Legal highs that are used as alternatives to smoking cannabis

Published Apr 21, 2021 01:00 p.m. ET
iStock / KatharinaRau

Whether it’s because of a lack of access to cannabis or a requirement to consistently pass drug tests, consumers have long sought out alternative legal highs. You might not be able to afford the risk that goes with carting around a bag of weed, but that doesn’t mean you have to miss out on all of the fun. In fact, some say that these legal highs work better than some cannabis-derived options.

1. Rose petals

We use these beautiful flowers as a centerpiece or gift on certain holidays, but roses have a whole lot more to offer than bright, eye-catching colours. Rose petals are a smokable herb known to induce a deep sense of inner peace and tranquility. These petals can also act as an aphrodisiac or an anti-depressant, as they hold the power to positively influence mood. With effects that are often compared to nicotine, roses can definitely offer a unique, short-lived, and completely legal high.

2. Mugwort

Mugwort is a flowering plant from the same family as daisies, aka Asteraceae. Interestingly, this herb has also gone by the name Sailor’s Tobacco and Wild Wormwood, and it’s long been utilized as an alternative to both cigarettes and cannabis. Mugwort looks a lot like cannabis, with effects that are described as mellow and relaxing, and it often goes down smoother than your average bowl of weed, which is probably why it’s one of the most commonly used to get high legally.

3. Lavender

Most of us are familiar with the lavender fragrance, which offers aromatic components that we know can induce a legal high, albeit a far less noticeable one than what you’d expect from cannabis. Lavender can help to improve sleep, relieve anxiety, and improve symptoms in people who suffer from dementia or depression. The oils hold powerful antifungal and antibacterial properties while delivering a somewhat sedating legal high.

4. Mint

The Mint plant is something that we generally use in foods and fragrances, but it’s also a smokable herb that is enjoyed by consumers who are looking for an alternative to cannabis. Unfortunately, you won’t quite get high in an intense sensation, but smoking mint leaves can help with several things including calming the nerves, improving blood circulation, and it can also work to clear out the respiratory tract and lungs, which can make it a little bit easier to breathe.

5. Damiana

This plant is also known as Turnera diffusa, and it’s a yellow flowering species that stick close to the ground while producing leaves that emanate a captivating aroma of scents. Though there is very little out there for scientific evidence to back up the theory, many believe that damiana can help to improve sexual arousal among both men and women. So, while it might not give you a buzz in a traditional sense, this herb offers a legal aphrodisiac high that may be useful in the bedroom.

6. Catnip

Catnip might seem like one of the most obvious legal highs, after all, your feline friends go crazy over the stuff, and they look quite happy while doing it, but this herb doesn’t offer the intense psychoactive effects you’d get from cannabis. Though much of the available clinical evidence remains anecdotal, some studies do suggest that catnip can help with things like headaches. Catnip is also reported to induce a relaxing happy light buzz that is comparable to nicotine.

7. Kava

There is no doubt that Kava aka Kava Kava, is a hallucinogen, a supplement that is made from a plant called Piper methysticum that is native to the Western Pacific Islands. This plant's name directly translates to awa which means intoxicating pepper, a title that accurately describes this herb's psychoactive effects. People have used Kava as a legal high, but it’s most often utilized as an alternative treatment for anxiety, stress, insomnia, and pain.

8. Liverwort

Liverwort produces a unique chemical that is eerily similar to THC, and as a result, it offers a wide range of comparable euphoric effects. This moss-like plant species is legal to use for a buzz in New Zealand, Switzerland, and several other parts of the world, and it works because of a chemical called Perrottetinene (PET). Liverwort has proven to activate cannabinoid receptors throughout the body, which explains why this legal high is so often used as a cannabis alternative.

9. Chamomile

Chamomile is a plant that boasts large, white, daisy-like flowers and the species has long been used for its beneficial properties, be it through tea or smoking. Smoking high-quality chamomile flowers can induce a light sense of relaxation, with effects that may or may not be brought on by the terpenes. Some say that it’s the best legal high they’ve had, while others report less exciting results. Most agree that smoking chamomile will leave you feeling at ease.

10. Sage

Sage or, more specifically, saliva divinorum is a psychoactive type of plant that has been used for centuries for its opioid-like elements that can be absorbed through chewing, smoking, or eating. The leaves provide the highest concentrations, and when smoked, the effects can be intoxicating. Sage may be part of the mint family tree, but its benefits go far beyond those of its relatives. This herb can help with things like mood, pain, anxiety, depression, and stress thanks to its meditative characteristics.


It is important to note that there is very little for study into the effects and benefits of consuming most of the cannabis alternatives, in particular when it comes to smoking them, and for this reason, we do not endorse the use of any of the aforementioned products.

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