Relaxation drinks hit the market, miss the mark
Published: Monday, April 19, 2010
Updated: Monday, April 19, 2010 16:04
There is a new type of drink to take the edge off, and alcohol is not the main ingredient. Calming beverages are the latest mood-altering drink in the industry.
The appeal of "anti-energy" beverages is that they facilitate relaxation and offset feelings of anxiety and stress. One drink called Drank is marketed to help induce sleep. Another one, Mini Chill, claims to increase focus but not induce drowsiness, according to the official Mini Chill website.
About 100 of these beverages, infused with plant extract and natural human hormone, like melatonin, which controls the sleep cycle, have flooded the market within the past three years, according to The Wall Street Journal. These drinks include iChill, Mary Jane's Relaxing Soda, The Relaxing Tea, Vacation in a Bottle, and Blue Cow.
Effectiveness and potential health risks are being examined further, which is usually standard procedure with new products. Drank has received some bad publicity for the use of melatonin, also used in supplements for conditions related to sleep disorders. The hormone is an unapproved food additive, according to a warning letter sent by the Food and Drug Administration to Innovative Beverage Group, the company that makes Drank.
Conversely, kava root, used in Mary Jane's Relaxing Soda and The Relaxing Tea, is said to be an effective remedy for anxiety. According to The Wall Street Journal, kava root received a grade "A" from Natural Standard Research Collaboration for its extensive scientific substantiation of effectiveness. The article notes that the results were seen when kava was used to treat people diagnosed with anxiety but not everyday stress. The kava plant is a species of pepper, with relaxing active components called kavalactones.
Professor Glenn Petersen, chair of the sociology and anthropology department, explains its usage among the Pohnpei people of Micronesia.
"Kava makes a group of people relax; they are all together in a community. It's a major part of why they get along together so well." He has witnessed its effectiveness first hand as an anthropologist and has done extensive fieldwork on how the community and use of kava are intertwined.
In 2002 the FDA warned consumers of kava's potential risk of severe liver injury when found in dietary supplements. However, Petersen, claims he never had a problem while drinking kava daily for a year as part of his ethnographic research. Being that the Pohnpei people have a variety of uses for kava like religious ceremonies, relaxation and social interaction, Petersen disagrees that it should not be used for ordinary stress.
Among uncertainty of effectiveness are assessments of what this trend suggests about our culture.
I doubt that this emerged because people were actively seeking a ‘relaxing drink.' I think instead that we are a capitalist society, and there is a need to keep making up new products and selling things," says sociology professor Barbara Katz Rothman.
"Marketing is evolving to suit people's needs," said sophomore Rafael Lacayo in agreement. "It started with energy drinks and, as business moves forward, there has to be an alterative to the energy drink phenomena."
The potential of dependence on substances that supposedly reduce stress are also among concerns.
"We are dependent on substances for our well-being rather than relying on ourselves and using natural relaxation," said freshman Kenisha Subero.
"These drinks can be potentially abused as downers," says sophomore Angel Rivera. "People can use it for other reasons just the same way people drink alcohol to change their mood. I do not find the need to be dependent on something to get relaxed."
Senior Loren Arias commented on her reason for not wanting to try these drinks. "It doesn't feel natural. It's just something I wouldn't want for my body," she said.
The difficulty confronting students that have tried this calming alternative suggests that, although people in their 20s are the main target group for these beverages, the "bottled relaxation" trend has not yet caught on at Baruch College.