A journey through the booming industry of semi-psychedelics

Although psychedelics are not legalized anytime soon in the United States, a drink containing psychoactive substances can now be consumed without fear of persecution. Distributed by retailer Urban Outfitters, of all companies, Psychedelic Water won’t make you feel like you’ve taken DMT or even LSD. However, its main ingredients belong more or less to the same taxonomic family.

Launched in February 2021, Psychedelic Water can be purchased at Urban Outfitter stores nationwide, including in states where cannabis is still considered a Schedule 1 narcotic. the brand, where chrome-colored cans are $33 a six-pack. Flavors include Prickly Pear, Oolong + Orange Blossom, Hibiscus + Lime, and Blackberry + Yuzu.

Urban Outfitters is just one of many companies trying to carve out a niche in the booming psychedelic market. Last April, the Fontainebleau Miami Beach hotel hosted the first-ever Benzinga Psychedelics Capital conference. Under the heat of the scorching Florida sun, entrepreneurs met with investors from Big Pharma and Silicon Valley to see if together they could take America’s psychedelics industry “to the next level”.

It’s a multi-faceted industry. On one side are activists campaigning for the recreational use of LSD, MDMA, ketamine and every other psychedelic under the sun. On the other, there are rogue researchers who hope to use these drugs not for fun, but to develop breakthrough treatments for physical and mental illnesses. Last but not least, some companies promote products made from less potent and, most importantly, legal varieties of psychedelics.

These strains can be found in tinctures, topicals, eye drops, and other concoctions concocted by forward-thinking wellness and beauty brands. Like homeopathic remedies, they are said to cleanse auras, clear negative emotions, and stimulate lucid dreaming. They might include Mucuna pruriens — a legume that contains a type of DMT — or boa vine, one of the main ingredients in ayahuasca.

Mucuna pruriens / Shutterstock

It is also one of the main ingredients in Lun, an oral tincture sold by wellness company Soul Drops. “With just a few drops a day,” states their website, “Soul Drops can boost your self-healing and optimization. Our customers report feeling healthier, positive, energized, emotionally balanced, focused, creative, inspired, calm, relaxed, intuitive and grounded.

However, most legal psychedelics come in the form of drinks. This should come as no surprise, as the market for alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages is bigger, busier and more lucrative than ever. Competing products in this market must appeal to an increasingly fragmented audience: fortified seltzer is aimed at students who want to get screwed over without gaining weight; CBD-infused beers allow smokers to drink with non-smoking friends; LaCroix is ​​for disillusioned office workers who have already had their 10th cup of coffee.

Psychedelic Water, says CEO Pankaj Gogia, is “for people who are interested, unsure, or unfamiliar with psychedelics.” Gogia tells Highlights their product acts as an “entry point into the larger world of these substances and their many benefits” and resonates with those “who just want to sip on something that tastes good, makes you feel good, is better for you than booze and won’t you text your ex or wake up hungover.

The three ingredients that make Psychedelic Water psychedelic are kava, damiana and green tea leaf extract. Kava, the supposed star of the show, is a plant native to the South Pacific which, when ground, mixed with water and taken in small doses, relaxes the muscles and produces a feeling of euphoria without altering your cognition. Australian Aborigines have been brewing kava for centuries, for ceremonial purposes. Kava bars have also become popular in major US cities.

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Kava / Shutterstock

Damiana is a shrub native to Mexico, Central America and the West Indies. Its leaf and stem can be made into a homeopathic medicine that treats headaches, constipation, stomach cramps, bedwetting and depression, as well as bladder, urinary and sexual problems. It is also used as an aphrodisiac, stimulating arousal in both men and women. The damiana induces a subtle high that nicely compliments the kava.

Last but not least: green tea leaf extract. Although non-psychedelic, the extract is a natural source of caffeine. This caffeine is used to balance the effects of kava, a depressant that can leave you feeling tired and lethargic. When mixed together, these three ingredients produce a sensation that, although very different from weed or alcohol, is nonetheless suitable for social settings.

The public image of psychedelics is changing rapidly. During the war on drugs, they were presented as dangerous and addictive. Modern research has dispelled this myth, with drugs like ketamine now being used to treat depression, PTSD, and other forms of mental illness. Meanwhile, Netflix documentaries like fantastic mushrooms, Have a good trip and How to change your mind attempt to normalize recreational use.

And yet, despite these major developments, many people remain hesitant. It is, of course, quite understandable. In the not so distant past, the only way to start exploring psychedelics was to dive deep, pop a pill at a music festival, and pray to God for a safe trip. These days, you can start your journey by opening a can on your couch while pacing yourself with every sip.

Gogia says the psychedelic water makes him feel “like I feel about five minutes after ingesting psilocybin. There’s this short window, before the visuals start showing, where I just feel pleasant. This wave of relaxation and positive feelings overwhelms me (…) Psychedelic Water takes this feeling and holds it.

To be clear, Psychedelic Water won’t make you see kaleidoscopic visuals. Or, at least, it’s not supposed to. Instead, the drink was designed to capture some of the smoother, more subtle effects of conventional psychedelics and allow consumers to experience them in new ways.

If you prefer your drinks hot, you might want to turn to Third Eye Tonic, a lucid dream-inducing tea offered by Anima Mundi Herbals. It is made up of nervines or plants eaten to support the nervous system. Ingredients include kava, passionflower, organic skullcap, and blue lotus, the latter of which targets the same receptors as MDMA and, when prepared in a slightly different way, causes hallucinations. “[These plants] lay the groundwork for you to secrete your own chemicals on your own,” Costa Rican Anima Mundi founder Adriana Ayales told the trade publication. Independent Beauty.

As exciting as these semi-legal psychedelics are, they raise a few questions. Do these products offer real, tangible benefits, or are the fleeting sensations they produce just placebos? Are some of these businesses really rooted in indigenous traditions or are they simply exploiting them for monetary gain? This has been known to happen elsewhere, with North American mezcal producers faking their Mexican heritage. Plus, some of these down-to-earth beauty brands, which supposedly contain water from the Amazon River, don’t seem particularly long-lasting.

Psychedelic Water has also been scrutinized by the press. As MEL-magazine points out in their review of Psychedelic Water, “Doctors aren’t sure how much kava a person can safely consume.” Scientific papers have identified a possible link to long-term liver damage, a finding that has led countries like Australia, Canada, France and Germany to issue warnings or even ban over-the-counter sales .

Gogia is intimately familiar with these articles, which were published in the late 1990s and early 2000s, when attitudes towards kava were still shaped by the war on drugs. “In the majority of these accounts,” he says Highlights“Other factors such as alcohol consumption and the use of certain medications are relevant, as well as the consumption of poorly harvested and stored kava.”

As the quality of production has improved over the past few decades, the link between kava and liver damage has once again been called into question. This time, the studies came up with different results. As early as 2004, an assessment by Food Standards Australia New Zealand determined “there is no evidence that occasional use of kava drink is associated with any long-term adverse effects, including effects on the liver” .

Their conclusion was reiterated as recently as 2016 by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, which stated that “overall, the weight of evidence of both a long history use of kava drink and more recent research findings indicate that it is possible that kava drink may be consumed with an acceptable level of health risk”.

These concerns stem from the same social stigma that has surrounded psychoactive substances since the 1970s. Gogia and his colleagues know that the stigma will not disappear overnight. Still, they’re hoping the success of Psychedelic Water might speed the process up a bit: “We think having a psychedelic-branded product on the shelves of your local convenience store, between cans of Red Bull and jugs of milk, might have a significant impact. on public perception and the normalization of psychedelics.

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