Concerns have been raised about the mood-altering effects of the herbal drug Spice, a so-called "legal high".
Spice products boast cannabis-like effects and are widely available online.
But not enough is known about the toxicity of them and what effects they have on the human body, according to a team of international researchers who carried out a study on the subject.
Spice is a brand name for a herbal mix widely sold as an incense or legal substitute for cannabis.
Different varieties have names such as Spice Diamond, Spice Gold, Spice Silver, 2Spicy and Spice of Life - and according to users produce subtly different effects.
Professor Fabrizio Schifano from the University of Hertfordshire's School of Pharmacy said: "Our study has identified a number of websites offering both information and purchase opportunities.
"Our concern is that very little is known about both human metabolism and toxicity of these compounds. We plan to use this study... to raise awareness among health professionals that the world wide web is a new resource for the drug and therefore more information is needed about its effects."
Prof Fabrizio was a lead author of what is billed as the first multilingual review of Spice, to be published this month under the title Psychoactive Drug or Mystical Incense?
The study assessed the information available on Spice products across about 200 websites in eight different languages.
It found while Spice products appealed to online customers due to their cannabis-like effects, legal status, lack of detection in biological samples and ease of online access, typical product descriptions did not mention the strong synthetic properties that are thought to account for the psychoactive or hallucinogenic effects of Spice and similar herbal blends.
December 1, 2009
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