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Alterna Botanical Nicotine Substitute Explained



Alterna Botanical Nicotine Substitute Explained

There's another new and creative way to attempt to vape without using tobacco-extracted nicotine – except it's not really new and it's not really nicotine.


Alterna is an herb-based "botanical nicotine alternative" – it contains no tobacco, and is a mix of Xanthenes, Polyphenols, MAOIs, and vitamins. The company behind Alterna says it can be both calming and a stimulant, an antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and detoxifying for users.


According to several testimonies in a recent promotional pitch we received, Alterna has helped people quit or significantly reduce their nicotine consumption. While we're not going to take sides in the scientific debate that questions whether nicotine is a harmful drug or no less benign than other stimulants like caffeine when separated from the toxins associated with tobacco use, we realize there are many vapers with an end goal of reducing or eliminating their nicotine dependence. If Alterna works, it could be a powerful tool for those so inclined.


Also intriguing is the aspect of taxes and regulations surrounding the substance. That same promotion boasts that California's Board of Equalization granted Alterna an exemption from that state's new tobacco laws that consider all nicotine e-liquid to be a "tobacco product" and submit to additional licensing and tax collection. If it not just qualifies as not a tobacco product using common sense, but not a "tobacco product" in the eyes of government regulators, might there be an opportunity here to change the dynamics of the vaping industry?


Well, of course. That would be great. But nicotine alternatives have been tried before.


As far back as 2014, people have been promoting the idea of vaping herbs and vitamins suspended in e-liquid, whether for health purposes or as an alternative to nicotine. The problem is, it doesn’t seem to work. Many of the same compounds Alterna boasts as containing either don't break down into particles small enough in vaporized form to be absorbed through the lungs, or their compound is changed through heating such that any health benefits from consuming them in vapor form is minimized or canceled out entirely.


There's also the cost factor – Alterna recommends mixing liquids containing 15% of their base. To make 3mg nicotine liquid, a mixer would use only 3% of a 100mg nicotine extract – that means it takes five times as much Alterna as nicotine to make a comparably-dosed product (Alterna refers to 3mg vapers several times in their promotional material). Not only that, it costs more than three times as much as high-quality tobacco-extracted nicotine – the cost is about on par with lab-synthesized tobacco-free nicotine, but there's still the matter of quintupling the dose.


The product, along with the idea of living a life entirely nicotine-free, is certainly alluring. And if some respected commercial juice lines begin experimenting with Alterna versions of their product, we very well may give them a more serious look. But for now and until this new alternative starts to make some headway in the industry, we've got to determine that the jury is still out.