In two previous posts, we examined the historical connections between Mexico and the Philippines.
- Mexico’s long connection with the Philippines – exploration, seafaring and geopolitics
- Cultural exchanges between Mexico and the Philippines
A news story (on mb.com.ph) a few months ago alerted us to another, much more recent link between the two countries.
The Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) claims that a Mexican herb poses a significant public health risk. According to the PDEA, Salvia divinorum, which is hallucinogenic when sun-dried leaves are chewed, sniffed or smoked, has been found growing wild in the Teachers Village in Quezon City. The plant is a member of the mint family and has a distinctive square stem. It is not known how or when it was introduced into the Philippines.
It is endemic to the remote region of the Sierra Mazateca in the northern part of the state of Oaxaca, Mexico. The plant grows in the warm, damp tropical evergreen and cloud forests at elevations between 300 and 1800 meters (1000 to 6000 feet). Biologists remain uncertain whether the plant is a truly natural plant or whether it is actually a hybrid (a cross between two or more distinct plant species) or cultigen (a plant that has been deliberately altered or selected by humans). It is commonly known in Mexico as divine sage, and the local Mazatec indigenous group has a long tradition of employing the plant in spiritual healing ceremonies.
The active constituent of Salvia divinorum is known as salvinorin A. Wikipedia’s entry on divine sage claims that “By mass, salvinorin A is the most potent naturally-occurring psychoactive compound known.”
We are not sure why it is in the interests of the PDEA to offer helpful tips for anyone thinking of growing and using this particular plant, but a PDEA spokesperson did just that, describing the plant as being somewhat similar to cannabis (marijuana), but easier to grow, since it can be propagated via stem cuttings. In addition, “The addictive effect of the said plant will last long if the leaves of the plant will be spread on a person’s gums rather than sniffing or puffing it like a cigarette. They say it gives you an uncontrollable laugh trip because the user will see the people as if they were caricatures or cartoons.” At least the final part of that quote appears to be hearsay and probably not admissible if introduced into a courtroom!
Despite its known hallucinogenic qualities, the cultivation and possession of divine sage remain legal in almost every country around the world. In the USA, only certain states have criminalized the plant. Click here for a webpage which provides more details of divine sage’s legal situation in particular countries and US states.
In the Philippines, the PDEA is reported to be collecting further evidence prior to recommending whether or not owning the plant should be made illegal. Sounds like it could be a fun job if you can get it!
Divine sage is the latest link in the 450-year-long history of close connections between Mexico and the Philippines.
Mexico’s links with other countries are discussed in chapter 20 of Geo-Mexico: the geography and dynamics of modern Mexico. Ask your library to buy a copy of this handy reference guide to all aspects of Mexico’s geography today! Better yet, order your own copy…