What ho, Apothecary!
O, mickle is the powerful grace that lies
In plants, herbs, stones, and their true qualities
For naught so vile that on the earth doth live
But to the earth some good doth give.
The Tussin, The Tussin,
Put it down like it was nothing.
Robocop couldn't stop me pukin' and flushin'.
— MC Chris
This article details the various herbs, recipes and potions available to those seeking to modify their reality. I will skip the standard drugs such as pot, coke, LSD, etc. not because they don't belong here but because volumes have already been written on those subjects. We will focus instead on drugs of a more subtle variety, but also perhaps less familiar.
Paan or Betel Nut
Consisting of Betel leaf, Areca nut and lime paste, all chewed together, this is the drug of choice for most cabbies of India. (As well as Pakistan, the Philippines, Vietnam and Bangladesh.)
Where to get it: It is available at some small Asian markets. (Usually in the freezer section.) All 3 ingredients must be used in conjunction, the paste, the nut, the leaf. You should be able to procure enough of all three to host a backyard Betel party for about 5 bucks.
How to use it: Cut a bit of the green nut off and dice it up. It's very tough. Spread a smidgen of the slaked lime paste on the leaf and then wrap it around the chopped Areca nut like you're folding up a piece of dolma. Pop it under your lip and periodically give it a couple of chomps, like a cow chewing her cud. It will quickly begin to produce voluminous amounts of bright orange saliva. Spit, don't swallow. The amount of drooling and spitting necessary while chewing Betel is quite hilarious. It has a pleasing anesthetic effect on the mouth. And you will quickly feel a lightness in the skull and cheekbones, a brightness in the eyes, and a desire for conversation and strolling. Because it is conducive to conversation, this is a great drug to try with a friend. The desire to talk is somewhat mitigated by the amazing buckets of bright orange frothy saliva that the drug stimulates. Is it any wonder this drug never caught on in the West, where we are over-obsessed with appearances? Sadly, drooling in public is considered crude in our society.
The Payoff: A mild euphoria that is blended with a scintillating clarity much like the feeling experienced by watching a really good film: it makes you feel like conversing with a friend and maybe taking a walk; magical yet subtle. In many cultures it is seen as a prerequisite to meaningful and friendly conversation.
Way Too Much Coffee
It is easy to underestimate the power of coffee because we are so used to it. However, drinking a badass ton of coffee (4+ cups of the strong stuff) can produce a remarkable state of mind that is as peculiar and reality-bending as many other more vaunted drugs. This is a state of mind that can be quite different depending on whether you are alone or with others. Experienced by yourself it can be the most productive thing in the world. On the other hand, I have seen a group of four or five people each down four or five cups of strong black Joe and the conversation devolved into chirping squirrel-like noises. Delightful.
Whiskey & Adderall
A great mixture for writing. A sufficient supply should be able to turn anybody with 1/2 a soul into a prolific writer. The whisky is for the rough draft, the Adderall is for the editing. Kerouac is a good example of this recipe at work. He used amphetamines (Benzedrine), which are hard to come by nowadays, but Adderall can be had quickly and cheaply if you know someone who is going to college. The key here is balance. Too much of one or the other and you're sloppy and fried. But if you can strike the equipoise just right, it's smooth sailing all the way to the deadline.
He studied the strange behavior of the maté, how the herb would breathe fragrantly as it came up on top of the water, and how it would dive as he sucked, and would cling to itself … its steaming crater, its own little petulant volcano.
No doubt a lot healthier and less addictive than much of the above. A 5 lb. bag of loose leaf yerba maté can be found at stores that specialize in South American items for like 5 bucks. That's a lot of yerba maté, but you will need it. The trick here is to brew it ridiculously strong. The pre-made swill they sell in cans at the supermarket is a useless scam, like soaking used coffee filters in cold water and calling it "coffee."
It must be made fresh. It must be sipped continuously throughout the day. The proper way to make it is to drink maté out of a gourd with a little metal "bombilla" straw. In a pinch, you can brew it up in a French press and then serve it chilled and cut with lemonade. Maté lemonade is the very best drink in the world to enjoy while playing chess. As a matter of fact, perhaps the best way to describe any drug is to point out the activity that it is best suited for.
Effect: At first glance, one might think this instills simply a caffeinated consciousness akin to coffee or tea. This probably just means you aren't drinking enough of it. When you hit the plateau of buzz, it vibrates at a higher frequency than caffeine; it is a chemically different compound called mateine that gives a jolt of energy similar to coffee but of a different hue, just as the drunkenness reached by wine is quite different from that of, say, tequila. I find that yerba maté can give you all of the energy and momentum provided by a cup of espresso or coffee, but it burns clean: there are none of the coffee jitters or anxieties associated with coffee. Another bonus is that it doesn't seem to disrupt sleep patterns like coffee does.
A couch or hammock etc.
about half an hour
An often overlooked and yet powerful stimulant and visionary state.
Often loses out to coffee's reputation as the more powerful stimulant. This could be because we don't make a proper cuppa tea like the British and God intended. The British Empire (1583 – 1945) was built on pots of tea with exceedingly strong character. In an essay on tea, George Orwell has this to say (by tea, Orwell means loose leaf black tea from India or Sri Lanka):
"Fourthly, the tea should be strong. For a pot holding a quart, if you are going to fill it nearly to the brim, six heaped teaspoons would be about right. In a time of rationing, this is not an idea that can be realized on every day of the week, but I maintain that one strong cup of tea is better than twenty weak ones. All true tea lovers not only like their tea strong, but like it a little stronger with each year that passes — a fact which is recognized in the extra ration issued to old-age pensioners.
"Fifthly, the tea should be put straight into the pot. No strainers, muslin bags or other devices to imprison the tea. In some countries teapots are fitted with little dangling baskets under the spout to catch the stray leaves, which are supposed to be harmful. Actually one can swallow tea-leaves in considerable quantities without ill effect, and if the tea is not loose in the pot it never infuses properly."
The rest of Orwell's recipe insists that tea is spoilt with sugar although cream is ok, and it is very important to warm up the pot beforehand. Also the water should still be boiling upon impact with the leaves. Follow these instructions and you will find tea a force to be reckoned with, I assure you.
Various legal drugs
Probably legal because the Feds just haven't caught up with them yet. Try them while you can.
Psychedelic dissociative. Totally legal, dude.
Formerly available in Robitussin. Has a powerful Alice in Wonderland effect, similar to looking through a pair of binoculars from the wrong end. You can still order it in powder form on the Internet and then press it into gel caps.
Hawaiian Baby Woodrose
Haven't tried it. Cool sounding name.
San Pedro Cactus
I have no idea where to score this in N. America.
If the above stuff sounds sketchy, well it is, a little; just have some Kava instead.
Also known as K2 and Spice. Legal? Yes. And here is a quote from the Professor John W. Huffman, the man who first invented synthesized marijuana. "People who use it are idiots."
No, not absinthe, abstinence, that's right! This can be mind altering in the context of whatever stimulants your brain is used to; by altering the flow of, say, caffeine, sex, alcohol, etc. you are changing the chemical cocktail in your brain. Let's say for example you're a bit of a bar-fly. This weekend go to the most packed bar you can find and stay there until closing while only sipping 7-Up. The result will be eye opening.
I have also had more than one friend claim that the raging psychosis and temporary mild retardation brought on by quitting nicotine cold turkey is something so surreal it can be enjoyed, like free drugs. I also know a guy whose life underwent radical transformations after he gave up masturbation for a few months! The chemistry of withdrawal is powerful. Whether any experience is enjoyable or just plain sucks depends on how you frame it, just like Tom Sawyer's views on whitewashing the fence.
Too Much Poetry
I'm now making myself as scummy as I can. Why? I want to be a poet, and I'm working at turning myself into a seer. You won't understand any of this, and I'm almost incapable of explaining it to you. The idea is to reach the unknown by the derangement of all the senses.
If I feel physically as if the top of my head were taken off, I know that is poetry.
— Emily Dickinson
You have to always be drunk . . . but on what? Wine, poetry or virtue, as you wish.
Those who don't realize you can be totally wasted on words have simply not consumed enough poetry in one sitting. Most people haven't, in my experience. People who read just one or two poems and then see no point in poetry are like people who have tried one or two sips of wine and don't know intoxication. Furthermore they say they don't like the taste because they have undeveloped palates. Philistines! In order to understand poetry you must become intoxicated. Go on a binge. Read for hours, read out loud until you stumble outside and the world is bright and rippling with new layers of meaning shot through with light. If the poet you're reading can't do this for you, find another poet.
Valerian + Vitamin B6 + Melatonin
All of these are available at your local health food store for a few bucks per bottle. Any one of them will enhance the depth and vividness of your dreams. Taken together they are a powerful cocktail assured to give you access to some of the most powerful and memorable dreams you will ever have. Not bad for $20.
Also known as Chia Fresca. A Paleolithic Red Bull. You mix together a couple heaping spoonfuls of Chia seeds with sugar and lime juice in a glass of water. Let it sit for a few minutes and it gels into this weird crunchy goop that tastes much better than it looks. This is the energy drink of the Tamarahua Indians, a tribe of world class ultrarunners who power their ultramarathon length runs through the canyons of the Mexican Barranca with this drink and corn maza.
In terms of nutritional content, a tablespoon of Chia is like a smoothie made from salmon, spinach, and human growth hormone. . . . Chia was once so treasured the Aztecs used to deliver it to their king in homage.
—McDougal, Born to Run
Recently I have seen this stuff pop up in cans in supermarkets. Steer clear of that and make your own.
I am sure there is plenty of stuff I left off this list, but you get the idea.
Images courtesy of the publisher.