Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Red Bull calm down

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'One pill makes you larger and one pill makes you small, and the ones that mother gives you don't do anything at all. Go ask Alice, when she's 10 feet tall," the Jefferson Airplane famously sang back in the day when most mood-altering drugs were sold in back alleys rather than in convenience stores and supermarkets.

But that really was back in the day. Now if you want go "chasing rabbits," as Alice was wont to do, you might want to quaff a can of Red Bull first. Red Bull is advertised as an "energizing" drink, a pick-me-up that will get you going when the going gets tough. It does this by giving you a huge dose of caffeine, a natural drug most commonly found in tea or coffee. Your 10-year-old kid, who, you don't think, is old enough to drink either beverage, can go into any corner store, buy a can of Red Bull and come home ticking and twitching.

Caffeine can do that to people. A large dose of caffeine can cause nervousness and sleeplessness which are also symptoms of stress. So "When men on the chessboard get up and tell you where to go," as Jefferson Airplane so presciently predicted, what is one to do?

The answer, of course, is Slow Cow, at least if you live in Quebec, which is where the antidote to Red Bull is manufactured and made into another natural beverage. This canned drink, its brewers hope, will soon be available everywhere from the United Arab Emirates to Winnipeg, and is concocted from a different group of natural drugs that are intended to calm you down but not slow you down when the going gets tough. It is billed as "an anti-energy drink."

Slow Cow contains such natural ingredients as camomile, passion flower and valerian, the last of which is a herb much esteemed by cats and rats. It makes cats frisky, it seems, and science says the Pied Piper of Hamelin may have used it to lure the rats out of town.

This seems a dubious distinction for a beverage, but the key ingredient in Slow Cow is L-Theanine, an almost completely benign drug -- no cats nor rats here -- that is found in black, green and oolong tea. It has a calming effect on people without making them lethargic, so as Billy May, a singer of a different generation suggested, "sip a little oolong tea" may be good advice.

Good advice or not, Red Bull is angry with Slow Cow, claiming that the calming can too closely copies the energizing one. Perhaps Red Bull should have a cup of Slow Cow.

As for the rest of us, it is instructive to know that "when logic and proportion have fallen sloppy dead," you don't have to lurk around back alleys anymore to "feed your head."

Editorials are the consensus view of the Winnipeg Free Press’ editorial board, comprising Catherine Mitchell, David O’Brien, Shannon Sampert, and Paul Samyn.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition May 7, 2009 A12

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