Over the last couple of weeks I have been asked by some readers of this column to give an update on herbal highs. Herbal highs have been around for a long time but for many who have experimented with them they have been a huge disappointment. Naturally grown herbs (as some suppliers have called them) such as guarana and ginseng have had bursts of popularity over the years when new products have come onto the market containing these, and a range of other substances, promising to offer similar highs to illegal chemicals. As quickly as they burst onto the scene they disappeared as people discovered they simply didn’t live up to the hype.

Guarana is possibly the best example of this type of product. Guarana comes from South America and contains a substance called guaranine, which is almost identical to caffeine. It also contains tannin and there are some who believe it is the combination of the two that makes the mild stimulant effect of guarana last for slightly longer than caffeine alone. It is found in many energy drinks around the world and is particularly popular in South America where it replaces caffeine in some products. Some promote guarana as mind expanding, but the only effect it has is similar to that of caffeine. In fact, a strong cup of coffee would probably provide more caffeine at a lower price.

Yerba Mat?s one of the newer herbs being touted. It is a particularly interesting one as it contains almost no caffeine. Instead Mat?ontains xanthines, which give the plant its stimulant effect. In terms of effects, users report a mental state of wakefulness, focus and alertness reminiscent of most stimulants, but often they remark on Mat? unique lack of the negative effects typically created by other such compounds, such as anxiety, diarrhoea, jitteriness and heart palpitations.

What seems to be happening at the moment is that suppliers are mixing the herbs together and creating products that are promising quite remarkable results. One website selling a product called Herbal Xtreme (I wonder what the X is meant to stand for and what market they are trying to capture) describes the effect as offering more kick than a herd of wild horses without the unpleasant trampling sensation usually associated with being kicked by a herd of wild horses!

These natural products are popular because some see them as safer than chemicals like ecstasy, and they are likely to be better quality. However, just because a substance is herbal or natural does not mean it is safe. If a product can give you the energy to stay awake for hours and dance all night, you are still going to feel pretty exhausted in the morning. Your body was not designed to do that and no herb is going to prevent it.

Remember: if you do not want any negative consequences, do not use the drug and, no matter how many times you have used a substance, never be blas?/p>

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