Regular Paper

Journal of Plant Research

, Volume 124, Issue 5, pp 593-600

First online:

Evolution and origins of the Mazatec hallucinogenic sage, Salvia divinorum (Lamiaceae): a molecular phylogenetic approach

  • Aaron A. JenksAffiliated with Email author 
  • , Jay B. WalkerAffiliated with
  • , Seung-Chul KimAffiliated withDepartment of Biological Sciences, Sungkyunkwan University Email author 

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Salvia divinorum Epl. & Játiva-M. (Lamiaceae) is a potent hallucinogenic plant that is classified within Salvia subgenus Calosphace, section Dusenostachys, and hypothesized to be an interspecific hybrid. It is of ethnobotanical significance due to its employment in traditional healing ceremonies by the Mazatecs of Oaxaca, Mexico, and due to its unique pharmacology—a highly selective, non-nitrogenous, κ-opioid receptor agonist. In order to test its phylogenetic position and putative hybridity, we sequenced multiple DNA regions (ITS, trnL-trnF, and psbA-trnH) of 52 species—representing the major lineages of subgenus Calosphace—and six accessions of S. divinorum. Our molecular phylogenetic results suggest that S. divinorum should not be classified within Dusenostachys and that it is not a hybrid. Additionally, we determine that the closest known relative of this psychoactive Mexican sage is S. venulosa, a rare endemic of Colombia.


Diviner’s sage Hallucinogens Medicinal plants Psychoactive plants Salvia divinorum Ska Maria Pastora