Perhaps you're puzzled about some apparently brand-new products.  You might
have seen them advertised, or displayed in some head and health- food shops, as
"legal herbs" or "exotic smoking mixtures" - such unfamiliar items as African
yohimbe bark, kola nut, lobelia, kavakava, "lettuce opium," and the like.  A
ripoff?  Or, as claimed, legal substitutes for substances that can put you in
the pokey if you're caught with them?

Surprise: an analysis published in the august 'Journal of the American Medical
Association' reveals that a number of those plant derivatives do, in fact, to
one degree or another, have psychoactive properties.  Among them:

* African yohimbe bark and kavakava, mild hallucinogens (defined as drugs that
act on the nervous system and may have effects ranging from perceptual
aberrations to outright hallucinations).

* Nutmeg, which contains a not-so-mild hallucinogen called myristicin that has
been known to trigger trips terrifying both mentally and physically

* Wild lettuce and wormwood, both described as narcotic-analgesics, although
neither is in a class with the opiates

* Lobelia, which contains a mildly euphoriant chemical called lobeline

* "Mormon tea," which has stimulant effects based on ephedrine, a drug properly
used in treating bronchial asthma

* Damiana, derived from a plant known botanically as Turnera diffusa and
reportedly a mild stimulant

* Gotu kola and other kola-nut derivatives, which contain caffeine and
theobromine (the latter is the active ingredient in cocoa) and can build up to
a bad case of "coffee nerves"

* Datura stramonium, a/k/a jimson weed, thorn apple, or devil's apple - a
potent, and highly toxic, hallucinogen containing the belladonna alkaloids
astropine and scopolamine.

Alternatively don't let the law push you around!