You already know smoking is harmful to your body. Even so, lots of people keep smoking.
Why is it so hard to quit smoking?
It’s hard to tackle the physical addiction to nicotine. Cigarettes contain nicotine, a highly addictive substance found naturally in tobacco. It travels quickly to the brain when it is inhaled and can cause a feeling of temporary relaxation and/or stress relief. Nicotine can also elevate your mood and your heart rate. But this feeling is only temporary. After your body rids itself of the drug, you start to crave another cigarette.
- Shortly after you finish smoking a cigarette, your body starts to show signs of withdrawal. You start to crave another cigarette to overcome these symptoms, starting a vicious cycle of dependency.
- It may seem challenging to find new ways to handle your stress. Do you grab a cigarette when you feel stressed or anxious? Stress, whether it’s from your job, relationships, caregiving burdens or just plain fast-paced living, can cause you to look for fast and easy relief.
But in the long run, smoking will only add to your stress by taking away your good health.
Use this calculator to know how much you spend on cigarettes each year. You’d be surprised with the results.
Herbs can be a great addition to a stop smoking program. Certain herbs will decrease withdrawal symptoms, ease stress and anxiety, reduce cravings, or help detoxify the lungs and body.
Some herbs can taste unpleasant. If the taste is preventing you from taking a herb regularly, then try mixing it in with another herbal tea that you do enjoy drinking.
Certain herbs, such as lobelia, require a lower dose, whereas other herbs can be taken at a higher dose. In general, most herbs are not taken more than 3x per day, and each dose can be one cup of tea, or 10-30 drops of tincture. If you are taking capsules, follow the directions on the bottle as potency will vary according to manufacturer.
Most of these herbs are very common, but if you are having trouble finding them at your local shop, then check online suppliers.
1Calamus (Acorus calamus)
Calamus, otherwise know as Sweet Flag, helps to eliminate excess mucus and clear congestion in the bronchioles. It is also of great use in removing the residual toxins in the lungs from cigarette smoking.
Calamus is a calming and centering herb. It also has stimulating properties, and while it can treat anxiety, it will also give you the extra energy and stamina that you need while in withdrawal.
2Catnip (Nepeta cataria)
While catnip excites cats, it calms down humans. Catnip reduces anxiety and can help those suffering from insomnia. Since catnip calms the mind, it can help take the edge off the first few days after quitting.
Catnip is also helpful for easing digestive upset and alleviating headaches which can occur during the withdrawal period.
Catnip may also help to reduce cravings for cigarettes. Putting several drops of catnip tincture on the back of the tongue is said to decrease the desire for cigarettes.
Some people smoke catnip, but smoking it may cause headaches, so proceed with caution if you choose to do so.
Cautions: Excessive intake of catnip may cause headaches, nausea, or vomiting.
3Coltsfoot (Tussilago farfara)
Coltsfoot is an expectorant herb, which means that it promotes coughing and helps to expel mucus. Coltsfoot is an excellent herb for cleansing the lungs, but using too high of a dose can lead to coughing fits. Start using coltsfoot at a low dose; you want to cough once in a while to bring up the excess phlegm and clear the toxins, but not so much that coughing becomes incessant.
Cautions: Do not use coltsfoot if you cannot stop coughing, if you are coughing up blood, or if you have pain when breathing.
4Horsetail (Equisitum Arvense)
Horsetail contains a small amount of nicotine and can help alleviate cravings and ease withdrawal symptoms in the first few days after quitting.
Cautions: If using horsetail for more than six weeks continuously, it is important to take a break from the herb for three weeks, as excessive use can cause urinary irritation.
5Licorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra)
Licorice is an expectorant and demulcent herb. It has been traditionally used to soothe irritation in the lungs caused by asthma, bronchitis, and other respiratory ailments.
It is also an adrenal tonic, and can help to balance cortisol levels, reduce fatigue and restore energy.
Chewing on sticks of licorice root (not the candy) can also satisfy the oral fixation of smoking.
Cautions: Do not use licorice for more than 4-6 weeks. High doses or long-term use may cause potassium depletion, edema, or high blood-pressure.
Avoid using licorice if you have diabetes, high blood pressure, adrenal disease or weaknesses in the kidneys or liver.
Also do not take licorice if you have hormonal conditions such as any estrogen-sensitive condition (uterine fibroids, endometriosis, or breast, uterine or ovarian cancer), low testosterone levels, or an imbalance of aldosterone.
Licorice may interfere with several medications including ACE inhibitors, diuretics, corticosteroids, Digoxin, MAO inhibitors, Warfarin or medications processed by the liver.
6Lobelia (Lobelia inflata)
Lobelia, also know as Indian tobacco, is shown to reduce withdrawal symptoms and cravings associated with the cessation of smoking. The reason why Lobelia has this effect is because it contains an alkaloid called lobeline which binds to the same receptor sites in the brain as nicotine. Lobeline produces similar effects in the body as nicotine, without causing the damage that nicotine causes. It is also not addictive or habit-forming.
Another beneficial alkaloid in Lobelia is isolobelaine, which has relaxing effects on the central and autonomic nervous systems. It helps to ease tension and calm the nerves, aiding those who are going through withdrawal symptoms.
While you are in the withdrawal period, you can take Lobelia regularly, as you would other herbs, or you can try it on an “as needed” basis, and use it only when cravings are really bad. If a craving for cigarettes comes about, take 5-10 drops of Lobelia tincture under the tongue, or sip a tea made of Lobelia, and the craving should subside within 5 minutes.
Lobelia has quite an unpleasant taste, but given its potential benefits, it’s worth enduring.
Lobelia is a potent herb, and when taken in high doses it may cause nausea and vomiting. It is best to start with a lower dose, and if you do not feel results than increase the dosage gradually if no side effects are noted. If you start to feel nauseous, discontinue the use of the herb for the remainder of the day, and try a smaller dose on the following day.
Too high of a dose can also cause dizziness, light-headedness, dry mouth, vomiting, or excessive sweating.
Do not take Lobelia if you have heart disease, high blood pressure, tobacco sensitivity, paralysis, if you suffer from seizures, or if you are recovering from shock.
7Oats (Avena sativa)
Sometimes called “wild oats” or “oat grass”, the extract derived from oats can help to ease withdrawal symptoms and reduce cigarette cravings. Oats are an effective tonic for the nervous system, and are often recommended in cases of fatigue or nervous exhaustion. Taking an oat extract may help to reduce stress and anxiety, and encourage better sleep.
Using wild oat extract or tea can be a safe and useful addition to your quit-smoking program. Increasing your consumption of oat cereal may also be helpful.
The medicinal value of oats is highly variable. Depending on where the oats were grown or at which stage they were harvested, the dose needed can vary quite a lot. Since oats are extremely safe to take, if you find you are not getting results, then increase your dosage.
Best results come from taking the herb for a few months. You may want to start taking oats a couple of weeks before you plan to quit smoking. There is no problem taking oats long-term.
8Valerian (Valeriana officinalis)
Most known for its effects as a sedative and muscle relaxant, valerian will help you get to sleep if you are experiencing insomnia or nervous sleeplessness related to quitting smoking.
Valerian can also ease the stress, anxiety, irritability and nervous tension that are experienced when quitting smoking.
Valerian may cause drowsiness, so use it only in the evenings and do not drive or operate machinery after taking it.
Valerian may interact with certain medications. Do not take it if you are taking barbiturates and benzodiazepines such as Xanax, Ativan, or Valium. Also, avoid using valerian root if you have a weak liver or liver disease.