In 1962, Albert Hofmann and R. Gordon Wasson traveled to Mexico in search of a mysterious plant with psychoactive properties. The plant was referred to as "ska Pastora" (leaves of the sheperdess).
From Chapter 6 of "LSD, My Problem Child" by A Hofmann
"Consuela inquired which of us wished to drink of it with her. Gordon announced himself. Since I was suffering from a severe stomach upset at the time, I could not join in. My wife substituted for me. The curandera laid out six pairs of leaves for herself. She apportioned the same number to Gordon. Anita received three pairs. Like the mushrooms, the leaves are always dosed in pairs, a practice that, of course, has a magical significance. The leaves were crushed with the metate, then squeezed out through a fine sieve into a cup, and the metate and the contents of the sieve were rinsed with water. Finally, the filled cups were incensed over the copal vessel with much ceremony. Consuela asked Anita and Gordon, before she handed them their cups, whether they believed in the truth and the holiness of the ceremony. After they answered in the affirmative and the very bitter-tasting potion was solemnly imbibed, the candles were extinguished and, lying in darkness on the bast masts, we awaited the effects."
There are 900 different species of "Salvia" plants in the Sage category, and so far Salvia divinorum is the only one that has been proven to have hallucinogenic effects in humans.
Most Salvia plants sold in garden shops or plant nurseries will not be Salvia divinorum but a more common variety such as Salvia officinalis (cooking sage).
You might also find packets of Salvia seeds, but these will not be the kind you're looking for. Salvia divinorum very rarely sets seeds, and they usually aren't viable when it does.
The best places to buy Salvia divinorum leaf or live plants are online ethnobotanical suppliers.
Terence McKenna Talks About Salvia
Salvia, Controversy, and the Law
Salvia is the latest controversy to hit the news, with legislators scrambling to pass laws banning the sale of Salvia based on its similarity to other drugs, with most comparisons being made to pot or acid.
Interestingly enough, Salvia and it's active chemical Salvinorin A are not related to any other hallucinogens, most of which are indole ring alkaloids. Salvinorin A is a diterpene rather than an alkaloid, and unlike most hallucinogens which bind to 5-HT receptors, Salvinorin A binds to kappa opioid receptors instead.
Unlike most hallucinogens, Salvia is classified as a dissociative. The effects are very unpleasant to most people searching for a cheap high, and completely unsuitable for a setting such as a party. Moreso, the effects are very brief, often around 5-10 minutes.
There is currently NO scientific proof that anybody has suffered harm from the use of Salvia. Despite panicked media reports, the only case of a former Salvia user to commit suicide (now responsible for the illegal status in Delaware) has NOT been formally connected to Salvia. The individual was, however, on an acne medication proven to cause depression and suicidal behavior, as well as several documented suicides in the past.
Real scientific research actually points in the opposite direction, suggesting an antidepressant effect on the average Salvia users. Sadly, most people avoid "boring" scientific papers in favor of exciting and inaccurate news reports. And sadly, this sort of ignorance is why Salvia will not remain legal forever.
Where is Salvia Illegal?
This is a list of states and countries that have either scheduled, controlled, or banned Salvia.
Schedule I in the United States: Delaware, Florida, Illinois, Kansas, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska (beginning September 2009), North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Virginia
Illegal Only to Consume: Louisiana, Tennessee
Illegal to Sell to Minors: California, Maine
Illegal Internationally: Australia, Belgium, Denmark, Germany, Italy, Japan, Latvia, Lithuania, South Korea, Sweden
Illegal to Sell, Legal to Possess: Spain, Russia
Legal Only With Prescription: Estonia, Finland, Iceland, Norway
This list will occasionally be updated, so keep checking back.
The legal status of Salvia in certain areas of the United States may change unexpectedly, with bills frequently being proposed at individual state levels. Most of these bills either stall or die out, but are often re-introduced.