Salvia divinorum has a long and continuing tradition of religious use as an entheogen by indigenous Mazatec shamans, who use it to facilitate visionary states of consciousness during spiritual healing sessions.The plant is found in isolated, shaded, and moist habitat in the mountain cloud forest in Oaxaca, Mexico. It grows to well over a meter in height. It has hollow square stems, large green leaves, and occasional white flowers with purple bracts. Botanists have not determined whether it is a cultigen or a hybrid.
Its primary psychoactive constituent is a diterpenoid known as salvinorin A, which is a potent κ-opioid receptor agonist. Salvinorin A is unique in that it is the only naturally occurring substance known to induce a visionary state this way. Salvia divinorum can be chewed, smoked, or taken as a tincture to produce intense and profound alternative states of consciousness, and, occasionally, unpredictable behaviors that range from laughter to unintelligible speech. The duration of effects is much briefer than those of other, more well-known psychoactive compounds, typically lasting minutes only. The most commonly reported after-effects include an improved mood and sensations of insight, calmness, and connection with nature-though rarely it may also cause dysphoria (unpleasant or uncomfortable mood).Salvia divinorum is not generally understood to be toxic or addictive, and as a κ-opioid agonist, it may have potential as an analgesic and as a therapeutic tool for treating drug addictions. While not currently regulated by USA federal drug laws, several states have passed laws criminalizing the substance and the DEA has listed Salvia as a "drug of concern".