It was a surprise to see Salvia on the front page of the NYTimes Sunday Styles section. Salvia has become stylish?
However it was not Salvia officinalis, culinary sage, which is important in many holiday dressings and dishes at this time of the year that was getting this publicity, nor even the Christmasy red annual salvia (Salvia splendens) that is so common in many bedding plant projects. Unbeknownst to me, who does not keep up with Miley Cyrus or the drug culture, it is Salvia divinorum, a hallucinogen, legal in California, that has been making the news. The NYTimes describes “intense 15 minute highs” and some states have banned the herb.
However, many plants have chemical components that can be used for good or ill, or fun, and Salvia divinorum may be one. “The herb’s active component, a complex molecule called salvinorin A that affects the brain’s Kappa receptors, could be useful in understanding Alzheimer’s disease, cocaine addiction and chronic pain. “We stumbled across a gem,” said Dr. Matthew W. Johnson, an assistant professor at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine who has studied salvia. He believes it is nonaddictive and free of neurotoxicity. “It could be that this is our first glimpse into a whole therapeutic pathway.”
I am glad that scientists will find this plant useful, but I am happy to maintain the common culinary sage in my herb garden, May Night perennial salvia with its tall, deep blue flowering spikes in the Lawn Bed, and an annual blue salvia edging the Shed Bed. Blue summer skies and blue salvias give me as intense a high as I desire.