An examination of the effects of Salvia divinorum fortification on stable isotope ratios
Barajas, David Anthony
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Salvia divinorum is a plant species native to Oaxaca, Mexico. The leaves of this plant contain the active compound Salvinorin A which, when smoked, causes the user to experience hallucinogenic effects. Currently Salvia divinorum is not listed as a scheduled drug under the United States’ Controlled Substances Act, though some states such as Ohio and Texas have passed laws to prohibit its use. Commercially available Salvia divinorum products are available in fortified extract concentrations claiming to contain up to fifty times the Salvinorin A concentrations naturally present in naturally growing Salvia divinorum plants. The stable isotope ratios of elements such as carbon, nitrogen, oxygen, and hydrogen can reflect plant responses to certain environmental conditions, such as atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations or the degree of water limitation a plant experiences, which in turn can be unique to a geographical region a plant grows in. Because these isotope ratios vary by location, a local plant species from a known area can inform researchers about the elemental makeup of a plant native to a particular region, as well as whether the plant was grown indoors or outdoors. Booth et al. (2010), demonstrated the effectiveness of using stable isotope ratio data of marijuana for the determination of drug trafficking patterns (1). Booth and coworkers also speculated that variations in marijuana chemical composition due to isotope fractionation would account for the differences in isotopic ratios within the marijuana samples. In this experiment, commercially purchased leaf samples of Salvia divinorum were analyzed using an Isotope Ratio Mass Spectrometer for the purpose of establishing the stable isotope ratios by geographic region. Salvia divinorum samples from Oaxaca, Mexico exhibited stable isotope ratios that could be differentiated from those grown in Hawaii, USA. Fortification of leaves had a demonstrated effect on the isotope ratios for the elements examined, indicating that as fortification of the product increased the stable isotope ratios became either enriched or depleted of the heavier isotope. Fortification resulted in stable isotope ratios reflecting regions unlike where it had been grown, thus giving confounding information regarding geographic origin.