While energy drinks have been all the rage for since the 1990s, there’s been a new trend recently toward “anti-energy” drinks, also known as relaxation drinks. And by “recently” I mean that I only recently learned about them.
These drinks – there are several brands on the market now – have only been around for about a year. They’re designed to do pretty much what you would expect them to do from the name. They’re basically the opposite of energy drinks like Red Bull. In fact, one of them is called Slow Cow, a deliberate reference to Red Bull. Whereas an energy drink pumps you full of sugar and caffeine to give you a rush of energy, these anti-energy drinks are designed to calm you down and mellow you out.
Because these drinks are fairly new, there has been a lot of discussion about how healthy they may or may not be, but not a lot of actual research done on them. One, called Drank, has the distinct misfortune of being easily confused with “purple drank,” a homemade mixture of soda and prescription cough syrup that can be extremely dangerous.
Though not directly related to “purple drank” these relaxation drinks – with names like Unwind, RelaxZen, and Mary Jane’s Relaxing Soda (which does not, in fact, contain any marijuana) have caused some concern among doctors. Several of the most common brands contain ingredients that can be harmful, or contain too much of ingredients that are otherwise okay.
An example of the latter is melatonin. Melatonin is a hormone related to the human body’s circadian rhythm. Your pineal gland produces melatonin when it gets dark, inducing drowsiness and telling your body that it’s time to sleep. Melatonin supplements have been available over the counter for years, but some of these relaxation drinks include it in much greater quantities than are necessary for healthy sleep.
Valerian, a flowering plant, has been used for centuries to treat insomnia. While it isn’t necessarily harmful in small doses, over use can cause dizziness, delirium, and apathy. What’s more, there have been a few instances where people who take valerian regularly have shown symptoms of withdrawal once they stopped taking it.
Like valerian, kava is a plant that has been in use as a sleep aid for centuries, and in small doses is probably pretty harmless. In fact, kava lacks some of the negative side effects that valerian can produce – most notably the lack of mental clarity. Nevertheless, kava has been shown to have significant negative interactions with certain other kinds of depressants, including alcohol and several prescription medications.
All in all, then, it is probably best to treat anti-energy drinks the same as you should treat energy drinks: keep away. Just as with energy drinks, one or two here isn’t going to kill you, but they also probably aren’t any good for you.
Besides which, there are plenty of other relaxation aids that are more natural and healthy. Chamomile, for example, is an excellent sleep and relaxation aid, doesn’t include any addictive substances or chemicals that could damage your liver, and has numerous other health benefits besides.