Intoxicants from the kitchen

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You’re not into drugs and don’t want anything to do with them? Take a look around your kitchen. More foodstuffs than you might think can have intoxicating or hallucinogenic effects. Next thing you know we’re high, without consciously having taken any drugs.

Parsley as natural Ecstasy?

Some of us can’t get through the workday without coffee. Balzac is said to have drunk liters of the caffeinated beverage when he was in a writing frenzy. The Vienna writer and essayist Robert Menasse swears by another stimulant: when writing he chews loads of parsley. One of his books, by his own admission, is actually “a metabolite of excessive parsley consumption” and would never have been realized without his gnawing on the green stems.

That parsley can have a stimulant effect is also documented in the Encyclopedia of psychoactive plants: In very large amounts it is stimulating, intoxicating and hallucinogenic, with an effect similar to synthetic drugs such as Ecstasy. It is said to have an abortive effect in pregnant women, and an aphrodisiacal effect in men. The substance which makes parsley an aphrodisiac is apiol. It promotes blood flow – allegedly and in particular to the male sex organ. This is why in the Middle Ages the streets on which there were brothels were called “Parsley alleys”. Anyone who would like to get high on parsley, however, would have to gobble up an entire plantation of the green herb, and would then presumably be afflicted by intense nausea and stomach cramps.

Tipsy bananas

Bananas are harmless? Well, it depends on how many: 30 to 40 overripe bananas contain as much alcohol as one-and-a-half liters of beer. But the hankering for the yellow fruit is probably not that great…

Drugs from the candy aisle

A buzz at the breakfast table? Probably a rare occurrence. But under unfavorable conditions, poppy seed rolls and products containing poppy seed can harbor as much morphine as normally prescribed by doctors for intense pain. What helps patients suffering from pain can lead to disturbance of consciousness and breathing, as well as cardiac and circulatory troubles. Poppy is known to have opium-like effects. Less known is which dose has an effect: The Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR) warns against a daily amount of more than 50 grams, which can already be reached by consuming a large slice of poppy-seed cake. One should really reconsider having a second slice, and not because of the extra calories, but because permissible values in a drug test would be exceeded. For this reason poppy-seed products are prohibited in German prisons. They could yield false positives in inmates’ urine samples. This amount of poppy seed does not yet, however, have a psychoactive effect.

Curd cheese

Chocolate, noodles and nuts are known to release feel-good hormones. But did you know that curd cheese also boosts happiness? The reason lies in the exorphins (amino acid chains) contained in it. Structurally these resemble our own endorphins and during the digestive process display pain-relieving and calming effects while triggering feelings of happiness. This also explains why babies often fall asleep while breastfeeding and why drug addicts can relieve their withdrawal symptoms with curd cheese.

Getting high on spices

Nor is nutmeg as harmless as one might think. A pinch seasons mashed potatoes and boosts the aroma of beef and roast pork. But if it is consumed by the gram, it can lead to intoxication, paranoia, and hallucinations, as well as unpleasant side effects such as diarrhea, vomiting and disturbance of speech. For babies and small children an entire nutmeg apple can be deadly, since the substances myristicin, elemicin and safrole it contains act like Ecstasy in our liver metabolism. As for all the other foodstuffs mentioned here: The dose makes the poison.

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