Explore the world of legal psychedelics, including the effects, risks, and legal status of Salvia divinorum, morning glory seeds, and Amanita muscaria.
TL;DR: Salvia divinorum, morning glory seeds, and amanita muscaria are mind-altering substances that have been used for centuries for spiritual and medicinal purposes. Salvia divinorum is a plant native to Mexico that contains the psychoactive compound salvinorin A. Morning glory seeds come from a flowering vine found in many parts of the world and contain the psychoactive compound LSA, a chemical similar to LSD. Amanita muscaria is a type of mushroom found in many parts of the world that contains the psychoactive compounds muscimol and the neurotoxin ibotenic acid. Consuming Amanita muscaria raw poses significant health risks, though parboiling it in plenty of water weakens its toxicity. The legality of these substances varies depending on the jurisdiction. They can have powerful and unpredictable effects on the mind and body, and should be used with caution.
Salvia divinorum, AKA diviner’s sage, or simply salvia, is a perennial shrub-like herb native to Oaxaca, Mexico. The plant has large green leaves that can grow up to 30 cm long, and occasionally blossoms with pretty white and light violet flowers.
Salvia’s principal psychoactive component, salvinorin A, is the most potent naturally occurring psychedelic compound discovered to date, producing psychedelic effects at doses as low as 200 micrograms.
Salvia’s effects on the brain are unique. Unlike classical psychedelics which produce their characteristic effects by binding to 5-HT2A serotonin receptors in the brain, salvia is a highly selective kappa-opioid receptor agonist. However, the effects of salvinorin A are very different from those produced by opioids like morphine, heroin, and oxycodone.
For example, animal studies have shown that most drugs that activate opioid receptors cause them to decrease their movement. But low doses of salvinorin-A can actually make animals move more. This suggests that salvinorin might have other effects beyond just activating opioid receptors.
The Mazatec — an indigenous Indian people of the Sierra Mazateca in Oaxaca — ritually chew Salvia divinorum leaves or drink a mind-altering tea or infusion for healing and divination in traditional hour-long religious ceremonies. Salvia is used by the Mazatec to treat ailments like alcoholism, diarrhea, and rheumatism, as well as a mysterious illness known as “panzón de arrego” which is characterized by a swollen stomach and is reportedly unique to the Mazatec people.
Maria Sabina, the curandera (native healer) made famous by the Wassons’ early expeditions to Oaxaca in search of magic mushrooms, reported sometimes using Salvia divinorum with her patients if psilocybin mushrooms were not available. Interestingly, the “priestess of mushrooms” noted that salvia was not as powerful as Psilocybe mexicana, a psychedelic mushroom revered as sacred in Oaxaca.
Outside of indigenous contexts, salvia is most often smoked recreationally to produce psychedelic effects that typically last less than 10 minutes and are dose- and context-dependent. In sufficient doses, effects can be extremely intense, often overlapping with those produced by classical psychedelics, though salvinorin A is also associated with a unique suite of subjective effects.
Commonly reported subjective effects of smoked salvia include:
To clarify the strength of salvia leaves, it is important to note that early reports may have suggested it was less potent than mushrooms because the concentration of salvinorin A is relatively small compared to psilocybin in magic mushrooms. However, it should be noted that weight for weight, salvinorin A is the most potent psychedelic in the natural world.
In order to avoid consuming numerous leaves, tinctures and highly concentrated salvia extracts are often available online and in head shops, though caution should be exercised and doses should be carefully measured, especially as extracts are often significantly more potent than dried leaves.
At the time of writing, salvia is a legal psychedelic in most countries, though Italy and Australia, for example, have placed it on their strictest levels of substance control. In the United States, salvia is not controlled at the federal level, but some states have made it illegal. You should always consult federal and local laws when it comes to the use of psychoactive substances to avoid criminal penalties.
Another psychedelic resource known to the Mazatec and other indigenous Mesoamerican peoples in Mexico, including the Mixtec and Zapotec, is morning glory seeds (Ipomoea violacea).
Morning glory seeds contain the psychedelic compound lysergic acid amide (LSA), also known as ergine, an ergot alkaloid in the same chemical class (lysergamides) as LSD. A particularly psychoactive species of morning glory, Rivea corymbosa (Ololiuhqui), has been used in shamanic rituals by indigenous peoples of South and Central America for centuries.
In the 16th century, Spanish naturalist and physician Francisco Hernandez documented the first known Western account of the ritual use of morning glory seeds. Hernandez reported the use of 100-150 Ololiuhqui seeds among Aztec and Mayan shamans to achieve fantastical visions of Gods and demonic figures and treat inflammation and a wide variety of other ailments.
At moderate-strong doses (250-400 seeds) morning glory seeds can induce sedating and euphoric states and mild to moderate psychedelic effects akin to those produced by its cousin, LSD. In contrast to LSD, however, ingesting morning glory seeds is typically less intense, the come-up can be nauseating, and its narrowing of blood vessels (vasoconstriction) can cause an uncomfortably heavy “body load.”
To counteract or mitigate the nauseating effects of eating the seeds, recreational users often employ different methods to extract the LSA. Consuming the seeds with ginger tea or chewing them for 15-30 minutes to facilitate absorption through the buccal mucosa, the moist inner lining of the cheeks and lips inside the mouth, can also help to soften nauseating effects.
When using morning glory seeds, it is important to exercise caution and ensure that the seeds have not been treated with toxic fungicides or pesticides. This is because commercial suppliers may treat the seeds, and ingesting these treated seeds may lead to serious health complications.
Regulation of morning glory seeds is limited. They are not controlled in the United States, UK, or Australia, and can be purchased legally from nurseries, garden stores, and other retail settings. Though, they may be illegal in Italy and a handful of other places. As usual, those interested in experimenting with morning glory seeds should always ensure that they are legal in their region.
The psychoactive component of morning glory seeds, on the other hand, LSA, is more widely controlled in most countries. Extracting and possessing LSA in its isolated form is illegal in the USA and Australia, for example.
The Amanita muscaria mushroom, AKA fly agaric, is one of the most iconic and unmistakably recognizable psychoactive mushrooms in the world. Featuring heavily in psychedelic folklore, fairy tales, and video games, A. muscaria is often portrayed as possessing somewhat of a promiscuous and playful quality.
In a comparison between psychedelic mushroom use in the Americas and Europe, botanist Harri Nyberg declared that fly agaric mushrooms have been used in conjunction with rhythmic drumming by shamans in West Siberia to achieve trance states, and by various ethnic minorities in East Siberia for religious and recreational purposes.
Bearing an enchanting cherry-red cap speckled with white spots, one could easily assume A. muscaria to be harmless, especially considering its widespread prevalence in popular culture, religious significance in indigenous cultures, and deep roots in ancient mythology. However, this is far from the truth — A. muscaria is very poisonous, when consumed raw.
At high doses, the compounds in the Amanita muscaria mushroom can cause severe sickness that may include sweating, nausea, diarrhea, vomiting, and convulsions. Though consuming the mushroom raw poses significant health risks and is certain to produce unpleasant effects, parboiling active doses of the mushroom in plenty of water weakens its toxicity.
The fly agaric mushroom is often mistaken for psilocybin mushrooms, also known as “magic mushrooms.” However, the main psychedelic compound in A. muscaria, muscimol, works differently than psilocybin. Similar to alcohol and benzodiazepines (e.g. Valium, Xanaz), t is a GABAA agonist, which is the brain's main inhibitory neurotransmitter.
The A. muscaria mushroom also contains ibotenic acid, a known neurotoxin. When consumed, some of the ibotenic acid is likely converted into muscimol. Ibotenic acid is a strong activator of N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) receptors and metabotropic glutamate receptors, specifically group I (mGluR1 and mGluR5) and group II (mGluR2 and mGluR3).
Due to this entirely different mechanism of action in the brain, the effects of A. muscaria are quite different from traditional psychedelics. Rather than producing an experience of altered sensory perception and emotional intensity, A. muscaria instead produces a state of dissociation and drowsy delirium. This experience is often compared to that of other deliriant plants like belladonna and datura.
A. muscaria is not a controlled substance in most countries, including the US, UK, and Ireland. However, there are some exceptions, such as Thailand, Australia, Romania, and the Netherlands. In the US, while A. muscaria mushrooms are not federally controlled and are legal in most states, they are illegal in Louisiana.
It is important for individuals interested in using psychedelic substances to double-check the laws in their area before doing so.
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