I had a wonderful conversation with Nick Jikomes on his Mind & Matter podcast. We discussed one of my favorite topics, the atypical dissociative psychedelic Salvia divinorum. We covered a lot of topics, including traditional Mazatec ceremonies, how it works and how it differs from other psychedelics, and my research years at the Institute of Transpersonal Psychology and Yale School of Medicine.
Compared to other podcasts I’ve been on, this one was definitely very sciency. Nick took a deep dive through some of my research papers to talk about interoception, dysphoria, and dissociation. We also talked about activism, some of the problems with profit-driven healthcare, and my love of Allen Ginsberg’s poetry. (I said Howl was published in the early 60s and I was wrong! Howl was written in 1954 and 1955 and it is amazing and you should read or listen to it right now).
Indigenous Salvia Use
The Mazatec people in southern Mexico work with many plants and fungi to serve as tools to treat illnesses and for embarking on their journey to astral or spiritual dimensions. The healing toolbox of Mazatec people include the psilocybin containing mushrooms and Salvia divinorum, among others.
The Mazatec people believe that proper singing and preparation of mind and body during the ritual may facilitate the profound healing effects of Salvia. This blog post will enlighten you about how Salvia works and its use in psychotherapy.
How Does Salvia Work?
The active component of Salvia is called salvinorin A or SA. SA is the most potent natural psychedelic. The activity of Salvia, or SA in particular, is associated with kappa opioid receptors.
In the periphery, Salvia inhibits cytokines and leukotrienes associated with inflammatory pathways. The active component of Salvia, the SA, works by inducing a rewarding or trance-like effect, however, it does not alter the levels of dopamine and does not produce addictive behavior.
The Dissociative Effects of Salvia
High doses of Salvia can lead to an intense dissociative effect, characterized by the disconnection from the external reality, decreased control of thoughts and body, and the inability to interact with the surroundings. While high doses of Salvia can cause dissociative effects, lower doses can promote trust of bodily sensations.
Dissociation shows up often in therapy too. Meditation, breath exercises, and yoga and other kinds of movement are helpful to move away from dissociation. As I explained to Nick, paying attention is better than not paying attention and focusing on your breath and body movement can help.
Take Care of Your Self
The podcast ends with my advice for staying healthy during the pandemic (this was recorded in January 2021). I encourage all of you to nourish your relationships with your self, other people, and nature.