How do I use herbs to help quit smoking?

You’ve decided that you no longer want smoking to be a part of your life. Now you’re looking for help in kicking the habit. Rather than rely on drugs or just plain will power, you can use herbs to fight the addiction and ease the discomfort you will experience while you quit smoking.

The Craving

The first thing you want help with is the craving for nicotine. Lobelia is often recommended as an herb that mimics the effects of tobacco without being addictive. Lobeline, a component of lobelia, has an effect similar to tobacco on the body’s nervous system. Lobelia was included in many quit-smoking herbal remedies, but the FDA banned remedies containing lobeline in 1993, having decided they were ineffective in helping people to quit smoking. Also, since lobelia can be toxic–think nausea, vomiting, convulsions and seizures–the Mayo Clinic doesn’t recommend you use it at all. The University of Maryland Medical Center’s website, however, says that using lobelia in very small, homeopathic doses may be helpful but cautions that it should be used only “under the guidance of a qualified health care provider.” You’ll still find it recommended in many places online, though.

Reducing Stress

Trying to quit smoking causes nervousness and anxiety. Several herbs are available to help you keep on an even keel while your body is going through nicotine withdrawal. St. John’s wort may help you maintain a positive mood, be less anxious and sleep better. Read the possible side effects carefully, and ask your physician about some likely drug interactions.

Valerian is generally considered a safe herb to help reduce anxiety and get some sleep. The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine reports that studies suggest valerian is safe to use for four to six weeks. Long-term effects haven’t been extensively studied.

Calming Your Stomach

Since your digestion may become upset while attempting to stop smoking, herbs to calm it can be helpful. Consider eating ginger to combat stomach ache, nausea and diarrhea. Slippery elm, which coats the digestive system, also may help with a sore throat from coughing while your body detoxifies.

Cautions

While many companies are eager to sell you herbs to quit smoking, you must take into account who is providing the information. Objective data from the seller of the herbs is hard to come by. Consult your physician or other health-care provider, and always read labels carefully. Herbs can be taken in capsule form, as tinctures or in teas, and how you use the herb may dramatically affect its effect on you. In addition, herbs can have side effects just like drugs do, and some herbs can interfere with how your medications work. Read up on the possibilities and pay attention to what your body does while taking the herbs you choose to help you stop smoking.

Source:

Prescription for Nutritional Healing; James F. Balch and Phyllis A. Balch; 1997

Care2, Herbs to Stop Smoking

University of Maryland Medical Center: Lobelia

More Information:

Mayo Clinic on St. Johns Wort

NIH on Valerian

UMMC on Slippery Elm