Herbal incense, which is how synthetic cannabinoids are generically marketed in the open, are among the many types of drugs sold in the market today. In fact, synthetic cannabinoids cover an increasing number of mind-altering chemicals that are used on plants that are dried and shredded.

The name of herbal incense is preferred by marketers to circumvent the restrictions that prohibit several ingredients that are not approved by authorities. Its popularity, however, is alarming since many people think these are safer alternatives to other drugs or are legal to be used.


Back in the 1970s, synthetic cannabinoids have been created. However, it was only made available in the US in 2008 and a little earlier in Europe in 2005. Like other drugs, the effects of synthetic cannabinoids differ among people depending on the amount used and the body’s reactions to the drugs. There are users who feel its effects up to five hours, while some say that the effects last no longer than 30 minutes.

In 2010, the United States Drug Enforcement Agency, banned herbal incense products, that are popularly known as “Spice,” “K2,” “Red X Dawn,” and “Blaze.” Today, the abuse of synthetic cannabinoid is now considered a global problem. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention said the highest number of calls related to synthetic cannabinoid poisoning received by poison centers was recorded in 2015 with 7,794.

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Is Herbal Incense Similar to Marijuana?

Cannabinoids act similarly on the brain like marijuana’s main active ingredient, the tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). They bind to the brain’s CB1 and CB2 cannabinoid receptors.

A study published in 2011 found out that the packaging of herbal incense only lists natural herbs in its ingredients. However, further studies revealed that herbal incense also has synthetic cannabinoids, such as JWH-073, JWH-018, HU-210 (a type of tetrahydrocannabinol cannabinoid), and CP 47,497. Its components, except for the HU-210, are different in terms of its structure from marijuana’s THC making it a preference of people who seek to get the high similar to marijuana use without risking failing a drug test.

But even so, its intoxicating properties prodded the DEA to issue an order in 2011 making any drugs and products that have it under Schedule I category. Its manufacture and possession are illegal without seeking a Schedule I license. While there are still a few studies on the effects of synthetic cannabinoids on the brain, researchers warn that there are cannabinoids that bind more strongly than cannabis resulting in more dangerous and unpredictable effects on health.

What Are the Side Effects Of Herbal Incense?

One thing that makes the effects of synthetic cannabinoids found in herbal incense unpredictable is because its chemical composition is unknown. The components used may even change during its manufacture causing different effects on the user. It might lead to agitation, confusion, incoordination and lack of focus among others. Some users also report experiencing chest pain and hypertension.

Since it has some effects similar to marijuana, users of herbal incense may feel the following: 

  • Relaxed feeling
  • Elevated mood
  • Red eye
  • Lethargy
  • Delusions
  • Heavy limbs
  • Increased appetite
  • Altered perception

But users of herbal incense also reported experiencing the following:

  • Confusion
  • Extreme anxiety
  • Panic attacks
  • Increased heart rate
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Hallucinations
  • Paranoia
  • Violent behavior
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Intense fear of death

Aside from these, the dangers of taking synthetic cannabinoids found on herbal incense also stem from its capacity to cause reduced the supply of blood to the heart, seizures, and damage to the kidneys.

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Can A Person Get Addicted to Herbal Incense?

Since it has the same components as marijuana, herbal incense is regarded as an addictive substance and prone to abuse. Those who are used to taking herbal incense may experience the following withdrawal symptoms when they stop using the substance:

  • anxiety
  • irritability
  • headaches
  • depression

Life-threatening dangers of synthetic cannabinoid

In November 2018, the CDC updated its warning after at least eight deaths recorded in the US. The government said the synthetic cannabinoids have the chemical called brodifacoum, which is found on rat poison and has a risk of causing uncontrollable bleeding. The dangers of synthetic cannabinoids are yet to be fully understood since the compounds are not easily detected in the body and the chemicals used are unknown.

The products with synthetic cannabinoid may also contain other toxic chemicals, like synthetic cathinones, which are also called “bath salts”. These type of toxic drugs are part of the new psychoactive substances or NPS that are unregulated and has no legitimate medical use.

The risks of taking herbal incense are too high since there are no standards followed in its manufacture, packaging, and even selling. You might find two products of synthetic cannabinoid with different chemicals used. Aside from this, the number of chemicals used to manufacture synthetic cannabinoids may differ between batches produced or within the same batch made.

Synthetic cannabinoid poisoning may include neurologic, psychiatric, and physical impairment. In worst cases, the abuse of herbal incense may lead to kidney failure and death.

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Questions on Herbal Incense

The CDC has even warned users to immediately consult a doctor when they experience unusual bleeding or bruising. If you are smoking herbal incense, you might wonder whether its effect on your body will be long-term. For your questions on the dangers of herbal incense and even legal weed, drop your questions here and our team will send you a reply as soon as possible.

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