One of the active ingredients of Salvia divinorum, salvinorin, can
be extracted from the leaves. Valdes and his group at the University of
Michigan isolated 1.2 grams of salvinorin from 5.35 kilograms of fresh leaves,
which they dried to 674 grams of milled powder. Valdes didn't report how many
leaves he started with, but the leaves that I pick average 2.3 grams fresh,
and dry to about 0.45 grams. That works out to between 1,450 and 2,350 leaves
to yield 1,200 milligrams of salvinorin, or between 500 and 800 micrograms of
salvinorin per dried leaf. I crumble up several leaves into my pipe, but never
smoke more than a quarter or a third of the pipe, which is about one dried
leaf. So, back-of-the-envelope, salvinorin is active at ranges of 500 to 800
micrograms, about twenty times more active by weight than DMT (dimethyltryptamine).
Quantitative experiments by Daniel Siebert, Jonathan Ott, myself and others
have since confirmed this arithmetic.
All of the information needed to isolate salvinorin is in Valdes's paper
(or, another method, in Ortega's paper). While Ortega and Valdes had to
isolate pure crystalline salvinorin quantitatively, simpler extractions would
But all of this raises some questions. Why do it? On the "Crystal
Highway" the ally often shows a more precipitous, and more terrifying,
face than she does on the Path [of leaves] or on the Bridge [of smoke]. Many
who meet the ally on the Crystal Highway never wish to repeat the experience.
The ally is always fast, but on the Crystal Highway she is superluminal. And
controlling dosage at the microgram level requires some skill. The raw leaf
seems so exquisitely balanced already.
I thought that I had measured out 6oo micrograms. Later it occurred to me
that a substantial amount of the solvent had evaporated in storage, and that
each drop was as much as doubled in potency
The fast drop. A trapdoor. Like on the scaffold of a gallows. The frightening
terror of absolute emptiness.
His head dropped onto the table and his arms splayed out. The cards flew all
over. He fell out of his chair, some vases and books and another chair falling
with him. Then his body twitched and I watched him turn into a bear. His whole
body grew taut. A deep guttural growl sounded from his throat and he began
speaking in tongues. His eyes had completely glazed over. None of it was
pretend. I saw the strength: two men couldn’t have held him down, if he had
Trance. Possession. The other side of shamanism, across that terrifying
abyss: shape-shifters. There live skin-walkers and werewolves.
Think twice before offering a full moon medicine to a shape-shifter.
All of the parallel universes were there. My childhood was there and the
death of my son. It was pure terror, all of it swirling through these breaks
in time, breaks in what moments are made of. The whole universe was turned
inside out. To get back I had to pull it all back through my asshole.
I had to destroy the worlds that I didn't choose to exist in. And some of
them tried to stop me from doing that, they kept calling to me, telling me not
to do it, that they wanted to exist. We were in the place you are before you
are born, and the place you go to after you die. Once you step out of time,
once you break through that continuum, all spaces are connected.
That I existed was the most amazing thing. The whole thing was an
absurdity, but I couldn't come back unless I accepted it, all of it. All the
pain of my life was waiting there, I---s’ death was there waiting, but it
was like I had to choose, it took effort. I had to accept all of it in order
to return to this particular universe.
- The Crystal Highway’ (as described in
Pendell’s Salvia Divinorum chapter in Pharmako/poeia).