Not surprisingly, the thrill pills have also drawn the wrath of herbalists who see Herbal Ecstacy as an irresponsible abuse of otherwise valuable all-natural resources.

"It's really scary to realize some people are using this stuff without having any idea what they're actually taking," echoes Barbara Miller, an employee of Herb Stop, an herbal apothecary on East Camelback. "People hear 'Herbal Ecstacy' and figure that this can't hurt them because it's herbal, it's natural. Well, sorry. Just because something is herbal or all-natural doesn't mean that it's beneficial in massive amounts or can just be combined with anything else."

Like Miller, Scottsdale herbalist Rick Landry fears that the exploitation of ma huang in Herbal Ecstacy (as well as in herbal pep pills sold at convenience markets) will eventually force the government to outlaw the use of the herb altogether.

"People are going to end up getting hurt with this kind of stuff," predicts Landry, owner of the East Earth Chinese Herb Clinic. "And when it winds up getting pulled off the market, asthmatics and other people who could really benefit from these herbs are really going to suffer. And that's what's sad."

And the word from Herbal Ecstacy's corporate headquarters in Venice? Chill out--perhaps using Nexus, the company's all-herbal answer to Prozac. (It also sells Ritual Spirit, billed as an all-natural psychedelic aphrodisiac.)

"Obviously, I am not a scientist," says Rob Kessler, Global World Media's director of marketing. "But my information is that [with the exception of] someone who has some sort of an allergy, the vast majority of people can take products containing ma huang with no problem."

According to Kessler, the company has not received a single complaint from anyone experiencing a bum trip after ingesting his firm's "adult-oriented recreational product." In fact, the marketing director insists that the only negative feedback he's aware of is from self-righteous moralists and outraged herbalists.

"It's a very strange position to be in," says Kessler. "But I guess being attacked from both sides at the same time means we're exactly in the right place. From what we're hearing, the vast majority of people who try the product really enjoy it."

If Kessler's company is still seeking out unsolicited testimonials, a Phoenix customer who tried Herbal Ecstacy a few weeks ago offers these left-handed words of praise.

After outlining an "ecstatic" afternoon filled with cold sweats, cotton mouth, anxiety, heart palpitations and incontinence, the curiosity seeker concludes, "As horrendous as it was, I have to say I really enjoyed the feeling when I finally began to come off the pills. It probably sounds stupid, but that really made me appreciate how good normalcy feels.

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