Pubdate: Sat, 07 Jun 2003
Source: Racine Journal Times, The (WI)
Copyright: 2003, The Racine Journal Times
Author: Richard Harkness, a consultant pharmacist who writes on health
care topics.


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

Salvia is widely marketed on the Internet and currently is legal to possess
and use in the United States, though the U.S. 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

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

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