September 29, 2016
Do \"Calming\" Drinks Work?

Supermarket Buying Guide: Beverages

Do "Calming" Drinks Work?

by Berkeley Wellness  |  

After more than a decade of guzzling Red Bull, Monster and other supercharged beverages, are Americans ready to slow down?

Many marketers are betting they are, and are plugging a variety of so-called calming drinks that promise to help you "unwind from the grind," get an "acupuncture session in every can" and even enjoy a "vacation in a bottle."

Dozens of these non-alcoholic products have appeared in the past five years, with names like iChill, Mini Chill, Slow Cow and Mary Jane's Relaxing Soda. Two others, Purple Stuff and Drank, have caused some controversy because they appear to allude to Purple Drank, an illegal recreational drug made from prescription-strength cough syrup.

These drinks (which range from two-ounce shots to larger cans and bottles) contain herbs or other compounds that purport to promote relaxation, ease anxiety and improve mood. Ingredients include kava, valerian, melatonin, GABA and L-theanine.

There's no credible research to back up the manufacturers' claims, however. It's not even clear how much of the active compounds are in the beverages. And if there are significant amounts, some of the ingredients can cause side effects, such as excessive drowsiness.

Melatonin, a hormone that's become a popular insomnia and jet lag remedy, can produce dizziness and confusion in some people. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a warning to the manufacturer of Drank over its use of melatonin, which is not approved as a food additive. The long-term safety of melatonin supplements is a big question.

Other potentially unsafe ingredients include kava, which can interact with medication and has been linked to liver toxicity, kidney damage and high blood pressure. Valerian can cause mild side effects, such as headaches, dizziness and upset stomach.

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