Ethnopharmacology of Ska Maria Pastora
(Salvia Divinorum, Epling and Jativa-M.)
Leander J. Valdes III; Jose Luis Diaz; Ara G. Paul
Vol 7, 1983; 287-312
Journal of Ethnopharmacology
Salvia divinorum is a perennial labiate used for curing and divination by the Mazatec
Indians of Oaxaca, Mexico. The psychotropic effects the plant produces are compared to
those of the other hallucinogens employed by the Mazatecs, the morning glory, Rivea
corymbosa L., Hallier F. and the psilocybin-containing mushrooms. A discussion of the
role of ska María Pastora in the "native pharmacopoeia" is based on previous reports and
fieldwork by the authors with a Mazatec shaman.
Salvia divinorum (Epling and Játiva-M.) is a perennial herb in the Labiatae (mint family)
native to certain areas in the Sierra Mazateca of Oaxaca, Mexico (Fig. 1). It is one of about
500 species of Salvia in the New World subgenus Calosphace (Epling and Játiva-M..
1962). The plant grows in large clones to well over 1 m in height and its large green leaves,
hollow square stems and white flowers with purple calyces are characteristic taxonomic
features. This sage has been found only in forest ravines and other moist humid areas of the
Sierra Mazateca between 750 m and 1500 m altitude (Díaz, 1975a). Carl Epling, who first
described S. divinorum, reported the flower as having a blue corolla, and it has been
illustrated this way in the literature (Epling and Játiva-M, 1962; Schultes, 1976). However,
this description has been shown to be an error, as all living specimens of the plant have had
blossoms with white corollas and purple calyces (Díaz, 1975a; Emboden, 1979).
[Fig. 1. S. divinorum at the Matthaei Botanical Gardens, University of Michigan
S. divinorum is one of several vision- inducing plants employed by the Mazatec Indians, one
of the native peoples living in the mountains and upland valleys of northeastern Oaxaca.
Unlike other M