For some people it might be a quiet wish, for others, it might be a fear, but the truth is that there are very few ordinary garden herbs and plants that produce intoxicating effects when ingested. Most ordinary garden herbs can be eaten in almost limitless quantities without such effects. Whether you are interested in this topic as a potential user or as a worried parent, you should understand that although anything has the potential to be misused, there are only a couple of common household seasonings and garden plants that can produce an altered mental state.
Ingesting a couple of tablespoons of nutmeg produces what drug users refer to as a bad trip or an altered state that is uncomfortable and exhausting. Symptoms of intoxication appear anywhere from half an hour to three hours after eating a large amount of nutmeg, and the unpleasant aftereffects can last for a couple of days. Nutmeg contains a very small amount of a substance known as myristicin, which has chemical similarities to mescaline. It also includes another psychoactive ingredient known as elemicin, said to have an effect similar, though milder, to that of MDMA (ecstasy). Some prisons, in fact, have banned nutmeg due to abuse by prisoners.
For most would-be recreational drug users, though, the unpleasant physical effects of ingesting too much nutmeg greatly outweigh any pleasantness associated with intoxication. Because heart palpitations, vision disturbances, heavy sweating, vomiting, and extreme exhaustion are the results of its misuse, nutmeg is better left in the kitchen where it is appropriately used in minuscule amounts.
One variety of salvia, known as Salvia divinorum, has found underground notoriety because of its effects and the fact that it is legal to grow in many places. This beautiful plant was originally used in religious ceremonies in Central America to induce visions or altered states of consciousness, and its Latin name divorum is due to its use by Central American shamans as a tool for spiritual divination.
Salvia divinorum's leaves contain an opioid-like substance responsible for the plant's reputation for producing visions and promoting self-reflection and meditation. Of the hundreds of varieties of salvia, this is the only one that produces visions. It should be treated like alcohol in the sense that it isn't safe to drive after chewing or smoking it. Because the effects are strong and can be misused, the plant is considered harmful and should be avoided.
You are unlikely to have salvia divinorum in your home garden because it is a controlled substance in several states and is illegal in many other countries. No mainstream seed packagers offer seeds for sale; they must be sought out from counterculture online retailers specializing in such products. Among recreation drug users, though, this is a well-known plant with a history of underground cultivation and use.
Although not usually regarded as an herb, khat is a plant with a long history of social use in countries including Kenya, Uganda, Ethiopia, Somalia, and Yemen. In many of those nations, it is entirely legal and its use is a part of casual social custom—the equivalent of sharing coffee or cocktails in western cultures.
The plant is a slow-growing shrub that thrives in arid climates at high elevations, and it can grow quite large under ideal conditions. For consumption, the leaves and plant tips are chewed or used to brew tea. Effects include euphoria and stimulation. Some users liken the effect to that of very strong coffee. Other uses describe khat's effects as a milder version of cocaine intoxication. Although khat is routinely and legally used in many nations of the world, since 1993 the U.S. has classified its active ingredient, cathinone, as a Schedule 1 drug, which means it is viewed as having no accepted medical use and a high risk of misuse.
Khat use in the U.S. is on the rise, largely due to its cultural use among immigrant populations, but possession of the substance can be, and is, prosecuted by U.S. drug enforcement agencies.
This makes it considerably different than salvia divinorum, which is legal to grow in many places. Some critics argue that there is a cultural bias in khat's illegal status, since this is a substance used most commonly by immigrants of Islamic heritage.
It is nearly impossible, though, for you to have this plant "by accident" in your garden. It is not a particularly attractive shrub and has no recognized landscape uses. It must be sought out and carefully tended over several years in order to be harvested. Illicit cultivation of khat is known to occur in parts of California, but is almost unheard of in most U.S. regions.
Misconceptions About Reactions With Herbs
There are many myths about household food and seasonings that have persisted through the years. The following items have all been said to cause some sort of reaction when misused. The truth is that the only reaction caused by excessive ingestion is a headache or nausea.
There are many possible interactions that occur when you ingest herbs in large or small quantities. However, mental intoxication is rarely one of them. Although some herbs are reported to have healing properties, a great many are poisonous, especially when ingested in large quantities. Just because you can grow something in the home garden doesn't mean it is safe to eat. In the larger plant world, edible plants are greatly outnumbered by those that can harm you.
Herbal Smoking Mixtures
You can blend basic herbs to make your own herbal smoking mixtures. These mixtures offer no high, but they can be relaxing and are an alternative to tobacco.