The most comprehensive overview of Salvia divinorum, a member of the mint family, was published in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology in 2013 by a team of researchers headed by Ivan Casselman.
Their article “concentrates on the investigation of Salvia divinorum over the last 50 years including ethnobotany, ethnopharmacology, taxonomy, systematics, genetics, chemistry and pharmacodynamic and pharmacokinetic research.”
In the ethnobotanical section, the authors link traditional uses of the fresh leaves of this plant to Mazatec shamanism in Oaxaca, Mexico, where the plant is used as a palliative for patients near death. Similar approaches are being explored for more effective hospice care in the United States, Canada, and Europe.
Men and women Mazatec healers undergo apprenticeship training with three plants: the leaves of Salvia divinorum, the seeds of Ipomoea violacea and Psilocybe spp. mushrooms.
“Initially,” say the authors, citing work published by Leander J. Valdés, “trainees ingest increasingly large doses of Salvia divinorum leaves which show them the way to heaven, where the initiated learn from the tree of knowledge.”
With regard to the chemistry of the plant, Casselman’s team of researchers confirms that “it is the diterpene salvinorin A that is responsible for the bioactivity in Salvia divinorum and which are also considered to be potential lead compounds in pharmaceutical research.”