts like my friend Lorenzo’s Psychedelic Salon. By doing so I am able to benefit simply by taking in other peoples reflections on their experiences.

The thing that really bothers me most is the criminalization of plants. Who the hell do we think we are? If you are religious most likely you believe the earth and everything on it was created by a god. If you’re an atheist or evolutionist you probably believe there was a big bang, everything came together and 13 billion years of cosmic evolution labored to bring all the life found on earth in to existence. How egotistical can humans be to come along and declare parts of this miraculous creation illegal? That’s the stupidest thing I ever heard. There is a total disrespect of nature. But look at the environment; this shouldn’t be news to anyone. It’s our blindly following those in power that will drive our species into extinction.


The rest of the talk was stuff we all know. The effects of Salvia range from mild to profound and last about 15 minutes. A little of the history of Salvia from the Mazatecan shamans, re-discovery by Wasson & Hoffman. All the way up to making her emergence onto the Internet and probably on her path to extinction. But we won’t let her go with out our best effort to keep her legal. She is an intelligent plant spirit. Evading the Inquisition and all attempts to stomp out the use of Shamanic plants. We talked about the communities’ attempts to keep Salvia legal. Being that this is not currently a Federal matter. Its difficult to organize state by state, now we must even watch county and city ordinances. Just knowing the law of the Country is difficult enough, let alone fight all the smaller battles. There is presently no national organization of Salvia users taking political action. Maybe there should be, or are we too late?

Thank you for reading this. Please feel free to share this with others. I would appreciate a link back to this blog or my website.

EROCx1, D.D.


Anonymous said...

I'm so glad you're the one they contacted. Few could do such a great job conveying the true nature of this herb. You're a clear channel for true wisdom, straight from the source.

Thanks EROCX1!

LoveLeaf Garden

chayote said...

As Scott said, I'm glad they came to you. Great job and thanks!

Chayote from MySpace

Anonymous said...

Nice work E! I can’t believe the Times didn’t give you any credit. You practically handed them this story. The good parts any ways. Thanks for sticking up for the Sage! Gaian Botanicals is the BEST!


Alan said...

Great blog, salvia divinorum herb is the best

Alan said...

Thanks EROCX1! What is Salvia Divinorum? is a common questions about salvia.

Anonymous said...

Wise words E. You’re a smart man. I guess that’s why you left LA. I remember you telling me migration is faster then evolution and next thing I knew. You were gone. Rightfully so too. SoCal is a mess.

Why were you not at the Tim Leary Archive event? I totally expected you there. Last time I seen you was his funeral. I may be heading your way soon. Make some time for us to pow wow and we must get out at least 1 night. I miss you man! If you want to bang the decks in Rotterdam this summer just holler. I can get you some paid work over there + we have a kick ass apartment lined up with extra space.

Your friend,
Dmitri from back in da underground daze!

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Mona said...

I would have been excited to hear that the interviewer did try salvia for his article & added his personal experience to the piece.

You put it hilariously well: It's like someone reporting on a religion and the person being interviewed said, "Do you want to meet my god?" And the interviewer says, "No."

PS: I added Gaian Botanicals to my where to buy salvia customer review site, and I'd love it if anyone reading is willing to review Gaian Botanicals or any other online salvia vendor. A passion of mine is providing quality information and I want people looking online for salvia to hear from actual users and customers about their experiences with suppliers!


EROCx1 said...

Thanks for the add Mona, I do have plenty of feedback out there. Not sure if it could be imported to your site or not.

All the best,

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