Daturas and Diviner's Sage
Datura stramonium and inoxia
Moonflower and Jimson Weed are the most well known of the botanical family of Daturas. Since Datura is plentiful throughout Europe and the Americas, it has a long history of psychoactive and medicinal use. Its main component is the alkaloid atropine, an excellent remedy for asthma, but very toxic in high doses. This genus has nine to 15+ species ranging from annuals to perennials, all with upright, trumpet-shaped flowers and green, slightly oblong seed pods covered in long, sharp spikes that harden with age. The Datura plant was used by European gypsies, by shaman from many indigenous peoples worldwide (including the Aztecs), was mentioned in the Kama Sutra, and has been used widely in witchcraft for centuries. The early pot herb “poisoned” a group of British soldiers in James- town in 1676. Night blooming and moth or wind pollinated, the Daturas are easy to cultivate. Midwest farmers consider them a noxious weed and kill them.
No federal restrictions.
The entire genus is illegal in Nevada. (Nevada State Police can give God a citation for illegally growing wild Datura plants!)
D. stramonium is illegal in Kansas and Connecticut, but not its sister plant, D. inoxia, or any other species of Datura.
Common names: Jimson Weed, Moonflower, Thorn Apple.
Family: Solanaceae (Nightshade)
Species: Alba; arborea; ceratocaula; discolor; fastuosa; ferox; inoxia; leichhardtii; metel; meteloides; nanakai; quercifolia; sanguinea; stramonium; tatula; wrightii.
Devil’s Apple; Thorn Apple; Stinkweed; Devil’s Weed; Malpitte; Toloache; Yerba del Diablo, Mad Apple, El Toloache, Concombre Zombie, Sacred Datura, Green Dragon, Love Angel’s Trumpet, Devil’s Trumpet; Dhatura Tatula, Apple of Peru.
D. stramonium poisoned a group of British soldiers in 1676 in Jamestown, Virginia Colony. A handful of soldiers removed their uniforms and engaged in silly activities such as blowing feathers into the air for days. The incident gave the spiky weed its common name, as the notorious "Jamestown Weed" evolved into the current “Jimson Weed.”
D. inoxia was the entheogen used by Yaqui brujo don Juan to introduce Carlos Castaneda to various aspects of the Spirit World, as described in the 1970s best-seller The Teachings of Don Juan, A Yaqui Way of Knowledge.
Also about Datura:
Plant Parts Used: Seeds, leaves.
Asthma, ulcers, colds, nervous affections, sleep disorders, pain relief, hemorrhoids, neuralgia, epilepsy, antidote for nerve gas, whooping cough.
Sedative, narcotic, anodyne, antispasmodic, anesthetic, mydriatic, calmative, diuretic, nervine, demulcent, expectorant.
Saturn, Venus. Water element, feminine. Datura has been used to hex and break hexes, induce dreams, find one’s totem animal, see ghosts; also for divination, protection from evil, lucid dreaming; was used in many ancient witches’ “flying ointment” formulas with belladonna and other herbs.
Tropane alkaloids: Atropine, hyoscyamine, scopolamine. Stramonium contains the same alkaloids as Belladonna, yet Daturas seem to produce greater delirium than Belladonna. The leaves contain potassium nitrate. The seeds are 25% oil.
Vivid or frank hallucinations, delirium, delusions, incoherent babbling, loss of memory. Symptoms can last as long as 11 days or more from a single oral ingestion.
Tropane alkaloids including hyoscine (roots); hyoscyamine, scopolamine and atropine (all parts). As anti-cholinergic deliriants, they block muscarinic receptors, which in turn stimulate the dopaminergic neurons. They are readily absorbed and partially metabolized by the liver, but mostly eliminated in urine. The peripheral receptors are on the exocrine glands (which affect sweating, salivation, and cardiac muscles).
Methods of Ingestion:
Smoke leaves, drink tea, eat crushed seeds, tincture, oils.
Atropine overdose results in widespread paralysis of the parasympathetic innervated organs.
Initial symptoms: headache, urinary detention, flushed skin, rash, dry throat, nausea, fever, loss of balance, delirium.
Overdose leads to: brain and eye damage, coma, convulsions, asphyxiation, heart attack, death.
Deaths have been documented from oral ingestion of seeds.
Warning: Do NOT experiment with Datura consumption!
If you insist on taking it internally, have a trained Body Sitter present with antidotes on hand who is available for up to a week.
Danger! Atropine disrupts the parasympathetic nervous system’s ability to regulate vital non-volitional and subconscious functions such as temperature control, breathing and heart rate.
Physostigmine, pilocarpine, jaborandi, tannic acid, colonic irrigation; morphine; amyl nitrite.
Body Sitter interventions:
1. Induce vomiting if taken orally: immediately drink an emetic, such as a large glass of warm water mixed with vinegar or mustard or salt.
2. Administer antidote, activated charcoal tablets, milk of magnesia and strong coffee/caffeine; keep hydrated, keep the patient warm and quiet.
3. Call 911 and report atropine poisoning if symptoms persist.
4. Administer CPR if breathing stops.
Annual, biennial, short-lived perennial.
Asia; naturalized to the Middle East, Europe, the Americas. Central America hosts more species of Datura than any other region.
Full-sun; well-drained (gravel/sand) stream bank or rich meadow.
Plant Spirit Message:
“Don’t mess with me, or I will mess you up.”
The genus Datura includes a large family of mildly psychotropic, flowering plants found all over the world, which are all still legal in most of America (not Nevada). Commonly called the Angel’s Trumpet due to its large, trumpet-shaped flowers, the plant can be purchased at most nurseries. The common American species, D. stramonium, was nicknamed Jimsonweed after an infamous incident in 1676 in Jamestown, Virginia.
Datura, much like its siblings belladonna, mandrake and henbane, contains dangerous tropane alkaloids, particularly atropine. Native to Asia, it belongs to the nightshade family which includes all tomatoes, potatoes, eggplants, peppers and tobacco. The flowers are very beautiful and often have a very powerful, lily-like or lemony fragrance; people who sleep in the presence of the blooms can have intense dreams and nightmares caused by psychoactive particles transmitted by the flower’s scent. Well known for causing delirious states as well as poisonings in uninformed users who are not aware that usage may be deadly and frightening.
Datura is a woody-stalked, light green annual or biennial shrubby plant that that grows 4 to 6 feet (one to three meters) tall. The stem is stout, erect and leafy, smooth, a pale yellowish-green in color, branching repeatedly in a forked manner. The leaves are large and angular, 4 to 6 inches long, uneven at the base, with a wavy and coarsely-toothed margin, and have the strong, branching veins very plainly developed. The upper surface is dark and grayish-green, generally smooth, the under surface paler, and when dry, minutely wrinkled.
The plant flowers nearly all summer and into late fall and early winter. Some species flower until the first frost. The flowers are large and handsome, about 3 inches in length, growing singly on short stems springing from the axils of the leaves or at the forking of the branches. The calyx is long, tubular and somewhat swollen below, and very sharply five-angled, surmounted by five sharp teeth. The corolla, folded and only half-opened, is funnel-shaped, of a pure white, with six prominent ribs, which are extended into the same number of sharp-pointed segments. Usually white, sometimes light to deep lavender flowers, solitary and tubular, sometimes doubled. The flowers open in the evening to attract night-flying moths, and emit a powerful fragrance. The flowers evolve into a four-lobed, harshly thorny, green seed pod; fruit ripens in early fall to early winter. Each lobe contains about 50, 2-3 mm, oval, black seeds. Some species (inoxia) have larger, kidney-shaped, brown seeds.
The most well-known species are D. stramonium (Jimson weed) and D. inoxia (moonflower). The plants, seeds, flowers, and roots have all been traditionally used for medicinal or visionary purposes around the world. Dried leaves have been made into smoking blends, sometimes with in combination with tobacco or Cannabis, and all parts have been used to make teas and ointments.
Theophrastus, a student of Aristotle, wrote in 301 BCE about the hallucinogenic effects of Datura stramonium. The Buddhist scripture Vajramahabhairava Tantra refers to Datura metel several times. The priests of Apollo used it for divination, as did the Oracle of Delphi. Aztec and Hopi Indians used it to induce prophetic visions. Called toloache by the ancient Aztecs.
The ancient Indian sex manual Kamasutra of Vātsyāyana includes at least two references to Datura. One reference instructs a man to anoint his penis with honey infused with Datura before sexual intercourse. Also in ancient India, Datura was associated with the worship of Shiva, and it was used as a poison to stupefy and kill prisoners, the professional poisoners being called Dhatureeas. Thieves in India have used Datura to incapacitate their victims before robbing them.
Gypsies, who smoked the leaves, brought the plant into Europe from Asia in the sixteenth century. Soon, herbalists and witches in Europe and the American Colonies were making “Flying Formulas” from Datura and other nightshades, as well as using it for incantations by inhaling the plant fumes.
Jimson weed acquired its current name as an evolution of its nickname “James-Town weed” which was based on a notorious accidental poisoning of a group of British soldiers in 1676. Robert Beverly wrote of the incident in 1705:
“The James-Town Weed (which resembles the Thorny Apple of Peru, and I take to be the Plant so called) is supposed to be one of the greatest Coolers in the World. This being an early Plant, was gathered very young for a boiled Salad, by some of the Soldiers sent thither, to pacify the Troubles of Bacon; and some of them eat plentifully of it, the Effect of which was a very pleasant Comedy; for they turned natural Fools upon it for several Days: One would blow up a Feather in the Air; another would dart Straws at it with much Fury; and another stark naked was sitting up in a Corner, like a Monkey, grinning and making Mows at them; a Fourth would fondly kiss, and paw his Companions, and sneer in their Faces… Indeed, they were not very cleanly; for they would have wallowed in their own Excrements, if they had not been prevented. A Thousand such simple Tricks they played, and after Eleven Days, returned to themselves again, not remembering any thing that had passed.”
Datura can be tricky to germinate, but once sprouted, plants are very hardy, tolerating a wide variety of growing conditions. Do not give up on seeds. All Nightshades are intermittent germinators. They often grow back after a frost. The author found one wild and very healthy Datura plant growing under a bridge in gravel next to a stream bed. It was perfectly situated to get morning sun with a high water table in well drained soil protected from all frost. The happy plant had wet feet but was growing in gravel and sand. However, I also found a huge patch in a rich meadow in the overflow area of a small river, indicating a very compatible habitat.
Annual, biennial, perennial.
Rich, well-drained soil. As a rule, they need warm, sunny places and soil that will keep their roots dry. When grown outdoors in good locations, the plants tend to reseed themselves and may become invasive. In clay containers, they need porous, aerated soil with adequate drainage. The plants are susceptible to fungi in the root area, so avoid compost and manure.
Neutral to Alkaline.
Sand, peat and perlite. Dry fertilizers such as worm castings, cottonseed meal, bone meal, wood ash, phosphate rock, greensand can be added into the soil mix. Also pumice rock and compost as conditioners.
Full sun to mostly sunny preferred. Will tolerate more shade if not too dense.
Moist, but well drained. Water frequently. The D stramonium needs more frequent water than the inoxia. Established inoxia can literally go for months in some areas without any water.
Monthly once established, but not required. Fish emulsion, liquid kelp or compost tea are good organic choices.
Early Spring as soon as the last frost is over. Perennials will resprout in Spring.
About 3-6 ft. apart.
From 3-6 ft. tall. Plants grown in pots are substantially smaller than in ground.
Frost will take small plants back to root ball. Larger plants tolerate light frost, but lose leaves.
Seed Germination time:
One to ten weeks. Intermittent germinator. Seeds can sit for months. Seeds keep for many years.
Seed Germination methods:
Cold stratify in a freezer for a week (optional). Carefully pull off the elaiosome or any white “flesh” left on the seed, soak seeds overnight, plant in peat pots, use bottom heat, indoors, put out after last frost; or,
Direct sow 3mm deep in late Winter or Spring at or just before last frost.
Wind and nocturnal moths, especially the Hawk moth.
Plant Propagation methods:
Seed is usual. Not suitable for cloning according to most plant resources. However, I was able to sprout a branch piece that successfully grew into a mature flowering plant. I accidentally knocked off a new branch from a Spring inoxia plant, right at the joint where it connects to the main stem. Since the six-inch branch had a nodule on the end, I put it into a cup with fresh water. I changed the water every day. Very soon, it began to grow a single long white root. When the root was two inches long, I planted it into soil and it is still growing today.
Early to Late Fall. Harvest leaves during flowering; Pick seed pods individually just after they first split and allow to dry whole before storing seeds. Seeds in the pod mature at different rates. Immature seeds harvested prior to the first split are reputed to be higher in active alkaloids than ripe seeds, will likely not germinate well if at all, and are usually lighter in color or off-color.
Summer through fall.
Beetles, which eat holes in the leaves but never seem to bother the plant much. Do NOT use pesticides on Daturas. It may kill them or stunt their growth.
Zones 5 to 11. Tolerates wide range of growing conditions.
Brugmansia spp. (tree datura); Brugmansia flowers are much larger and droop straight down, found in white, orange, pink and yellow. Brugmansia can also grow to 12 feet tall and tends to be denser and bushier than Datura.
The various species of Datura offer a wide variety of flowers and plant architecture. Datura meteloides grows to about 3 feet tall but can spread to 4 feet wide. Datura metel may grow to 5 feet but is an upright plant. Datura stramonium can grow to 6 feet or more and is bushier than D. metel and has smaller leaves.
Datura flowers are all trumpet shaped and stand upright. They tend to open in the early evening and will close the next day unless the weather is cool or cloudy, then they may stay open. Many species have a sweet scent that can be very strong. The seed pods are often spiny. Different species have different spination on the pods. All parts of the Datura plant are toxic and should not be consumed.
Once established, Datura plants are durable and tolerant of dry conditions. That doesn’t mean they don’t appreciate plenty of water and some fertilizer, however. The better you treat them the more vigorously they will grow and flower.
Sow seeds indoors around February or March about 10 weeks before transplanting outdoors. Use peat pots for growing the seeds so the seedlings can be planted directly outdoors in the garden without upsetting the roots; Datura seedlings are very fragile. Fill the peat pots with a humus rich soil and moisten well. Spread the seeds over the soil; cover the pots with clear plastic wrap and sit in a sunny area. Keep the soil moist; do not let dry out. Seeds need warm temperatures of around 70 degrees F to germinate. Seeds will germinate within 3 to 6 weeks.
The Daturas are generally grown from seeds in early spring. They should be started in flats indoors in the North, or where they are to stand in warmer areas. The perennial species usually rise from thick tuberous roots. In the North these may be dug in autumn and stored in semi-dry peat moss, sawdust, or sand in a cool place until spring. These Daturas generally prefer loose, sandy soils, somewhat on the dry side, and a sunny location. Those native to the Southwest will stand considerable drought.
Does well in rich soil in a dry, sunny location. May be sown in the open in May in mounds 18 inches apart with four seeds in each mound. Thin out all but the healthiest plant after sprouting. Hardy. All species of Datura seed can tolerate freezing. D stramonium is definitely an annual. Most other species of Datura, the seeds that are brown and kidney shaped, are mostly perennials.
Preparing seed: “Stratification” is when seed is frozen and then thawed to improve germination rates. Daturas benefit from stratification. Even so, germination rates can be low with many species, and intermittent. Can be started in damp peat moss. Do not pre-soak the seeds. Seeds keep vitality for many years.
Planting: Datura can be sown directly in the ground or started indoors as early as Feb or March. I usually plant in six-packs, then quickly move sprouts to larger individual pots, eventually transplanting into the ground. Any head start will speed flowering, but seed planted in the ground will have plenty of time to flower. Do not give up hope if the seed seems to take forever to sprout. It will grow when it’s ready. Seeds from the same pod will not all germinate at the same time. Warmth and moisture are key factors. When the seed is warm, moist and happy it will grow, and not before. Moist does not mean wet.
Transplanting: Daturas do not like to be disturbed. If you start indoors, use Jiffy pots so that you can transplant without disturbing the roots. If you don’t use Jiffy pots, transplant carefully, keeping as much soil in place around the roots as possible. Water well and keep watered until plants show continued growth.
Spacing: Datura meteloides especially can spread generously. Four feet width is not uncommon in a sunny, fertile location. As compensation for its size, it will be covered with beautiful white flowers. Daturas are smart and will seek out a path to more sun, whether that means growing tall or growing sideways around a tree.
Herbicides & weeds: Do not use insecticide! They tend to cause stunted, deformed leaf growth. Do not use any insecticide that you spray on the leaves. One grower used systemic nicotine with much success. Keep all herbicides far away, as they kill Daturas. Weeding should be done by hand or with mulch.
Harvesting: The leaves and tops are preferably harvested when the plants are in full bloom, but they may be gathered at any time from the appearance of flowers until frost. They should be stripped from the stem and dried as quickly as possible. Fresh leaves have a fetid odor, which disappears after drying. Seeds harvested for psychoactive purposes are collected by removing the capsules when they are ripe, but are still green and unopened. These are dried in the sun or by low heat. Seeds for growing purposes should be gathered by collecting capsules that are just opening, removing the seeds and drying in the sun.
Oral ingestion is highly dangerous, unpredictable and unwise. Never use alone, if at all. Atropine users MUST have a designated body sitter. Serious Datura users need to have a shaman overseer. Numerous deaths and mental health lock-ups are documented in the USA and elsewhere, primarily amongst uninformed teenage males (see the Erowid vaults). All the death reports read by the author in research consisted of documented cases where teenage males ate seeds or drank a strong tea made from the seeds.
NOTE: NO deaths have been documented from smoking the leaves, or using pure topical oils of Datura.
“Datura is not a get-high plant.
Datura is an ally to be used when journeying on the outer planes.
If she likes you, she can be a gentle Spirit.
If she doesn’t like you, she will kill you.”
For the last 3,000 years, nearly all of the Indian tribes in the United States, Mexico and South America have consumed at least one species of Datura for either spiritual or medicinal purposes. Datura is considered sacred for its ability to produce vivid albeit uncontrollable religious visions. The high priests of some tribes ingest Datura to communicate with Spirits of the dead and with their gods. Shamans use the plant for Astral travel or to become transformed into animals, and they are able to see distant or future events while under its influence.
Mexican shamans use D. inoxia in their preparations, including the famous Yaqui brujo don Juan Matus. He reportedly taught Carlos Castaneda to never use an iron tool while harvesting Datura. During the lizard divination ritual, the brujo or shaman carefully catches two lizards and then ingests a specially prepared mixture of Datura. One lizard is sent away to search for clues or answers to a question while the other lizard sits on the brujo’s shoulder, whispering into his ear everything that the first lizard sees or finds.
The Aztecs made a hallucinogenic infusion, or toloache, by fermenting crushed Datura inoxia stems, roots or seeds in water. Datura sanguinea was also used by the Aztecs at the Temple of the Sun, and it is still used by Peruvian natives to communicate with the Souls of dead relatives. Datura is sometimes an ingredient in the potent Amazonian psychedelic potion yajé or ayahuasca, and in coastal Peru it is sometimes added to the mescaline drink cimora.
Datura discolor is used by Native American Hopi shamans for divination. In ancient Europe, priests drank infusions of Datura to induce visionary and spiritual states. Some authorities believe that Datura was the intoxicating smoke inhaled by Greek priests at the Oracle of Delphi over 2,000 years ago. In Africa, Datura fastuosa is used by certain tribes to clairvoyantly solve crimes. In India, Datura metel is honored as one of Lord Shiva’s sacred plants and it is ritually mixed with ganja and smoked by some of the religious sadhus. Datura seeds were also eaten by priests during ancient religious rituals in India. Datura was used in ancient India as a poison to stupefy and kill prisoners.
Datura is also a legendary aphrodisiac. The use of Datura as a popular aphrodisiac spread throughout India, the Far East and nearly all of Europe, and it was a principal ingredient in many gypsy love potions and witches’ brews. Prostitutes in India added the seeds to their client’s drinks to induce sexual excitement. Being associated with sex and herbalism, it was roundly condemned by Christian churches as the “devil’s trumpet,” and subsequently many of those who knew of its powers were among the millions who were burned at the stake in a grand effort to eliminate any trace of witches or sorcery, not to mention simple herbal medicine.
Traditionally, Datura has been smoked or inhaled by nearly all who have used it successfully. Gypsies smoked the leaves, and some believe the Oracle at Delphi inhaled the fumes of burning Datura leaves to attain her insights. Used for divination and visions by the priests of Apollo, European gypsies, ancient Aztecs, and many other native peoples.
Datura was one of the key ingredients used by witches in ancient “Flying Formulas,” also for incantations. The topical efficacy of Datura was confirmed by author Michael J. Harner in his 1973 book Hallucinogens and Shamanism, where he wrote:
“Some years ago I ran across a reference to the use of a Datura ointment by the Yaqui Indians of northern Mexico, reportedly rubbed on the stomach to see visions. I called this to the attention of my friend and colleague Carlos Castañeda, who was studying under a Yaqui shaman, and asked him to determine if the Yaqui used the ointment for flying and to determine its effects. I quote from his subsequent experience with the ointment of Datura:
‘The motion of my body was slow and shaky. I looked down and saw don Juan sitting below me, way below me. The momentum carried me forward one more step. And from there I soared. I remember coming down once, then I pushed up with both feet, sprang backward, and glided on my back. I saw the dark sky above me and clouds going by me. I jerked my body so I could look down. I saw the dark mass of the mountains. My speed was extraordinary. I changed directions by turning my head…’”
Medicinal Uses of Datura
Currently used in many patent asthma medicines in the USA and globally. Atropine is the active ingredient in Datura and in many nausea and motion sickness remedies.
Medicinally, Datura is an anti-spasmodic that has a relaxant effect upon the respiratory muscles. It also suppresses glandular secretions such as mucous. Therefore, Datura is an effective remedy for asthma, and it was used in many commercial asthma remedies in the US until 1968. In Appalachia, a folk medicine poultice made from fresh flowers was applied to wounds as a pain killer. An ointment made of mashed seeds and fat was used historically to treat sores, boils, pimples, bruises, bites, burns, wounds, cuts, and swellings.
Once used to calm patients before setting fractured bones. In Mendocino County, California, circa 1884, one of the early white settlers there imported Datura seeds from Europe to grow and would use the plants to make a healing poultice to apply to wounds on his horses.
Atropine paralyses the endings of the pulmonary branches, thus relieving bronchial spasms. The practice of smoking D. ferox for asthma was introduced into Great Britain from the East Indies, and afterwards the English species was substituted for that employed in Hindustan. In Ceylon, the leaves, stem and seed pods are chopped up to make burning powders for the treatment of asthma. American Pioneers smoked the leaves for asthma, or ground the seeds and set them afire with gunposder for inhalation. Traditionally, the dried, crumbled leaves are mixed with an equal part of potassium nitrate (to increase combustion) and the mixture is burned in a saucer; the resulting smoke is then inhaled.
The dried leaves may also be rolled into herbal cigarettes or smoked in a pipe, either alone or with other herbs such as tobacco, sage, belladonna, etc. The smoke from a stramonium cigarette made from 0.25 grams of stramonium leaf contains up to 0.5 milligrams of pure atropine. Dryness of the throat and mouth are to be regarded as indications that too large a quantity is being taken.
Datura acts similarly to belladonna, but without causing constipation. It can be used for any purpose for which belladonna is employed: dilating the pupils, etc. It is considered slightly more sedative to the central nervous system than belladonna. Stramonium is so similar to belladonna in its symptoms, toxicity and general physiological and therapeutic action, that the two plants are practically identical in alkaloid content and effects.
The seeds are generally used in traditional formulas in the form of an extract, prepared by boiling the seeds in water, or macerating them in alcohol. A tincture is sometimes preferred. A tincture is made from the unripe fruit and a trituration of the seeds.
Applied locally, in ointment, plasters or fomentation, Datura will allay the pain of muscular rheumatism, neuralgia, and also pain due to hemorrhoids, fistula, abscesses and similar inflammation.
The following was sent to me by a customer regarding her successful home use of my Datura seeds for motion sickness:
"A friend of mine had a nose spray that his doctor prescribed to him for nausea and the active ingredient in it was scopolamine. After doing a lot of research, I found out that Datura seeds contain on average 0.3% scopolamine. Since the nose spray was very expensive and difficult to get refilled, I figured I would give Datura seeds a shot. My research suggests that for an average adult the proper dose is 10-20 seeds. I personally consume about 12-15 seeds, and they alleviate my motion sickness for 6-8 hours. The only side-effect I have noticed is a slight dry mouth. According to my research, that is even a normal side effect of the nose spray."
Datura is sufficient quantity causes frank hallucinations, meaning that the person cannot distinguish between the hallucinations and real objects. Elaborate visions and fantasies are common, sometimes including long conversations with imaginary persons.
Datura may cause severe, long-lasting disorientation, confusion, delirium, and hallucinations. Users consistently lose the ability to be rational or perform basic functions needed for survival. Many users report periods of several hours to several days in which they have no memory of what they were doing. Behavior is often irrational and accidental injury is a serious risk. Datura also causes physical effects including blurred vision, inability to focus the eyes (lasting up to several days), dryness of mouth, sedation or excitement, inhibited digestion, constriction of the throat, and an inability to perspire. Effects can last for weeks.
Traditionally, successful users (those who live to tell about it) have a consistent history of non-oral ingestion. The scent of the flowers was often adequate to produce visions, other users dried and smoked the fresh leaves. Still others would make a paste out of crushed seeds, or a tincture from fresh leaves, and apply it topically to sensitive skin areas, such as armpits or labia.
Asthma remedies. Witchcraft. Primarily grown as an ornamental bush or border plant, with beautiful flowers and weird, spiky seed pods that can hurt.
Datura, like Amanita muscaria, contains powerful alkaloids or agents that can be fatal or induce severe delusions leading to dangerous or even violent behavior. The various native shamans have been trained in the proper preparatory methodologies and dosages, and under their guidance, such herbal potions are usually safe and spiritually rewarding. The traditional plant concoctions are often prepared in ceremonial ways to appease the various spirits associated with these plants, and the aspirant may undergo a period of physical and spiritual cleansing beforehand to prepare for a journey. Such preparation and tradition are far divergent from the "get-high" attitude of most American teenagers who find a seed pod in the woods.
Under no circumstances am I suggesting that the reader callously experiment with any of these sacred but potently lethal plants. Other drugs and plants may combine or counteract with herbal potions in disastrous ways that the uninitiated cannot predict. For example, yohimbe bark (a popular male herbal aphrodisiac) should never be combined with certain commercial anti-depressants that are Monoamine Oxidase (MAO) inhibitors.
WARNING: Anyone with a heart condition should strictly avoid ingesting Datura.
Some Haitian Voodoo witch doctors know how to combine Datura with extracted TTX, the deadly poison from the tetraodon puffer fish. (TTX, or tetrodotoxin, is a very potent neurotoxin which blocks the voltage-gated sodium channels on the surface of the nerve membranes, thereby inhibiting brain function.. TTX is over 10,000 times more toxic than cyanide. Definitely avoid it.)_
Most images are copyright 2013 by Apothecary Art.
End of the Datura Section.
More Salvia information:
The following link is not affiliated with me. I offer it as a source to buy plants that I cannot now provide.
Traditional Mazatec Salvia Ceremony
A Mazatec shaman will want to bond with any prospective participant. Once he or she determines that the Plant Spirit wishes to go forward, the participant can be invited to a traditional nocturnal ceremony. The ceremony is performed at night before an altar with flowers, candles, pictures of the saints, and powdered tobacco. The darker and quieter, the better: both light and noise seem to dissipate the experience. It is not uncommon for the Mazatecs to wash the leaves down with a swig of local tequila. The tequila cleanses the palate and might aid in the final absorption.
Often, only fluids or fruit are taken just before a nocturnal ceremony.
1. The Mazatec shaman would first explain the ceremony rules thusly:
3. The stems are set all facing the same direction, and rolled into a cigar shape by natural light; a fireplace, beeswax candle or oil lantern.
4. The shaman consecrates the ceremony to the Saints by name and then hands the bundles of leaves to the participants.
5. It is traditional to have an extra bundle on hand as a “booster pack” for those who want to return to their trance state after an initial voyage.
6. For the participant:
Albert Hofmann writes of his Mazatec Sage experience:
“On the day before the journey was to continue, having given up all hope of being able to attend a ceremony, we suddenly made another contact with a curandera, one who was ready " to serve us ." A confidante of Herlinda's, who had produced this contact, led us after nightfall along a secret path to the hut of the curandera, lying solitary on the mountainside above the settlement. No one from the village was to see us or discover that we were received there. It was obviously considered a betrayal of sacred customs, worthy of punishment, to allow strangers, whites, to take part in this. That indeed had also been the real reason why the other healers whom we asked had refused to admit us to a leaf ceremony. Strange birdcalls from the darkness accompanied us on the ascent, and the barking of dogs was heard on all sides. The dogs had detected the strangers. The curandera Consuela García, a woman of some forty years, barefoot like all Indian women in this region, timidly admitted us to her hut and immediately closed up the doorway with a heavy bar. She bid us lie down on the bast mats on the stamped mud floor. As Consuela spoke only Mazatec, Herlinda translated her instructions into Spanish for us. The curandera lit a candle on a table covered with some images of saints.
In a bowl the curandera now kindled copal, an incense-like resin, which soon filled the whole hut with its aroma. Then the magic potion was ceremoniously prepared. Consuela inquired which of us wished to drink of it with her. Gordon announced himself. Since I was suffering from a severe stomach upset at the time, I could not join in. My wife substituted for me.
The curandera laid out six pairs of leaves for herself. She apportioned the same number to Gordon. Anita received three pairs. Like the mushrooms, the leaves are always dosed in pairs, a practice that, of course, has a magical significance. The leaves were crushed with the metate, then squeezed out through a fine sieve into a cup, and the metate and the contents of the sieve were rinsed with water. Finally, the filled cups were incensed over the copal vessel with much ceremony.
Consuela asked Anita and Gordon, before she handed them their cups, whether they believed in the truth and the holiness of the ceremony. After they answered in the affirmative and the very bitter-tasting potion was solemnly imbibed, the candles were extinguished and, lying in darkness on the bast masts, we awaited the effects.
After some twenty minutes. Anita whispered to me that she saw striking, brightly bordered images. Gordon also perceived the effect of the drug. The voice of the curandera sounded from the darkness, half speaking, half singing. Herlinda translated: Did we believe in Christ's blood and the holiness of the rites? After our "creemos" ("We believe"), the ceremonial performance continued. The curandera lit the candles, moved them from the "altar table" onto the floor, sang and spoke prayers or magic formulas, placed the candles again under the images of the saints-then again silence and darkness.
Thereupon the true consultation began. Consuela asked for our request. Gordon inquired after the health of his daughter, who immediately before his departure from New York had to be admitted prematurely to the hospital in expectation of a baby. He received the comforting information that mother and child were well. Then again came singing and prayer and manipulations with the candles on the "altar table" and on the floor, over the smoking basin.”
“If you try to party with Salvia, you will probably not have a good experience. Salvia is a consciousness-changing herb that can be used in a vision quest, or in a healing ritual… It is an herb with a long tradition of sacred use. It is useful for deep meditation. It is best taken in a quiet, nearly dark room.”
–Dr. Daniel Siebert
Traditional Uses of Salvia divinorum
Used exclusively by the Mazatec and Aztec peoples for divining. The fresh leaves were chewed whole, or the juice of the leaves was slowly sipped. The Mazatecs successfully hid the plant and their use of it from the Spanish conquistadors for 500 years. In preparation for its possible discovery by Westerners, the author believes the Mazatec incorporated the Conquistadors Catholic imagery of the Mother Mary into the identity of the plant itself to cultivate a religious context that white men could understand, naming it: ska María Pastora, la Maria, Hierba de la Virgen, and Leaves of Mary Shepherdess.
Besides diving, the Mazatecs reportedly used their sacred plant for treating arthritis, headache, eliminatory problems and depression.
When consumed properly, Salvia delivers an intense out-of-body experience with vivid hallucinations. When used for divining, a question is asked prior to ingestion.
“Salvinorin-A is effectively deactivated by the gastrointestinal system, so alternative routes of absorption must be used to maintain its activity. Traditionally, the herb is consumed either by chewing the fresh leaves or by drinking the juices of freshly crushed leaves. The effects of the herb when consumed this way depend on absorption of salvinorin-A through the oral mucosa before the herb is swallowed.”
Herbal extracts are widely available on the internet. Those using it as a party drug soon have a bad experience and stop. Those who follow tradition and grow the plant themselves seem to develop a relationship that raises their percentage of insightful or more pleasant experiences. Often used with Cannabis in modern societies. The herbs are combined and smoked or an extract of the leaves is added to Cannabis and then smoked.
The active ingredient is NOT absorbed by the gastro-intestinal system. Therefore, liquid forms are not drunk like Ayahuasca or Peyote tea. They can, however, be absorbed via the mouth and its mucous membranes such as the indigenous practice of slowly chewing individual leaves.
The Bridge of Smoke:
The dried leaves are often smoked. A large-bowled pipe, like a tobacco pipe, is used. Hold the smoke in when inhaled, as in cannabis use. One to three large inhalations should be adequate. Five or six small tokes do not produce the same effect as one large inhalation. The reasons for this are not clear.
Not only is salvinorin-A chemically different from other hallucinogens (it is a diterpene not an alkaloid) but its effects are quite different as well. Many people consider the effects less manageable and harder to work with than other entheogens. The majority of people who have had a full blown experience with salvinorin A are reluctant to ever do it again. Anyone choosing to experiment with this compound should always have an alert, clear-thinking body sitter present to prevent them from injuring themselves or others.
Sacred Sage: Salvia divinorum
Salvia Divinorum or Diviner’s sage originates exclusively from the Mazatec and Aztec peoples of Mexico, where they have cultivated the plant for the last 1,500 years or longer. As a cultigen, the sage has nearly lost its normal ability to grow from seed and now depends mostly upon humans for reproduction. Due to its psychotropic effects, the tender herb with the unusual square, hollow stem has been assured longevity by its human cultivators, just like wheat, corn, opium poppies and Cannabis. When smoked or chewed, the leaves produce a short but intense psychotropic experience. Kept totally secret from all civilized societies including the brutal Spaniards until the middle of the 20th century, this plant is now being cultivated throughout the USA. Contains the psychoactive compound diterpenes, which is similar in effect to DMT, but more short-lived.
No federal restrictions so far. BUT:
Now with legal constraints in the following states:
Alabama, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Virginia, & Wyoming.
Some states, such as Louisiana, ban it only when used for psychotropic purposes but allow it for ornamental plantings, and others restrict it to adult use only, and still others have banned the refined active ingredient (Salvinorin-A) but not the plant itself. Laws are inconsistent and complex. If I missed a state, please contact me.
Common names: Diviner’s Sage, ska Pastora
Family: Lamiaceae (Mint)
Species: Divinorum, with only two plants known to have been imported to the US.
Seer’s sage; ska María Pastora; la Maria; Hierba de la Virgen; hojas de la pastora; La Hembra, Pipiltzintzintli; Diviner’s mint; Leaves of the Shepherdess, Leaves of Mary Shepherdess.
Plant Parts Used: Leaves.
Arthritis; headache; depression, eliminatory problems, and for treating addiction.
Hallucinogen, anesthetic, antidepressant.
The plant is useful for finding lost objects or for identifying thieves. It is a poison that illuminates poison; use it to uncover dis-ease.
Salvinorin-A (C23H28O8); Splendidin; Salvinorin-B is also present, but does not appear to have psychotropic properties.
Hallucinations, out of body experiences, insights, answers to questions. Produces a short, but very intense, “trip.” When smoked, Salvinorin-A is psychoactive for five to 15 minutes at doses of 200–500 Ag; Oral absorption leads to a less intense but longer intoxication lasting up to one hour.
Salvia is the first known example of a naturally occurring non-nitrogenous n-opioid receptor agonist which works on the human Kappa-Opioid receptor system. Contains the psychoactive diterpenes, which are similar in effect to DMT. Not active or absorbed via the gastro-intestinal tract. Chewed leaves are absorbed through mucus membranes in the mouth.
Methods of Ingestion:
Smoking dried leaves; chewing fresh leaves; tea; tinctures; extracts.
Temporary coma, panic, complete loss of bodily senses.
A body sitter is recommended when used, which is typical in native settings.
Risperidone, Valium (prescription) or herbal valerian root for panic. Trips are typically too short to host an intervention.
Perennial. Plants live about seven years and then often begin to fall apart; broken stems typically root and grow new plants.
Sierra Mazateca mountains, Mexico, latitude 18°N; altitude about 700-1200 meters (2500-4000 feet); likely other hidden jungle areas within the ancient Aztec Empire throughout Central America.
Shady riverbank in a tropical, mid-altitude jungle with 250 to 400 cm of annual rainfall.
Plant Spirit Message:
“I am not a recreational drug… Please grow me before consuming me.”
Originates specifically from the Sierra Mazateca mountain range in the northern region of Oaxaca, Mexico. Cultivated almost exclusively by the Mazatec Indians and the Aztecs prior to the Spanish genocide, Salvia is a rare cultigen found only in humid forest ravines of a small part of the Sierra Mazateca. In spite of being used for millennia by the native peoples of Mexico, the existence of Salvia divinorum was not discovered by modern civilization until 1939 when Swedish anthropologist Jean Basset Johnson first wrote about it. Due to Mazatec secrecy about its use and their growing sites, it was not until 1962 that botanist R. Gordon Wasson finally obtained a sample of the plant.
Salvia divinorum has large green ovate (also dentate) leaves, with a yellow undertone that reach 10 to 30 cm (4 to 12 in) long. The leaves have no hairs on either surface, and little or no petiole. The plant grows to well over two meters (6 ft.) in height, on hollow square stems which tend to break or trail on the ground, allowing the plant to root quite readily at the nodes and internodes.
The flowers, which bloom only rarely, grow in whorls on a 30-centimeter (12 in) inflorescence, with about six flowers to each whorl. The three-centimeter (1.2 in) flowers are white, curved and covered with hairs, and held in a small violet calyx that is covered in hairs and glands. Rarely produces flowers or seed. In Mexico, it blooms from September to May.
Salvia has been exclusively cultivated by the ancient Mazatec Indians for over 700 years and by the Aztecs for 500 to 1,000 years before that. Salvia is a rare cultigen native to humid forest mountain ravines and similar areas of a small part of the Sierra Mazateca in Mexico. The plant has been cultivated by the Mazatecs for so long that it now seems to rely exclusively on human beings for its propagation. Mazatec traditions include the cultivation of several different entheogens for spiritual and ritualistic use, including morning glory seeds, coleus leaves, psilocybe mushrooms and Salvia divinorum.
The first introduction of S. divinorum to modern civilization came in 1939 when Jean B. Johnson, son-in-law of anthropologist Roberto Weitlaner, wrote about Hierba Maria in his publications about the Mazatec shamans.
1955: Seeking the Magic Mazatec Mushrooms
In 1955, R. Gordon Wasson and Allan Richardson became the first known Western white men to participate in the secret Mazatec mushroom ceremony. Under the guidance of Mazatec curandera Maria Sabina, Wasson and Richardson each consumed six pairs of the mushroom Psilocybe caerulescens var. mazatecorum after which they began to have visions of geometric patterns, palaces, and architectural vistas.
The result of that experience was published in Life Magazine on May 13, 1957, in an article titled “Seeking the Magic Mushroom,” in which Sabina was called “Eva Mendez” to protect her identity. That article inspired Dr. Timothy Leary, Dr. Richard Alpert and many others to seek out and consume magic mushrooms and other natural and chemical hallucinogens. Sabina, on the other hand, had her son murdered and her house burned down for giving away the Mazatec’s most closely guarded entheobotanical secrets.
Wasson was also the first to personally describe an experience with Salvia divinorum. In July of 1961 he participated in a healing ceremony performed by Sabina. Wasson ingested the squeezed juice of 34 pairs of leaves, and described the results as “coming on sooner (than the mushrooms), being less sweeping, and lasting a shorter time. It did not go beyond the initial effects of the mushrooms: dancing colors in elaborate, three-dimensional designs.”
In 1962, Gordon Wasson and Albert Hoffman decided to find and research the purported “magical” plant. Hoffman, who had already discovered LSD and isolated psilopsybin and lysergic acid amides from mushrooms and morning glory seeds used by the Mazatec, joined with the leadership of self-styled ethnomycologist Gordon Wasson to traverse the Sierra Mazateca looking for S. divinorum, particularly in the wild. Wasson and Hoffman could not find independent populations of S. divinorum, but obtained the first flowering specimens of the plant from an old curandera, Natividad Rosa, in the village of San Jose Tenango.
In 1962 Wasson was joined in Oaxaca by Swiss pharmacologist Albert Hofmann, the inventor of LSD, who also first isolated psilocybin from mushrooms gathered in this same region. Hofmann brought an alcohol extract of Salvia divinorum back to Switzerland where he unsuccessfully attempted to isolate the active component.
Rich, well-drained soil that never completely dries out (add vermiculite).
Space for its massive root system.
Slightly Acid: 6.1 to 6.6.
Full shade or filtered sunlight preferred.
Wet, moist, never dry. Over watering can cause fatal root rot.
50% minimum. Moist jungle environment.
Bi-weekly to monthly. Fish emulsion.
Four to eight feet
Tropical plant. Killed by frost, drought and root rot. Stops growing below 15° C (60° F). The lightest frost will completely kill a healthy plant.
Seed Germination Time:
10 to 30 days or longer, seeds have a poor germination rate.
Seed Germination Methods:
Seeds are uncommon; seed set is low; germination rate varies from 1% to 10%, with only a small percentage of sprouts surviving.
Seed Pollination: Wind.
Plant Propagation Methods:
Cuttings; Plant uses humans for propagation. Re-rooting broken stems.
Use potting soil mixed with peat moss in 15 Gallon pots. Add coffee grounds or powdered sulfur.
Harvest leaves in Summer and Fall.
September to June in Mexico.
Aphids; white flies; spider mites; mealy-bugs.
USDA Temperature Zones:
Zone 12b; or 15-27° C (60-80° F) ±10° C (18° F) Will be killed by any frost.
Similar Species: None noted.
The stems of Salvia divinorum are not very strong. When the plants get taller than about one meter they tend to fall over if not given support. Sometimes the stems will break off, but usually they just bend over. When a bent-over stem makes contact with moist soil, it will put out new roots at that point and eventually send up new stems from the new location. This is the main way that the plant spreads in the wild since it rarely produces viable seed.
Rooting Salvia Cuttings
Rooting Salvia divinorum cuttings is easy. Typically the cuttings will root up nicely if just left in damp moss. For faster results, it's best to root the cuttings in water. Be sure to change the water out daily to avoid any bacterial build up. A simple home rooting unit can greatly enhance rooting of these cuttings. All you need is a mixing bowl, a fish tank air bubble pump and bubble stone, and some stretch wrap. Put several inches of water into the mixing bowl. Insert bubble stone (connected to the pump). Cover the bowl with stretch wrap. Use a knife to make slits in the wrap to hold the cuttings. Make the holes small enough so that it's a tight fit on the cuttings and will hold them in place. Insert the cuttings and submerge an inch or so of the bottom of the cutting in the water. Turn on the bubbler. Place in bright but indirect light. A "tent" of plastic wrap can be used to create a humidity dome in case of dry household air. The cuttings should root in seven to 14 days. With this simple home setup you only need to change out the water weekly. No rooting hormone is necessary, but a pinch of seaweed extract can help to feed the plants some nutrients. Salvia can be grown to large sizes in a similar setup and they grow quite well in water culture.
The plant is easily propagated by cuttings; during the past few decades it has made its way into numerous botanical gardens and private collections around the world. Virtually all of the Salvia divinorum in circulation has been vegetatively propagated from two parent clones of this species. The first specimen was collected by R. Gordon Wasson in 1962. A second, a so called “palatable” strain, was collected by Bret Blosser in 1991. The “palatable” variety is actually still quite bitter, although less so than the Wasson clone. There are a few other strains being maintained, some of which were grown from seed.
Salvia is propagated in much the same manner as coleus. It needs a loose, rich soil. It is best grown as a tub plant and brought indoors when the weather begins to cool. It may be grown outdoors in frost-free areas.
Salvia likes humidity and moisture, moderate but indirect sunlight and warm temperatures. In most parts of the United States it will grow best in a greenhouse and appreciates frequent misting. Too much sunlight will turn the leaves a pale green. If the leaves curl up and dry at the edges, it is a sign that the temperature is too warm for the amount of humidity they are receiving. The plants should be kept from freezing at all times, although they may grow back after a light frost that does not freeze the roots.
Cuttings should be taken in spring, after the plant has had a lot of sun. Cut 0.5 inch below a node and root in no more than an inch of water. A pinch of Rootone may be added to the water and shaken well to dissolve it. This will help prevent stem rot and will stimulate rooting. Cuttings of Salvia divinorum placed in a jar of water will begin rooting within two to three weeks. When the roots are 0.25 inch to one inch long the cutting should be potted. Longer roots may be damaged. Plant in a two-inch pot with good potting soil. Grows rapidly after the roots are established. This plant is susceptible to stem rot if over-watered. It is susceptible to aphids, white flies, spider mites and mealy-bugs.
If you are watering too much, you could be starving the roots for air. A clay pot and perlite in the soil will help avoid this very common mistake with Salvia. A sure indication that you are over watering is the appearance of thin fuzzy roots criss-crossing the top of the soil. Salvia likes moist soil but needs a lot of air in the soil also. If you are watering too much, or have your pot sitting in a saucer that collects the draining water you will suffocate the roots and will soon have a problem with rot also. Never keep your plant in a saucer to catch draining water. It will wick up through the soil and not let air get to the roots. If you’ve caught the situation before rot sets in just let the soil start drying out. Don’t water until the soil starts drying at the very top. Then water until it’s moist. This is always a bit tricky to know how much and when to water. That’s why the wicking system works so well. The plant and soil decides when it needs to bring up more water. The dryer the soil gets the more water will be wicked up, to a point. If the soil is saturated no more water will be brought up.
If you water too much for too long or let it sit in a pan of water, rot will eventually occur. Rot starts at the very bottom of the stem turning it brown and then mushy, destroying the entire plant. The only way to save it then is to make as many cuttings as possible. Put them in little containers with moist soil in a plastic bag out of direct sunlight. Let them root and try again.
Salvia will start off growing very slowly. The plant takes time to recover from a transplant. Larger plants are reported to have a faster growth rate. The last thing that will inhibit Salvia growth is too small a pot. Plant small transplants in a foot and a half diameter pot. This will ensure plenty of room for the roots to grow. If the pot is too small it will become root bound or just slow down growth.
At the very tip of a branch, stem, etc., there is a region called the apical meristem at the apical bud. This region is where all the cell division happens and new growth occurs. It also makes a chemical called Indole acetic acid (IAA). This chemical inhibits all the buds at the leaf nodes (where the leaf attaches to the stem) from growing. If the apical meristem creates a lot of IAA it has a high apical dominance and it usually only has one stem and no branches. Sunflowers are like this. If it has medium apical dominance and creates lower levels of IAA it has fewer branches at the top where the concentration of IAA is high and at the bottom it has many more branches where IAA concentration is lower. Plants with low apical dominance are very bushy and branch often. Therefore, if you remove the apical meristem, you cut off the production of IAA from that bud. It then branches from that point and depending on how much IAA the lateral buds make (lower buds at each node), your plant may branch at each node. So every time you take a cutting off Salvia divinorum, it will branch at the highest intact node.
Even if you don’t want to take a cutting you can pinch that bud off and it will branch there. So instead of having a tall straight plant with only 4-8 large leaves near the top, it becomes bushier and creates many more leaves. However, if you start too high it will get too heavy and break off. So start when it is only 6-8 inches or smaller so the stem can support the bushy growth. This is the very thing you do when you cut your hedges. You’re cutting off the apical meristems and causing it to branch and fill out. By doing this to a Salvia divinorum plant, you will also get a fuller, leafier plant.
Salvia divinorum is a powerful, regal plant that requires a special relationship from the people who grow her. It seems so weak and fragile, yet it is so powerful. Although evolutionarily speaking it seems Salvia has not done as well as other jungle plants, but the very substance that makes her so powerful may be her key to survival. Did she in fact create Salvinorin to attract humans to care for her? To truly know what Salvia divinorum is all about one must cultivate her.
Watch for the leaves and edges of the plant turning brown, this means it is not in its preferred growing environment. Low humidity may be the problem. Try misting the leaves if your environment is not very humid, or build a humidity tent, or move the plant into a bathroom where people use the shower frequently. The stem, and possibly the leaves should return to normal in a couple of weeks. If not, cut the leaves off at the stem to facilitate new growth.
If planting Salvia Divinorum in pots, make sure the pot is large enough to allow the Salvia Divinorum plant to grow well. Although your available space will limit possible pot size, use the biggest pot that is practical. It must have drainage holes. Placing gravel (or broken up pieces of crockery) in the bottom of the pot will help promote drainage and thus discourage root rot. Most commercial potting soil will work well. Adding vermiculite or perlite to the potting soil is helpful but not essential.
Salvia will need fertilizer. Any good general-purpose fertilizer will work. Fish emulsion is a good organic fertilizer choice.
Tips for growing Salvia Divinorum
If growing indoors, take the Salvia Divinorum plants outdoors when it is warm enough and let rain fall on them. This will prevent mineral salts from building up in the soil and killing your Salvia Divinorum plant. Salvia Divinorum can handle a variety of different lighting conditions, but it does best with just a few hours of partial sunlight a day. It can do well when grown indoors near a window. The Salvia Divinorum plants can handle more sun if kept well watered and misted frequently. Salvia Divinorum can also handle moderately deep shade. When changing the lighting conditions or the humidity conditions your Salvia Divinorum plants are exposed to, do so gradually. Given enough time, Salvia is very adaptable.
A Salvia cutting is just what it sounds like: a portion cut off of a full Salvia plant. Cuttings turn into full Salvia plants when properly grown.
1. Put each cutting into a glass of water.
Each glass should have about one and a half to two inches of water. If you have multiple cuttings, put them in separate containers to prevent problems.
2. Plant your Salvia in a pot.
After a couple weeks of sitting indoors in the cups, the Salvia plant should have grown roots about one inch long. Gently move it into potted soil. Keep moist. Again, keep the plant inside for two to three weeks so they will root and grow before being exposed to all kinds of climate variances outside.
3. Make a humidity tent.
Salvia likes humidity, especially to get growing and avoid drying out. A humidity tent can be simply made by putting a clear plastic bag over the cutting. Or use a large, clear plastic container with a few air holes poked out in places, turned upside down. Make sure to air out the humidity every day so that fungus and rot don’t take over.
Begin fertilization about one month after potting. Any general fertilizer should do, but too much will hurt the plant.
Transplant your Salvia into a larger pot of soil every six months or whenever it becomes root-bound, or transplant into your garden if free of frost year-round. Put your potted Salvia inside in some lightly shaded area, and make sure it gets no more than three or four hours of direct sunlight throughout the day.
Starting from an unrooted cutting
Unlike most plants, which have relatively round stems, the stems of Salvia divinorum are square. Also, unlike most plants, the stems of Salvia divinorum are hollow in the center. A freshly made cutting, therefore, when viewed on end, shows the ageless mystery symbol of the circle within a square. The circle inscribed in a square is an ancient Cabalist symbol for the spark of divinity residing within the material. A circle has long represented the divine and everlasting, while the square has symbolized the terrestrial and finite.
The first thing to do upon obtaining a cutting of S. divinorum is to correctly orient it top to bottom. If the cutting is a tip-cutting, or if there are side shoots or leaves, the orientation is self-evident, as the shoots and leaves reach upward. However, because S. divinorum is a very sensitive plant, it is not uncommon for a cutting to drop its leaves or side shoots. Additionally, it is possible that your cutting will be a mid- stem cutting, without a growing tip to aid correct orientation. One technique that disposes of the need to determine the orientation of a mid-stem cutting, has been employed by Daniel Siebert, the first person to experience the effects of isolated salvinorin A, the active principle in the plant.
Simply take a mid-stem cutting that contains at least one node and remove all large leaves. Lay the stem cutting horizontally on wet rich soil and place in a humidity chamber (see below). The stem will root all along its length and send up two new shoots at each node. If you are not using the above technique, it is necessary to determine which end of the cutting is up. Fortunately, so long as you realize that this is an issue, determining the cutting's correct orientation is a simple process of observation.
Examine the nodes (i.e., those places where the otherwise smooth stem becomes bulbous, and from which leaves and side shoots will later grow). When properly oriented, the stem segment above any given node is usually, but not always, of slightly less circumference than the stem segment below a node. In other words, the stem segments usually become more slender toward the top of the plant. Also, careful examination of any given node should reveal upward tilting leaf scars or "shoulders" from which new shoots grow. Once you have determined the cutting's correct orientation, the next step is to prepare it for rooting.
Constructing a rooting chamber
Rooting and growing salvia divinorum is made much easier if you create a high humidity environment. Therefore, unless you live in a naturally humid environment, we strongly recommend the preparation of a humidity chamber to house the fragile cutting while it produces roots.
S. divinorum cuttings can be rooted successfully in second-hand ten gallon aquarium. To turn an aquarium into a humidity chamber, simply measure the top of the aquarium and have your local hardware store cut a piece of glass that snugly fits the top. Give the aquarium a good washing using a clean scrub pad and vinegar. Be especially careful to remove any old algae or fungus-like deposits remaining affixed to the glass from the days when the aquarium may have been a home to fish. Glue or tape a small piece of wood to the glass top to serve as a handle.
With the glass top closed, and daily misting from a hand-held squirt bottle filled with room temperature purified drinking water, your humidity chamber will provide a perfect environment for fragile young cuttings.
Rooting Salvia in water
Rooting in water is the most common and effective method of rooting a Salvia divinorum cutting. If you follow the following steps it is practically fail-safe.
Obtain a bottle, vase, or other tall thin water-holding container. Salvia divinorum roots copiously all along the stem, not just at leaf nodes. Ideally, your rooting vase should be approximately 2/3 the length of your cutting.
Give each cutting its own rooting vase. This way, any stem rot that occurs will remain isolated. Cuttings that have leaves or side shoots will rest on the narrow neck of the bottle such that the submersed rooting area of the stem is entirely suspended.
Rooting compounds are not required. An old gardener 's trick is to put a cutting of pussy willow (Salix discolor) or corkscrew willow (Salis matsudana) in the water with other cuttings you are seeking to root. Willows are strong producers of auxin, a water soluble growth hormone. (Willow branches set in water will actually begin visible root formation in less than two days.) Because auxin is water soluble it flows out of the cut willow stems and is taken up by the S. divinorum cuttings, thereby prompting root formation. You can get fresh cut branches of pussy willow and corkscrew willow at almost any florist. The downside to using a willow cutting is that you may unwittingly introduce pathogens into the water. Some growers wash their cuttings in an antifungal to reduce the risk of stem rot. This is not necessary so long as only purified drinking water is the rooting liquid and the rooting vase is thoroughly clean. An alternative to commercial fungicides is a mixture of one tablespoon bleach to one gallon of water.
If your cutting was not just removed from the mother plant, take a very sharp blade and re-cut the bottom, approximately 6 mm (0.25 in) below the lowest node. Make sure you have the cutting properly oriented before you make the cut. Immediately after making the fresh cut, carefully lower the cutting into the prepared water- filled rooting vase. At least one node should be above the water line and at least one below. Immediately place the vase into the waiting humidity chamber and give the cutting a series of squirts from a hand mister.
Waiting for the Roots to form
Your cutting should now spend all its time inside the humidity chamber. It's optimum if you can keep the inside temperature of the chamber at around 21°C (70°F). The chamber should be well-lit, but not in direct sun.
The humidity inside the chamber should approach 100 percent. This is easy to achieve by occasionally opening the top of the chamber and misting the inside with room temperature purified drinking water. You can combat stress and promote quicker rooting by foliar feeding once a day. To do this, fill another misting bottle with ¼ strength Stern's Miracle Gro or Earth Juice along with two tablespoons seaweed extract per gallon. Each time you mist or foliar feed, fan the air in the chamber a bit before you spray to provide some beneficial air circulation.
If you follow these procedures and keep the chamber in indirect sunlight or under bright fluorescent lights (dark at night is fine), the cutting should produce roots in two to three weeks. You may even begin to see new leaf and side shoot growth.
The first sign of roots will be tiny pin-prick-size white pimples that will appear on the stem. A few days after these appear, they will begin to lengthen, quickly becoming delicate thin roots. In the humidity chamber, with daily spray bottle misting, it is not uncommon for these roots to form above the waterline and reach out into the humid air, looking like neuronal dendrites.
When the roots are approximately 2.5 cm (1 in) long, it's time to plant the cutting in soil. Letting the roots grow any longer seems to make them more susceptible to shock and increases the opportunity for stem rot.
Planting in soil
Once your cutting has rooted in water, the next step is to plant it in its first soil pot. Obtain a pot that is tall enough to allow soil to cover all the newly-formed roots. The pot must have sufficient drainage holes. Several holes around the periphery of the hase allow better drainage than one single hole in the center. Healthy S. divinorum can produce a large root mass quickly. We recommend you start your cutting in no smaller than a one gallon pot to avoid having to re-pot too soon. We routinely start ours in fifteen gallon pofs (and larger) and thcreby avoid re-potting altogether.
For S. divinorum we only use plastic pots, not terracotta. ln our experience, terra-cotta pots allow too much side evaporation to occur. The soil in plastic pots dries out slower and forces the water to evaporate off the soil surface, thereby exposing the underside of the plant to a very fine upward-rising mist. Just be sure you don't over-water, as plastic pots are more conducive to root rot than terracotta pots.
Once you have mixed your soil, fill the bottom of your pot with your mixture. Then, carefully rest the base of your cutting on this soil as you sprinkle handfuls of your soil mixture around the stem, being very careful not to tear the fine root hairs.
Loosely pack soil around the cutting until all the roots are covered and at least one leaf node protrudes from the soil. The soil should be firm but not compressed too tightly.
Once in soil, give the plant a slow but thorough watering with room temperature fish emulsion solution mixed at 1/2 the manufacture's recommendation (using purified water is no longer necessary). Immediately, place the potted plant back into the humidity chamber or into a humidity tent.
Constructing a humidity tent
The humidity chamber, described earlier, is a great aid for rooting cuttings. But, it is too small and, being made of glass, too fragile to host potted plants. Therefore, we strongly suggest that before you pot your young rooted cutting, you prepare a larger humidity-controlled environment, which we call a humidity "tent".
Small humidity tents approximately 90 cm (3 ft) tall, made of plastic, and looking somewhat like fully enclosed oblong umbrellas with bottoms, can be found advertised in the back of gardening magazines or at specialty gardening stores. These tents work well for young S. divinorum plants. The humidity can be controlled by a small ultrasonic humidifier set on a timer, or by simply squirting inside the tent with a hand mister a few times each day. lt will not take long, however, for your plant to outgrow such a small tent.
A very good humidity-controlled environment, capable of housing a dozen or so mature S. divinorum plants, can be made for about $140 by utilizing an off-the-shelf "screen tent" available in the sporting goods department of K-Mart, Target, or similar stores. The tents are sold as shade or mosquito tents to protect picnickers, and feature fabric tops and fully-screened side walls.
The best tent for our purposes has no bottom, but is otherwise fully enclosed with screen and has quality tall zipper entrances. The screen allows in filtered sunlight, and helps contain humidity, while still allowing plenty of air circulation. Another benefit to using such a tent is that beneficial insects released inside it stay around much longer than if released in an open environment.
Growing Salvia Outside
Despite what many people believe, it is possible to grow Salvia divinorum outside a humidity-controlled environment, it just takes some care and attention. Many growers have given up on this after removing a plant from a humidity-controlled environment and finding it completely wilted only an hour later.
The trick to growing S. divinorum in a non-humidity-controlled environment is careful "hardening off". Growing S. divinorum in a humidity-controlled environment makes the plants "soft" and less able to cope with environmental changes, but if you help them adjust they are able to do so. Never remove a S. divinorum plant from a humidity-controlled environment and leave it out in the open air all at once. You must incrementally give the plant more and more exposure to dry air, wind, and sunlight. The best technique is the following. Water your plant thoroughly, remove it from the humidity tent, and set it in a shady, wind-protected spot. Give the plant a hand misting. Set a timer to alert you when one hour has passed. When the timer rings, return the plant to its controlled environment. Each day, remove the plant for an additional hour, so that by the end of two weeks it is spending all day outdoors. Pay attention to how the sun moves to ensure that a plant placed in morning shade does not receive direct afternoon sunlight. Once the plant is acclimated, it should be given a permanent home in a wind protected location that receives filtered sunlight. Consider installing a drip watering system with misting nozzles for ease of care.
Optimum growing parameters
Salvia divinorum does best in loose rich potting soil and/or leaf mold, with good drainage. We do not use perlite or vermiculite, but many other successful growers do. We avoid soil that contains any redwood or cedar chips. Our best results have been obtained by using slightly aged (i.e., brown) grass clippings and a little aged steer manure, mixed with good, rich, dark potting soil, compost, and coarse sand.
Soils in tropical environments like the Sierra Mazateca typically contain a great amount of organic material. The natural breakdown of this organic material produces a pH that is slightly acidic and also aerates the soil. We have found that S. divinorum does well by duplicating these soil conditions.
Soil mix for Salvia:
Another successful grower uses the following soil mix with great success:
Leander Valdés, who studied S. divinorum at the University of Michigan, used the following mixture:
You may wish to experiment with these formulas. If you are concerned that your soil may be too dense or clay-like, try adding some perlite.
Regardless of what soil mixture you use, try to keep your soil pH between 6.1 and 6.6. Watering approximately once a month with Stern's Miracid® or with a solution of 1 tablespoon of 50- grain (5 percent) natural apple cider vinegar to one gallon of water can keep the pH down.
If your soil is too alkaline (above 7.0) you can make it more acidic by mixing in small amounts of powdered sulfur or chelated iron. If your soil is way too acidic, add ground limestone or crushed oyster shells to increase the alkalinity.
In its natural environment of the Sierra Mazateca, the highest temperature is about 26°C (78°F), and more typically ranges between 16-21°C (60-70°F). Salvia divinorum does best in a relatively cool and mild climate. Above 29°C (85°F), any plant that isn't well acclimated, or inside a humidity tent, will show signs of wilting. If your plant is properly acclimated and/or inside a humidity tent, it should withstand warm days without any harm. On very hot days, simply leave the misters on longer.
If the temperature drops below freezing, S. divinorum will quickly die, wilting and turning a horrifying black overnight. Therefore, if you live in a cold location you will need to move your S. divinorum plants indoors or into a heated greenhouse during the severest winter months. Frozen plants simply die. The best you can do, should one of your plants fall victim to unexpected cold temperatures, is to cut it back to about 26 cm (10 in) above the soil level, and hope that the rootball survived. Come warmer temperatures, the plant might recover - but many don't. (Plants that do grow back after a freeze often grow prolifically because of the well-developed rootmass.)
Most growers who move their plants indoors during the winter, perform their major leaf harvest in late summer. This garners a substantial amount of foliage while also making it much easier to move the otherwise lanky plants with less risk of damage. Cut the plants back to about 26 cm (10 in) above the soil level. They will heal and grow just a hit during the fall. As temperatures grow colder move them inside under artificial lights or into a heated greenhouse.
Another winter option is to force your plants into dormancy by cutting them back and moving them to a fairly well-lit but cool shelter - no colder than 4°C (40°F). With little or no leaves on them, the plants require watering only about once every six weeks (no misting is required) and can withstand at least four months of such conditions without harm (Beifuss 1998). This is a good technique for those who wish a vacation from tending their plants year-round.
Misting, watering & feeding of Salvia
Even well-established Salvia divinorum plants do best with regular misting. If you only have a few plants, this can be done with a hand spray bottle, filled with room temperature purified water. Water quality can markedly affect S. divinorum. You might consider experimenting with collected rainwater, unless you live in an area affected by acid rain. (Check the pH of collected rainwater before using it.)
Avoid tap water that is excessively hard (i.e., above 150 ppm hardness), or water with sodium levels above 50 ppm (a level which some municipal water can exceed even without softening). Water above these levels has a deleterious effect upon S. divinorum.
If you have several plants, it is recommended that you purchase a pump-type spray bottle. These bottles hold about two liters of water and have a pump that protrudes from the cap. After pumping them up, they emit a fine spray just by squeezing the trigger. These bottles can be purchased at K-Mart for about $10.
If your plants are grown outdoors or in a humidity tent, we strongly recommend that you set up a drip watering system that utilizes misting nozzles. (The Raindrip misting nozzle delivers 3 gallons per hour.) This is certainly the most efficient way to mist your plants. You can set such a system on a timer to turn on for five minutes several times per day, or you can turn the water on by hand. Regular misting keeps the soil damp on top, but don't make the mistake of thinking that regular watering is not also required.
Fertilize your S. divinorum every 7 to 10 days with a fish emulsion mixture, according to directions on the bottle. Consider Alaska "fish fertilizer", which is 5-1-1. There are some drawbacks to using fish emulsion. As you would expect, fish emulsion stinks, and you should seriously consider this before watering indoor plants with it. Even for outdoor plants, the fishy odor is strong enough to call out to roaming cats, dogs, possums, or other animals. Therefore, if you feed your plants with fish emulsion, be sure they are in a protected location where curious animals cannot get to them! Also, more than powdered fertilizers, fish emulsion seems to attract insect pests.
Every third watering or so, rather than use fish emulsion some growers use Stern's Miracid® a 30-10-10 fertilizer that contains chelated iron, magnesium and zinc. This helps keep our soil slightly acidic. We water about one-third as often in the winter months, but mist just as frequently. In his experiments at the University of Michigan, Valdés fertilized his plants once per week with Stern's Miracle Gro® a 15-30-15 fertilizer. To increase the acidity of the solution he added I ml of an 85% phosphoric acid solution per 5 gallons of water (Valdés et al. 1987). The soil should never be allowed to become bone dry. By watering once every 7 to 10 days, and misting every day, soil cycles from very wet immediately after watering, to almost dry on the day before the next watering. Allowing the soil moisture to cycle in this way encourages aeration and guards against root rot.
Salvia Light Requirements
Salvia divinorum does best in filtered sunlight. Conventional wisdom is to avoid all direct sunlight, however, once acclimated, S. divinorum does fine with some direct sunlight each day. A plant that gets too much direct sunlight will start to develop smaller, deformed and coarse leaves.
The single best supplement to natural light is a high pressure sodium (HPS) lamp. An HPS lamp is more efficient than an equivalent watt metal halide lamp and its spectrum of light is more conducive to the rooting of new cuttings. As a supplement to natural light, a 400-watt HPS lamp will illuminate a primary growing area of just under two square meters (about 6 ft x 6 ft). For growers with three or fewer plants, a 250 watt HPS lamp should suffice.
Plants grown exclusively under a sodium lamp, however, will be slightly leggier than plants grown under a metal halide lamp. Therefore, if you are growing S. divinorum without any natural light and want to maximize vegetative growth, a metal halide lamp is your best choice (Chomicz 1998). Valdés reported that his plants did well under cool white VHO fluorescent lights (Valdés et al. 1987). Another grower has successfully used a 400-watt metal halide lamp to illuminate a 2.5 square meter (about 8 ft x 8 ft) growing space (Beifuss 1997). He reports that the leaves lighten in color, but this does not seem to harm the plants nor affect their potency.
When using a high-watt lamp (HPS or metal halide), keep the lamp at least two feet above the plants to avoid burning them. A reddish blush to the leaves indicates that the light is still too close to the plant tops. Because high-watt lamps emit a dry heat, extra misting may be necessary. Before doing this however, shield the lamp from water droplets. Hot lamps can explode if water hits them! Under artificial light, S. divinorum foliage is maximized with eighteen hours of light per day. To produce flowers, natural or artificial light must be reduced to no more than 11 hours per day.
Hydroponic Cultivation of Salvia
Salvia divinorum can be grown hydroponically. A basic hydroponic setup utilizes a special growing medium in place of soil, and a rudimentary drip system driven by a low wattage aquarium pump that trickles a stream of nutrient solution through the growing medium. The solution is recaptured in a reservoir, oxygenated by a second aquarium pump fitted with a bubbler, and re-circulated.
Although hydroponic cultivation requires extra attentiveness by the grower, at least one very successful cultivator, Mr. Andrew Chomicz, reports that the additional care is rewarded with excellent results. The following sections are derived from his extensive exploration of S. divinorum hydroponic cultivation techniques (Chomicz 1998).
Salvia Growing medium
Salvia divinorum does weil in a 75/25 mix of expanded clay pebbles and coconut fiber (aka "coconut coil"). Expanded clay pebbles manufactured specifically for hydroponic growing (and sold under brand names such as HydroRock™ and Grorox™) offer superior oxygenation to rockwool, and are far more environmentally friendly than rockwool slabs.
Coconut fiber is widely used in current hydroponic cultivation - a welcome alternative to materials like peat (which is often ravenously scoured from sensitive peat bogs). Coconut fibers are a completely natural product recovered from the waste stream of commercial coconut processing. The fibers are excellent at holding oxygen as well as water, thereby improving aeration. They also help stabilize pH and buffer against nutrient fluctuations and temporary equipment malfunctions. Coconut fiber seems to discourage some plant pathogens.
Mr. Chomicz has experimented with water culture: a system that entirely dispenses with a solid growing medium. In water culture the roots of the plants are suspended or floated in a bath of constantly re- circulating and oxygenated liquid nutrient.
A similar technique, known as "nutrient film technique" (NFT) employs channels, tubes, or gutters, in which the plants hang, and through which a thin film of nutrient solution constantly circulates. An even more minimalist technique, called "aeroponics," constantly mists the roots with nutrient solution. Because aeroponics provides a highly-oxygenated solution, S. divinorum grown aeroponically is said to do remarkably well. The major draw back, however, is that an aeroponic system must function flawlessly. The slightest glitch (e.g., an interruption of power or a clogged mister) spells disaster; for without any growing medium to retain water, the roots quickly dry out and suffer potentially irreparable damage.
There are numerous brands of fertilizer that are manufactured expressly for hydroponic systems. No particular brand or formulation stands out as best for Salvia divinorum. Because S. divinorum seems to appreciate mineral-rich media, look for a formula which contains micro nutrients in addition to the usual profile of macro nutrients.
Use a formula intended for vegetative growth and follow the manufacturer's directions to mix the solution. If the manufacturer gives different mixing ratios for specific crops, good results will be obtained by following the ratio used for growing lettuce or other leafy crops. If you have an EC meter (an instrument that measures electric conductivity - a function of the concentration of dissolved fertilizer salts in the nutrient solution) aim for an EC level of between 1.6 and 2.4.
It is very important that you change your nutrient solution regularly. When plants are actively growing, this means a complete change of solution every four to six weeks. Although the nutrient solution is re-captured in a reservoir and re-circulated, the amount of liquid in circulation will slowly decrease due to evaporation and plant respiration. Top-up the reservoir with a 1/2 strength nutrient solution. Using a 1/2 strength solution will help guard against the accumulation of excess nutrients while still replenishing those which have been depleted.
Salvia roots love oxygen. For this reason, it helps to oxygenate the nutrient solution when it is re-captured in the reservoir. This is easily done by employing a second aquarium pump fitted with a bubbler placed in the reservoir. You can also take advantage of the fact that oxygen is more soluble in cool water. Generally speaking, the colder the water, the higher the content of oxygen. Simply by keeping your nutrient solution cool, you will increase the oxygen content of the solution and significantly benefit your plants. The optimum temperature of nutrient solution is between 18-21°C (65-70°F). Using a solution that is much warmer will stress the plants and invite serious pathogens such as the root-rotting fungus pythium. Therefore, it is important to keep your nutrient reservoir out of direct sun from late spring to early fall.
In the winter months, it may be necessary to slightly heat the nutrient solution. Use an aquarium heater in the reservoir, or use a dark colored reservoir to absorb warming sunlight.
Hydroponic cultivation requires very careful attention to the pH of the nutrient solution. For the clay pebbles/coconut fiber medium, a pH of between 5.5 and 6.0 is optimum. For rockwool, a more alkaline solution of between 6.0 and 6.3 seems best in order to protect against an acidic breakdown of the rockwool's mineral structure. Inexpensive pH test strips are the best way to monitor the pH of the solution, unless you invest in an expensive pH pen or meter. (Low-priced pH meters are notoriously inaccurate and unreliable). Phosphoric acid can be used to lower pH, while adding potassium hydroxide will raise pH. The pH of the solution should be tested at least every three days, and immediately adjusted as required.
Pests and Pest Control Solutions
There are a number of insects that commonly feast on Salvia divinorum and, which if not controlled, can severely stress the plant, or in extreme cases prove fatal. We avoid all non-organic pesticides and strongly recommend that you do the same. All the common pests of S. divinorum are relatively easy to control, and an attentive gardener should notice their appearance before any infestation becomes critical. Each of the common pests will be discussed below with specific control tips. In addition to the control tactics discussed below for each particular pest, we have had great success controlling aphids and whiteflies by spraying the following solution on the infested leaves whenever we notice the pests. The solution does not harm S. divinorum and is non-toxic:
If your plants ever become infested with whitefly eggs, try washing them off with pure liquid castile soap. This is a labor intensive process, but a labor of love. Dab your hands in a bowl of the liquid soap and gently rub infested leaves between your thumb and fingers, thereby dislodging the eggs. Spray off the soap with a misting bottle. Don't worry about the soapy runoff or residue left on the leaves, It is harmless.
In extreme cases of infestation, pyrethrin (aka pyrethrum) maybe called for. Pyrethrin is a natural product extracted from Chrysanthemum flowers. (Synthetic versions are called pyrethroids.) Pyrethrin is an insect nerve poison and is commonly used to control pests on fruits and vegetables. It kills insects rather indiscriminately however, dealing a death blow to beneficial insects such as ladybugs.
Pyrethrin is the active ingredient in many commercial products marketed as safe for use on fruits and vegetables. While it is organic and commonly used on food crops, in an abundance of caution we recommend using it only as a last resort. It is moderately toxic to mammals and can trigger hay fever in some people. Also, in an abundance of caution we recommend avoiding any product that contains piperonyl butoxide (BTO), a synergistic additive that boosts the effectiveness of pyrethrin, but which may detrimentally affect the human nervous system.
Whiteflies (Trialeurodes Vaporariorum) parasitize Salvia divinorum, and if not controlled can significantly weaken a plant. You probably won't notice them until you brush against a leaf and suddenly notice flying white dots about 1 mm (.04 in) in size. Whiteflies congregate on the underside of leaves Ind lay eggs. They harm the plant by sucking its sap Ind by producing a honeydew-like excreta that can become moldy.
To control whiteflies (and to a lesser extent, aphids) we exploit their natural attraction to yellow. A company named SureFire™ makes a non-toxic sticky-surfaced yellow cardboard trap that works well. The pests are attracted to the yellow colored cards, but stick to the surface upon landing. We have these hanging year round near all our S. divinorum. New research from the University of California indicates that placing tinfoil on the ground around plants susceptible to whiteflies confuses the pests perhaps reflecting the sky and making them "think" they are on the wrong side of the leaf. In any event the trick is said to keep whiteflies from landing This information is new to us and we are just now beginning a trial run in our gardens.
If your plants are growing in a closed environment such as a humidity tent or mini-greenhouse Encarsia formosa wasps are very effective at controlling whitefly infestations. (This species of wasp is very small and will not sting humans.) The wasps lay their eggs inside developing whitefly pupa, killing them. Biocontrol with E. formosa, however, works best in the hot summer months.
Spider Mites (Tetranoychidae spp.) can be a problem for Salvia divinorum, especially when plants are grown in a greenhouse or humidity tent. Spider mites are usually first spotted when they cause small yellow spots on the top surface of the leaves or (in a serious infestation) spin a web around the growing tips of the plants and turn the leaves brown. When you inspect the underside of a leaf you will see yellow, tan, or greenish pinhead- sized bugs with dark spots on each shoulder. An effective biocontrol for spider mites is Phytoseiulus persimilis - insects that devour spider mites with a vengeance. These carnivorous predators will not eat S. divinorum or other plants.
Sulfur powder is also effective against spider mites. It can be applied directly with an old flour sifter. (Sulfur is available from White Buffalo Trading Co.)
The telltale sign of aphids (Aphididae spp) on Salvia divinorum is curled and puckered young tender leaves. Upon inspection you'll see small, soft bodied, (usually) green bugs clustered on the growing tips and the underside of leaves. Aphids carry plant diseases and, like whiteflies, weaken S. divinorum plants by sucking out leaf juices and by excreting a honeydew feces that attracts mold. We have had great success controlling aphids with the soapy-alcohol solution described earlier. If you're a fan of ladybugs (Hippodamia convergens), or really need to control a serious aphid invasion, introducing ladybugs often takes care of the problem and causes no harm to S. divinorum. As with other biocontrols, ladybugs work best in enclosed environments such as a humidity tent or greenhouse.
Although we have never had an attack of these creatures, we have heard several reports of scale (Coccidae spp.) on S. divinorum. Scale are insects, but other than in their very earliest stage, they look more like very tiny clam shells stuck to the undersides of leaves. They can be any number of colors, and they damage the plant by sucking out plant juices and injecting toxic fluid into plant tissues. We are not aware of any really effective biocontrols for scale, but fortunately they are easily dealt with by spraying them with the soapy-alcohol formula described earlier. Stubborn scale may need to be physically rubbed off, similar to removing whitefly eggs.
Snails and Slugs
Snails can quickly damage Salvia divinorum, chewing large holes in the leaves in a single night. Snails usually disappear during daylight hours. Checking your plants before bed with a flashlight can catch the culprits. Diatomaceous Earth and Boric Acid are also good killers for these pests (both available from White Buffalo Trading Co.)
Thin copper (0.5 mm/0.02 in) has been used by gardeners for several decades to form a line that snails won't cross. Copper sheeting or tape sold or this purpose is available in most garden stores. Tape it around the edges of your pots or slide it edgewise into the soil, making a copper fence around the base of your plants. Because the copper conducts an electrochemical shock into the snails, it only works as long as the copper is shiny. Buff it or replace it with new shiny copper when it becomes dull from oxidation (which usually takes at least a year). At the same time you apply the copper barrier, carefully check the underside of every leaf, as a snail or slug may occasionally hide out there, and once inside the copper barrier will be undeterred from eating your plants.
Other Salvia Growing Problems:
Browning leaf edges
Most people who grow Salvia divinorum will, at one time or another, have a plant with leaf tips and edges that turn brown for no apparent reason. Usually this browning remains limited to the leaf tips and edges but occasionally it can encompass complete leaves and become critical. As far as we know, no one has been able to figure out a definitive cause for this phenomenon.
Some growers have postulated that certain S. divinorum diseases are systemic, lying dormant until the plant is under sufficient stress to cause the emergence of the disease. This systemic disease, perhaps a virus, may have developed in S. divinorum due to the extensive cloning it has undergone. S. divinorum's static genotype may have allowed a leaf-browning virus to build itself into the plant - something that might not have developed if the plant's reproduction was occurring through the normal mix of genetically varied material. If this theory is correct, the browning phenomenon may only be preventable by keeping your plants in optimum growing conditions and uncompromised by stress. Indeed, we have noticed that the browning phenomenon almost exclusively attacks plants that are weak or under stress. Such stresses can be many.
Certainly, a plant removed from a humidity-controlled environment without proper acclimation may develop brown leaves, but more commonly the entire plant wilts and leaves drop off. The browning phenomenon is usually not accompanied by wilt.
The browning phenomenon is most common on plants that have spent their entire life inside glass or plastic humidity chambers/tents. In such cases, the browning may be the result of poor air circulation. A plant grown in a stagnant environment that reaches 32°C (90°F) may develop browning leaves - perhaps because the plant's ability to transpire is reduced. Similar to our own body's tendency to overheat in a hot humid stagnant environment, the plant may overheat for inability to efficiently transpire.
Lack of fertilizer, or too much fertilizer may also invite browning leaves. On many plants, brown tipped leaves signal that the plant is receiving too much fertilizer. When combined with inadequate water, chemical salts can build up in the soil and this burns the tender edges of the leaves. The usual cure is to cut back on fertilizer and flush the soil thoroughly with water.
Brown leaves can also be the result of root rot on an over-watered plant with poor drainage or heavy soil. If root rot is the problem, try re-potting the plant into light well-draining soil and withholding water for awhile. Finally, a root-bound plant might also exhibit signs of browning leaf edges, though more commonly bound roots are indicated by a significant reduction in the plant's growth rate and an overall ragged appearance. Because the cause of the leaf-browning phenomenon is not known, the cure remains an enigma. The old proverb that "the best cure is prevention" is certainly apropos.
Yellow-leafed Salvia divinorum usually is a signal that the plant is receiving too much water. Over watering leaches out nutrients that the plant uses to create chlorophyll - a green energy-absorbing pigment. We've seen this in west coast S. divinorum left outdoors during the rainy winter season. To green up the leaves, reduce water and feed the plant some chelated iron (powder or liquid form) according to the directions on the bottle. Feeding with Stern's Miracid which contains chelated iron and other nutrients, will usually do the trick.
Slow growth & ragged appearance
Under optimum conditions, Salvia divinorum grows fast, sometimes over a foot a month in the summer. It can quickly become root-bound in a small pot. Therefore, as your plant starts to gain in size, you would do well to re-pot it into increasingly larger pots. If at any point your plant seems to have slowed its growth but conditions are otherwise optimum, it probably means it has become root-bound and needs re-potting to a larger pot.
Pruning for maximum foliage production
We don't mean to sound crass, but for most people, the name of the game in Salvia divinorum growing is to maximize the amount of foliage harvested. This requires pruning. The best time to prune is during the spring and summer, when S. divinorum is growing its fastest. To make a plant bushier, such that it will produce more leaves, use a sharp blade to cut off the growing tips of the main stalks. Make your cut just above a node. This will force the stem to bifurcate at that point in the direction of the nodal leaves. Don't waste the precious tip-cuttings taken during pruning. They should be rooted and replanted. In fact, when you prune you should have a rooting vase at the ready.
Once your Salvia divinorum plant is established, it should be able to withstand fairly significant leaf harvesting, and actually fare better for it. Many growers regularly remove leaves from their plants, picking them as leaves begin to crowd others, reach heir maximum size, or start to appear deformed. This technique can keep a single user in constant supply of fresh and dried leaf.
Salvia divinorum is a sacred plant ally, and it is worth keeping this in mind whenever harvesting her leaves. In our experience, saying a prayer to the plant prior to taking any of her leaves and remaining mindful, sensitive, and grateful while picking leaves may have an effect on the leaves' divinatory and visionary properties. It also shows due respect For another life-form - a respect clearly owed S. divinorum. The conventional wisdom is that potency is highest during the long hot days of summer. We suggest you conduct your own experiments for optimum harvest time.
Drying Harvested Salvia leaves
Fresh leaves of Salvia divinorum can, of course be used for divinatory and visionary purposes. Traditionally the Mazatec used only the fresh leaves Dried leaves, however, are also active and can be stored for later use.
Properly drying the leaves is very important. All your work will be for nothing if the harvested leave rot, mold, or are subjected to conditions that change the natural chemical constituents locked within. Fortunately, the active principle, salvinorin A, is very stable and can withstand a certain degree of rough handling. Nevertheless, it is important to preserve the leaves such that they undergo the least amount of chemical change possible. Ultimately, you simply want to remove all the water content, but leave everything else unchanged. This can be achieved quickly by placing the leaves in an oven at the lowest possible setting - below 93°C (200°F) - which dries them within 15 minutes. There are several techniques for slow drying harvested leaves. One technique is to place harvested leaves in a cardboard box and place this box in a shady location with good air circulation. It is best to do this on a day when the temperature is between 26-38°C (80-100°F). Shake the box several times a day to expose new surface area to the air. You may need to bring the box inside at night if dew appears likely. The leaves should be dry in a few days.
Another technique is to lay the leaves between window screens and set a low wattage fan to blow a constant stream of air over/through the screens. A final technique is to use a food dehydrator set to the medium temperature setting, about 63°C (145°F). Leaves placed in a food dehydrator usually are fully dried within three hours and retain much of their green color. Under any method, the leaves are dry when they are crisp and crumble easily. They should then be placed in airtight glass jars and kept in a cool, dry, dark location. On average, the leaves contain just over 80 percent water, so that one ounce (about 28 grams) of fresh leaves dries to between five and six grams of dried leaves.
The stems and roots of S. divinorum contain only low amounts of salvinorin A, if any. They are not worth processing for visionary use.
Plants should be one to two years old before leaves are harvested. Four plants are needed for one dose. An equal number of leaves should be harvested from each plant so that the shock to one plant will not be too great. Dosage may vary; begin with ten to twenty fresh leaves. Fresh leaves are used, as the active principle is believed to be unstable. Ideally, the leaves should be chewed.
Preparing the Leaves
Salvia divinorum leaves should be dried in a food dehydrator on a medium high setting (130-140 degrees). At this temperature, drying will take between one to two hours depending on the size of the leaves. I remove the mid ribs on the large leaves and they never take more than one hour to dry. Drying at lower temperatures causes the leaves to lose their green color and turn brown. The leaves are 90% water, so ten grams of fresh leaves equals one gram of dried material. It takes a lot of fresh leaves to produce one ounce of dried leaves; a gallon size plastic bag stuffed full with leaves weighs only two ounces.