Recently I received a phone call from an unknown number, which I usually don’t answer, but thought I would- just this time… It was a ladies' voice. She started with general chitchat, about the weather (because it was a beautiful day) and she thought I might be busy in my garden. I said “No, I’m not too busy!” She started asking me if I wanted her to "call me back later, like at some other time- because maybe I didn’t have time to talk with her.” Again, I said “No, it's fine!” She sounded like she was having second thoughts about calling me.
I mostly listened to this nervous rambling, trying to figure out if this was a prank call –or serious- until she told me who gave her my number.. and just FYI, I really thought I might smack the person who gave out my number to a stranger, but the lady on the other end sounded afraid. So to make her feel more comfortable, I said “Is everything ok? You sound nervous, can I help you with anything?” …Then came a moment of silence.. She hesitantly said she was calling me because (in her own words) “You’re a plant person”…
I thought Whew! Ok great- its about plants! (One of my favorite top three subjects). She began to ask if I had I ever heard about a product being sold in our convenient stores and and head shops, or “new age”or “modern” tobacco shops- known as Fake Weed.. (insert the sound of a scratched record)… And then there was awkward silence on her end - and on mine. I mustered a nervous laugh, and said "Ummmmm" ?? (I was nervous because I suddenly felt like I was catapulted into the twilight zone.) More silence on her end, so I asked “Are you still there?” She peeped out a quiet “yes.” I immediately knew she was serious - and I realized that NO, I was not in the twilight zone…
Now back to those awkward silent moments on the phone. I joke about it now, but at the time, I didn’t know if I should be offended at her description of me being a “plant person” while inquiring about this fake weed, or should I be flattered - that somebody would have the confidence or the need to trust my opinion on said fake weed… especially since we don’t even know each other. Hmmm.
Anyways, I began to tell her that I have heard of it and that I do know that it goes by many different names - and claims to be anything from an incense to a bath salt. I explained that these psychoactive herbal and chemical products are known as a “synthetic cannabis,” and when consumed are supposed to mimic the effects of cannabis, or marijuana.
I've seen the products in the convenience stores. Have you? You know the ones - in the glass cabinets - right beside the fancy water bongs, pipes, plant grinders, and such. The smokable products claim to be an Aromatic Potpourri Herbal Incense and go by different names like: MaryJane Permagrin (really?) Burny, VooDoo, Spizz, Zombie Killa, K2 and I even saw one called Poison. (Well, at least they got one thing right in that name!!!). The products claim to be legal, natural and some even say JWH free. (Look up JWH-018 or JWH-073 or HU-210.)
They usually contain certain herbs like:
Alviae Folium: (if you go to the USDA Plants Database, you will not even find this! To google it brings up Salviae which when used orally as an essential oil, can cause convulsions, but when smoked can cause hallucinations - and just fyi, Salvia divinorum is sold in a baggy as a dried herb that looks just like a bag of marijuana - and comes complete with the said hallucinations, whether mild or intense). nice
Next, Turneria diffusa (commonly known as Damiana, has a long history of being an aphrodisiac but also used to relieve excess mental activity, seriously?).
Another one, Verbascum Thapsus (commonly known as Aaron’s Rod or Great Mullein. Native Americans smoked it with tobacco to relieve coughing spasms, used like an expectorant. Studies have shown that Mullein also contains derivatives of coumarin!)
And last but not least we bring you Artemisia vulgaris (has a number of recorded historic uses in food and herbal medicine but must be used with caution because it contains coumarin derivatives. Also contains a small percentage of an oil called thujone - which is toxic in both large amounts and/or prolonged intake. It's also known to induce uterine contraction during pregnancy, but also increases heart rate in the user. And when burned creates a heat of its own which could explain the “burning up” sensation people get.)
Feel free to google any of the herbs. Most have been used medicinally for hundreds of years, but usually in a controlled environment, by herbalists who know what they are doing.
I also want to mention a similar product called Spice (synthetic cannabinoid). It can contain any number of herbs like Canavalia maritime, Nymphaea caerulea, Scutellaria nana, Pedicularis densiflora, Leonotis leonuris, Zornia latifolia, Nelumbo nucifera andLeonuris sibiricus. (Just FYI people- when these products were tested, they did not even contain the herbs it claims- but mostly contained tocopherol, another synthetic cannabis chemical).
The products even come with a warning on the package that says “Not for Human Consumption.” You can even purchase different weights, like 2 ounces (that can cost $35.00 before tax) or 4 oz -and you can buy this stuff in different strength “mixtures” as well. Now, because I am a studious and sincere “plant person,” I explained to the lady on the phone, that it’s NOT a good idea to use this and that I would strongly recommend that she steer clear. Mainly because I am familiar with the herbs that are listed and I do know that they can be dangerous in certain doses, the molecular properties of the plant can change when burned - and most importantly, they add chemicals known as “research drugs” to the plant mixture to be able to call it “incense.” Wow! Key words: Research Drugs. These Research drugs, are used in research to see “if our bodies will metabolize them into a carcinogen.” Yikes!...
Some people might want to argue that there is nothing dangerous about these products, but lets think about Poison Ivy. Not everybody is allergic to it in plant sap form. But when it is burned, the molecular structure is changed, and the smoke is highly poisonous - to everybody - whether you are allergic or not. On top of that, these products contains chemicals, like the research drug JWH. Some even claim that they do Not contain JWH.
People, this is definitely a sensitive subject and I'm positive that people don’t want to talk about it in certain circles… and just so you know, my certain “circle of life” is actually square. Yes, I grew up in the 80’s and there were plenty of things back then to distract us from the “right road” but now, our young folks have so much more to be distracted with! There are too many designer drugs like this out there, that are not what they claim to be! On top of everything, it can all be purchased in a local convenient store, a gas station and easily found on the Internet.
Very little is known about the long-term effects as of right now, and my gut feeling tells me that until people use this for a while, we won't know the worst side of all this. I feel really bad for the guinea pig folks and the uninformed folks. Which will be our younger crowd - and some older people.
I was amazed at the chat articles I did find on line about this new fancy “all natural herbal incense.” Seems that the general consensus is mostly written by the folks who love it. These people get mad at articles like this one. But it bothers me that they can be so easily mislead by these Fake Weed suppliers. They are mostly mad because it seems that when they finally find a substitute for marijuana, like this all natural herbal mixture, the “dang police want to go and ban it & make it illegal.” (See, they can't smoke real Marijuana because maybe they are subject to monthly drug tests - and now they’re finding out that they cant smoke the new stuff either??!!).
Now I am NOT an expert on this subject, but as your local “plant person” (as the lady called me), I would suggest you NOT trust everything you read on these products. They don’t tell you the percentage of the Herbs that are used. Nor do they tell you which “research drug” (or how much) was mixed in with the herbs. You won't know what lab they were mixed in either, if any. Being a plant person, I do know that many people have died from using, smoking or ingesting plants and herbs and chemicals - all for the sake of medicine. (That’s Not a job that I will ever sign up for because I completely trust those dead “plant people”).
Recently, reports are on the rise- of people being rushed to the hospital due to using these products. Maybe you Or maybe you recently heard about the 911 call made for Demi Moore - because she had smoked something “incense like” which produced convulsions.
These products have been around since the early 2000’s and thankfully, in 2008, certain states have put an emergency ban on these products and or made them illegal to sell - because the Poison Control Centers are being bombarded with calls from people who had smoked it. The effects being reported were euphoria, hyperventilating, extreme paranoia, feeling of “burning up,” time distortion, nausea, vomiting, excrutiating headache, extreme depression after smoking it, and finally moderate to severe hallucinations - to the point that some thought they might die. Some people are now reporting that they are having panic attacks and anxiety disorders (even after months have passed since they stopped smoking the incense.)
In my humble Plant Person opinion, I see this as an up-and-coming new blight to our society - as if we need another one! I just can't understand why people want to pick up new bad habits, as if we all don’t have a few already.. We don’t eat right, we don’t exercise enough -and now this?
If you are one of the people who wants to experiment with this and have plenty of money to do it - because it won't show up in a drug test, well, all I can say is that I am trying to arm you with knowledge. I hope you will open your mind and take into consideration that I am coming from a really good place with this article. I am trying to expose the danger. Maybe the parents out there will look for behavioral changes in their teens and pre-teens. Yeah I said it.. pre-teens.. Nobody wants to face the fact that their kid is susceptible.
I know Im going “out on a limb here,” to bring up such a topic, but I feel that I need to… especially as your “plant person.”
So the next time you walk into a convenience store that sells these products, maybe you can actually take a good hard look at these products - without being embarrassed. Ask, or demand, (whichever you prefer) that the store owners STOP selling this. Maybe you can tell them you won’t support their business as long as they continue to sell these products to our young people.. Maybe together, we can stop the “enablers.” You might actually save somebody’s life, no matter what their age might be.