Saw this over at Wired Science a couple days back, an interesting article about an unusual, uh, herb called Diviner’s sage which has hallucinogenic properties and could spark a new class of drugs. Reports of people curing themselves of depression and treating pain with this form of sage are common, however the likelihood of pharmaceutical-grade drugs from companies arising from it may be slim since it cannot be patented exclusively.
Research on hallucinogenic sage has been stop-and-go. In 2002, Bryon Roth and his research group explained how the potent drug plays games with the nervous system. Recently, some scientists cast doubt on his theory. Catherine Willmore and her colleagues have published a paper in the September issue of Neuropharmacology that not only proves the original conclusion, but also speculates about how the psychotropic agent may play a role in medicine.
The first step to understanding how a natural medication works is to determine where it strikes. Every drug has a target — a molecule that it affects directly. Roth had indicated that Salvinorin A, the mind-altering molecule, activates a class of signal-sending proteins called kappa opioid receptors. Once triggered, those molecules initiate a series of events that results in an elevated mood and sometimes an out of body experience.
UPDATE: Somatopsychic discusses the paper and research in more depth.