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8 Drug-Free Natural Highs

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8 Drug-Free Natural Highs

By Rachel Cernansky, Planet Green

The brain is pretty good at playing tricks on us, especially on our moods. But that doesn’t mean we can’t play tricks on it, too. As the book Natural Highs points out, almost all mind-altering substances are actually similar to brain chemicals and work their effects by mimicking, enhancing, or blocking their effects. Which means we should be able to get “natural highs” without relying on these harmful substances.

Valium, for example, creates its effect by enhancing the neurotransmitter GABA in the brain, and some anti-depressants are SSRIs, or selective seratonin reuptake inhibitors—all simply making the brain do things it already does, just in different proportions.

A lot of herbs will do the same thing—St. John’s Wort and Kava Kava are two herbs well-known for their positive effects on mood and stress levels. Others, such as lemon balm, valerian, chamomile, peppermint, and skullcap, also have calming and balancing effects.

Runner’s high
The endorphins produced during exercise (of all forms, not just running) have a chemical effect on the brain: they are groups of peptides that interact with opiate receptors and reduce the perception of pain and stress—similarly to opiate drugs, except they are naturally occurring in the body and aren’t addictive. When endorphin levels increase, you feel happier and more relaxed.

Endorphins are produced after an orgasm, too. So if you missed your jog for the day…

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Megan, selected from Planet Green

Planet Green is the multi-platform media destination devoted to the environment and dedicated to helping people understand how humans impact the planet and how to live a more environmentally sustainable lifestyle. Its two robust websites, and, offer original, inspiring, and entertaining content related to how we can evolve to live a better, brighter future. Planet Green is a division of Discovery Communications.


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8:17PM PDT on May 16, 2014

I can vouch for the runner's high. When I was young, I ran three times a week, usually just three, 8-min. miles, but this was enough to get a real boost. In my mid thirties I had a heart operation, and since then my pace is 10.5 min. miles at best, no runner's high. It's obvious from this perspective how helpful the true endorphin boost had been back in my 20's.

11:31AM PST on Jan 3, 2013

Thank you.

4:56AM PDT on Jun 21, 2012

I have severe depression and i'm taking medication, but including fruit salads with chocolate sauce won't hurt...

7:22PM PDT on Jun 19, 2012

First take care for yourself and than doing something nice for someone,that gives you a good feeling Thanks for the good advice

9:43AM PDT on Jun 16, 2012


6:19PM PDT on Oct 21, 2011

putting others first gives you a good feeling

2:29PM PDT on Aug 7, 2011


6:01PM PDT on Jul 17, 2011

It's been way too long since my last massage or accupuncture session...

9:23PM PDT on Mar 31, 2011

where can I get a potentilla leaf? haha

11:41AM PST on Mar 6, 2011

Great tips. I especially enjoyed the recommendation of carbohydrates through fruits instead of overloading on grains. Great article.

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