SALVINORIN A: THE BREAKTHROUGH

Daniel J. Siebert

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Daniel Siebert


This report represents the first investigation into the human pharmacology of refined salvinorin A. It also documents the discovery that this compound is responsible for the psychoactive effects of Salvia divinorum. The results of this experiment were later reported in my 1994 Journal of Ethnopharmacology paper, Salvia divinorum and Salvinorin A: New Pharmacologic Findings. This account describes the effects of what turned out to be a very high dose. I strongly advise people to work with lower doses. One should choose a dose that allows one to work with the experience in a thoughtful and deliberate manner.


June 6, 1993
2.5 mg unidentified impure crystalline fraction of Salvia divinorum.
(Later the material was analyzed and was shown to be approximately 70-80% salvinorin A)

I had set out to prepare a relatively crude but significantly concentrated extract of Salvia divinorum. During the extraction procedure I managed to isolate some fairly pure crystalline material. This was not something that I had anticipated doing, and at the time, I thought this was probably an inactive component of the plant that could be discarded. As I was getting ready to throw it in the trash, it suddenly occurred to me that perhaps I should test a little; just on the remote chance that it might actually be active. “Not very likely,” I thought. Fortunately I decided to play it safe, and so I tested what I thought would be a fairly small dose. What follows is a record of the scattered bits and pieces of my memory of that event.

I placed 2.5 mg of the material to be tested on a small piece of aluminum foil. I held a small torch under it, and as soon as the substance vaporized, I inhaled the fumes through a piece of glass tubing. I waited awhile and decided that nothing was going to happen. The last words to pass through my head went something like, “Just as I thought. This stuff is inactive. I'll go toss it in the trash.” Then quite suddenly I found myself in a confused, fast moving state of consciousness with absolutely no idea where my body or my universe had gone. I have little memory of this initial period of the experience, but I do know that a lot was happening and that it seemed quite literally like an eternity, when in fact it must only have lasted a few minutes.

I felt that something had gone wrong and I wanted desperately to get back to the “real” world. I searched my memory trying to remember where it was that I had been just moments before. I had no memory of the fact that I was experiencing the effects of a compound that I had isolated from Salvia divinorum. I tried to remember what my body felt like, what my house looked like, and so forth. Anything, just something to reconnect me with the “normal” world. But the more I searched for a strand of “normality” to grab a hold of, the more I was shown something else. At some point I realized that what I was trying to get back to did not exist—it was just an ephemeral dream. At this point I realized that I had no actual memory of ever having existed in any other state of consciousness than the disembodied one I was now in. So I decided to stop panicking and just relax. After all, there was no place to get back to. I was totally convinced that this state of existence was all there ever was.

Then I suddenly found myself standing in the living room. The effects of the substance were wearing off. All of the confusion dissolved, and I returned to the physical world. I looked around me, and the room came into sharp focus. I was relieved to be back. But then I saw that something was very wrong! This was not my living room. It was the living room of my deceased maternal grandparents. And it was furnished as it was when I was a child, not as it was later in their life. The most extraordinary thing about this was that this was the real world, not a memory or vision. I was really there, and it was all just as solid as the room I'm sitting in now. I had the sudden realization that although I had managed to pull myself back into my body I had somehow ended up back in the wrong spot in the timeline of my physical existence. I was convinced that I might be stuck in this situation and would have to continue my life from this point in my past. As I panicked and desperately tried to remember where it was that I was supposed to be, I lost awareness of the physical world again and found myself without a body—lost. Then it happened again. I found myself regaining consciousness in the real world. And again, as soon as I saw everything clearly, I realized that this was not my home, it was a friend of mine’s. Then again I panicked and lost consciousness. This cycle repeated at least seven or eight times. Always I would find myself in a familiar room. Some of these places were from my childhood and some were from my more recent past. In this state, all the points of time in my personal history coexisted. One did not precede the next. Apparently, had I so willed it, I could return to any point in my life and really be there, because it was actually happening right now.

Then at some point I did indeed find myself back in my home. I was standing in the dining room. I wanted to reassure myself that everything was as it should be, so I turned around to see the rest of the room behind me. I kept turning around but there was no “behind” me. There was only “in front” of me. I reached around for the back pockets of my jeans but couldn't seem to find them.

A little later the physical world all started to work properly again. As the effects began to subside I managed to piece together what had happened. I remembered that I had tested a crystalline isolate, and realized that it must be responsible for what I had just been through. I realized that I had just made an important discovery. I felt ecstatic. I was literally jumping for joy. I wanted to say “EUREKA !!!”. I had stumbled upon the psychedelic essence of Salvia divinorum.

I grabbed a pen and tried to write down a few notes while the experience was still fresh. The first thing I wrote down in big letters was:

"IT IS TOTAL MADNESS."

then:

"TEARING APART THE FABRIC OF REALITY."

then:

"This is tooooooooo strong. It is tearing apart the fabric of existence. It is madness. Thank god it only lasted 10-15 minutes!"

For the next two hours I felt light headed and restless. I couldn't sit still. Whenever I sat down I felt compelled to get up. I tried to eat something and drink a little wine in order to get grounded and relaxed, but I couldn't seem to swallow anything. I had been shaken to the soul.