Many people find it difficult to obtain a satisfactory level of effects when smoking Salvia divinorum leaf. Usually this is because of insufficient dose, improper smoking technique, or low sensitivity to salvinorin A.
The active principal of Salvia divinorum is a diterpenoid compound called salvinorin A. The average concentration of salvinorin A in Salvia divinorumleaves is about 2.5 mg per gram. A moderate smoked dose of salvinorin A for a person of average sensitivity is 0.5 mg. Therefore, 200 mg (1/5 gram) of average-strength Salvia divinorum leaves contains enough salvinorin A to produce moderate effects in a person of average sensitivity. In practice however, one may need to use about twice this dose (i.e. 400 mg, or 2/5 gram), because some salvinorin A is probably decomposed during burning, some is lost in smoke that escapes during smoking, and some is not fully absorbed in the lungs and is thus lost upon exhaling.
Four hundred milligrams of Salvia divinorum leaf produces quite a lot of smoke, and it requires several large inhalations to consume it all. Because salvinorin A is rapidly metabolized in the body, it is essential that the full dose be ingested within a two to three minute period. It is also essential that the smoke is absorbed as efficiently as possible, otherwise much of it will be wasted. People vary in their ability to inhale and retain large amounts of smoke. Some people have no trouble obtaining strong effects from ordinary, non-enhanced leaves; others find it very difficult.
The potency of Salvia divinorum leaves is variable. Most of the samples that I have tested have a salvinorin A content between two and four milligrams per gram of dry leaf. I have however seen some samples that contained less than one milligram per gram. So far, no one has identified the specific factors that influence the concentration of salvinorin A in the leaves. Obviously, it is easier to obtain effects when using leaves of higher potency. When smoking leaves known to have a higher-than-average concentration of salvinorin A, it is important that you reduce the amount of leaf estimated per dose accordingly. When the potency of the leaves is unknown, you should always start with a conservative dose (no more than 1/8 gram), just in case it turns out that they are particularly potent. Please note that these dosage recommendations apply only to non-enhanced leaves. When using extract-enhanced leaves, the amount of leaf per dose will be reduced considerably. The specific dosage required depends both on the concentration of salvinorin A in the leaf and on the sensitivity of the person ingesting it. People vary in their sensitivity to salvinorin A. Some people are highly sensitive and have no difficulty obtaining a profound level of effects; others are extremely insensitive and require a dose several times higher than average.
(1) Use a water-cooled smoking device (a water pipe, or bong). This makes it much easier to inhale large quantities of smoke. Because the smoke is cooled, it can be inhaled more comfortably without coughing.
(2) Make sure that the pipe stem and screen are not clogged with residue from previous use. It is important that the pipe draws well. Check it before use to make sure that you can draw air through it easily when you inhale.
(3) Try to inhale the full dose in three big inhalations. Each one should be inhaled slowly and deeply, then held for 20 – 30 seconds before exhaling. It is very important to retain each inhalation of smoke deeply in the lungs long enough for it to be absorbed efficiently. Do not pause between exhaling and taking the next inhalation (except for a short breath of fresh air if necessary). This insures that the whole dose will be consumed within the 2 – 3 minute period required. If the dose is smoked too slowly, the salvinorin A will be metabolized faster than it is ingested.
(4) Salvinorin A requires a high temperature to vaporize. This can be easily achieved by making certain that the leaves are in direct contact with a flame the entire time that you are inhaling. When inhaling, hold a flame directly over the bowl of the pipe so that the flame is drawn down into the leaves as you inhale the smoke.
(5) Use a torch-flame lighter. Many people report better results when using this type of lighter. These produce a very hot torch-like flame that causes rapid combustion of the smoking material and hence produces more concentrated smoke. Because of the extra heat generated by these devices, it is important to use them in conjunction with a water-cooled smoking device.
(6) Use extract-enhanced leaves (fortified leaves). Most people prefer to smoke fortified leaves. These products are concentrated so that the entire dose can be more easily consumed. Some of these products are so refined and concentrated that a full dose produces no more than a tiny wisp of smoke. These products also have a health advantage, since they reduce the amount of smoke that must be ingested to achieve the desired level of effects. One must keep in mind however, that fortified leaves must be used more carefully because of their greater potency. These products do not need to be smoked in a water-cooled pipe. A torch-flame lighter offers no particular advantage when smoking extract-enhanced leaves because the volume of leaf required can be ignited with sufficient rapidity using an ordinary lighter, or even a match. You can make crude extract enhanced leaves yourself quite easily.
Instructions are available in section XIII of the Salvia divinorum FAQ at: http://sagewisdom.org/faq.html. Similar products are available commercially. You might want to consider one of my standardized salvinorin A enhanced leaf products, which are available at: http://sagewisdom.org/salviashop.html.