Pubdate: Thu, 29 May 2003
Source: Sun Herald (MS)
Copyright: 2003, The Sun Herald
Author: Richard Harkness
Bookmark: (Salvia divinorum)


Q: I saw a TV report on a new hallucinogenic agent called Salvia that
kids are taking. What exactly is it?

A: Media reports about Salvia (Salvia divinorum), also called
Diviner's Sage, may be news to many of us, but this herb has been used
for centuries in some cultures.

Salvia seems to have its origins in Oaxaca, Mexico, where the Mazatec
Indians used it to induce "visions" in religious ceremonies. It is
said that the Mazatecs believe the herb is an incarnation of the
Virgin Mary.

People have taken Salvia medicinally as a tonic and for various
ailments, including headache, diarrhea, rheumatism and abdominal discomfort.

The herb's hallucinogenic properties has made it popular for
recreational use among adolescents and young adults inclined to
experiment with such substances.

Salvia is widely marketed on the Internet and currently is legal to
possess and use in the U.S., though the federal Drug Enforcement
Agency is considering whether it should be regulated as a controlled

Marketers promote Salvia as a legal alternative to other plant
hallucinogens such as mescaline. The herb can produce profound
hallucinogenic effects when its leaves are chewed, smoked, or prepared
and drank as a tea.

The hallucinogenic properties stem from an ingredient called
Salvinorin A, reputed to be the most potent hallucinogen known.

Hallucinations can occur within 30 seconds when Salvia is vaporized
and inhaled in small doses of 200 to 500 micrograms, or within 5 to 10
minutes when chewed. These episodes last anywhere from 20 minutes to
an hour, depending on the route taken and the dose.

When taken by mouth, the herb is known to cause nausea, dizziness and
slurred speech, as well as confusion and hallucinations.

Recent test tube research suggests that Salvinorin A may act at a
specific opiate (narcotic) receptor site in the brain, though much
remains to be learned.

This points to the lack of definitive knowledge about how Salvia works
and what its longer term effects on the body might be.

Q: I know that niacin reduces cholesterol levels, but does niacinamide
also do this?

A: Niacinamide is the form of niacin (vitamin B3) used in some
multivitamin supplements. It has the same vitamin activity as niacin
but does not possess niacin's cholesterol-lowering effects.

Niacin is a standard treatment for the combination of high cholesterol
and high triglycerides, and is the most effective agent available for
raising HDL cholesterol (the good kind).

However, niacin should not be taken in cholesterol-altering doses (up
to 3,000 mg daily) without medical supervision. At those high doses,
niacin is a drug, not a dietary supplement. Niacin therapy requires
close monitoring and may be contraindicated in people with certain
medical conditions.

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Richard Harkness is a consultant pharmacist and specialist in natural 
therapies. Write him at 1224 King Henry Drive, Ocean Springs MS 39564; or 
e-mail  Selected questions will be used in the column.
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MAP posted-by: Richard Lake