Kick the Smoking Habit
I have been a moderate to heavy smoker for the last 10 years, and would like to try and quit in the spring. Can you suggest anything I might take to help me through the process?
Start an herbal program two to three weeks before quitting smoking.
Khalsa responds: First, let me applaud your decision. Smoking is one of the riskiest lifestyle choices you can make — it’s suicide in slow motion. The World Health Organization says that smoking causes more death and disability than any single disease. If you end up being a lifetime tobacco smoker, there is a 50 percent chance that your eventual death will be smoking-related. And half of those deaths by smoking will be in middle age.
For several years, I managed the nutritional therapy department of an accredited holistic hospital. I saw countless people go through smoking cessation. Tobacco is a tough addiction, but natural therapies make stopping bearable. After many years of adjusting and improving a protocol, here’s what I’ve come to favor.
Setting a plan, as you are doing, is the way to succeed. Set a date and work toward it. Begin your natural remedies well in advance to prepare your tissues. In my experience, it seems that gradual reduction works better than cold turkey.
Kola nut (Cola nitida) is a mild energizer to elevate mood and reduce fatigue. Use 1 to 6 grams, as needed, in capsules, per day. But don’t take it late at night, as it might make you too zippy to sleep. Vervain leaf (Verbena officinalis) and cubeb berry (Piper cubeba) rejuvenate the respiratory tissues. Use 3 to 6 grams, in capsules or tea, per day. Saw palmetto berry (Serenoa repens) is a slow-acting stamina enhancer, to be used in capsules at 1 to 4 grams a day. Gingerroot (Zingiber officinale) and prickly ash bark (Zanthoxylum americanum) promote circulation and detoxification. Use 1 to 4 grams a day in capsules.
Start the herbal program two to three weeks before stopping the cigarettes. Continue to smoke while working into the doses over a few days, to make sure all is comfortable. Then reduce or stop the cigarettes and continue with the herbal program, lowering doses progressively over several weeks, until your cravings are gone.
As an addition, some people do even better with a gram of ginseng every two to three hours for the first week or so, to get them over the hump.
Mullein (Verbascum spp.) tea has a long history of use for fighting cigarette cravings. Many herbalists recommend a tincture of green milky oat seed (Avena sativa) to treat the anxiety that comes with wanting to puff.
When the desire for a cigarette strikes, use pursed lip breathing (strong, full inhale and exhale as though through a cigarette) until the craving stops. Also, make sure you keep your blood sugar stable. You might feel better eating several small meals per day, and remember to eat adequate protein.
Willard responds: Quitting smoking is difficult for most people, and different methods work for different individuals. There have been many studies on the cessation of smoking and you might be surprised that one of the best methods is to quit cold turkey, contrary to Khalsa’s experience discussed above. In one study, reviewing 188 randomized control trials (which included various measures, such as nicotine-containing skin patches and chewing gum, acupuncture and hypnosis), quitting cold turkey had the best results, with a 45 percent cessation of smoking one year later. Success through acupuncture was rated at 3 percent. (Although in our clinic I have found acupuncture accompanied by some herbs produces 75 to 80 percent success after three sessions.) Hypnosis has a success rate of 23 percent, while nicotine replacement in the form of a patch or gum has a 13 percent success rate.
In our clinic, we use a Chinese herbal formula called “Miraculous Quit Smoking Liquid” (MQSL). While its name is over-stated, we have had good results with it. MQSL is not taken orally, but used as aromatherapy. You hold it under your nose for 15 minutes every morning and evening, with an additional whiff for about a minute whenever you crave a cigarette. Don’t expect it to smell nice — it is downright nasty-smelling. The formula is complex, containing more than 10 herbs. We have used this formula for more than 15 years in the clinic.
Recently, we discovered that massaging 2 to 4 drops of MQSL into an acupressure point called Tianmei increases the rate of smoking cessation. To locate Tianmei, look on the back of the hand at the base of the thumb, near the first skin fold of the wrist. In smokers, this point is often a bit sensitive. We suggest massaging the point for five minutes every two hours during the day. One clinical study done in 1999 by the Nantong Army Hospital in China found that the effective rate of this therapy was 95 percent for 170 smokers who did self- treatment over one week. We don’t find it quite that effective, but it helps in about 60 to 80 percent of the people using it. MQSL is available in large Chinese herb stores, or over the Internet.
Below is a list of suggestions that we give our patients to help them quit smoking:
• Write down a list of all the reasons why you want to quit smoking. Review the list daily. Set a specific day to quit, tell at least 10 friends that you are going to quit smoking and then — DO IT!
• Throw away all cigarettes, butts, matches and ashtrays, but keep one or two empty cigarette packages.
• Take the empty cigarette packages and fill them with chewable vitamin C. Keep the package in the normal place you used to keep the cigarettes. Each time you reach for the cigarettes out of habit, open up the package and take a vitamin C.
• Use other substitutes. Instead of smoking, chew on raw vegetables, fruits, licorice sticks or gum.
• If your fingers seem empty, play with a pencil.
• Take it one day at a time.
• Realize that 40 million Americans have quit. If they can do it, so can you!
• Visualize yourself as a nonsmoker with a fatter pocketbook, pleasant breath, unstained teeth and the satisfaction that comes from being in control of your life.
• When you need to relax, perform deep breathing exercises rather than reaching for a cigarette.
• Avoid situations that you associate with smoking.
• Every day, reward yourself in a positive way. Buy yourself something with the money you have saved or plan a special reward as a celebration for quitting (such as a trip or new furniture).
Boost Breast Size with Herbs?
I am interested in using herbs for breast enhancement. I have tried bulk herbs, such as fennel, fenugreek, wild yam and saw palmetto for this purpose, but I know that many combination products also are available. I read once that all herbs used for this will only give temporary results. I am also wondering about health and safety.
Khalsa responds: This is certainly a personal and sensitive topic. Unfortunately, no matter how much some women would like a safe, effective herbal breast enlargement pill, there just does not seem to be one. To which, a savvy observer might inquire, then why is the market busting out with breast products aplenty? As they say, when there’s a willing buyer, a willing seller will appear.
Breast size is determined by a woman’s genetics and hormonal and nutritional factors during puberty. There is essentially no way to change the size of a mature breast. Breast size will temporarily increase in the presence of estrogen — many women notice this premenstrually — so an assortment of plant hormone-containing herbs have been used to slightly swell breast size, mainly by increasing water retention. Fenugreek (Trigonella foenum-graecum) is an example, as is fennel (Foeniculum vulgare), which increased mammary weight in an animal study. These changes are at best short-lived, lasting only as long as a woman is actually taking the herbs.
Whether it is safe to take these large amounts of plant hormones for an extended period is anyone’s guess. Traditional medicine systems do not recommend it. For all-around breast health, though, two herbs stand out:
Asian medical systems laud dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) as a breast tissue tonic. Ayurvedic practitioners use it for problems of the breast and mammary glands, and for sore breasts, breast tumors of various types, cysts, suppressed lactation and swollen breast lymph glands. Traditional Chinese Medicine practitioners have used the herb for at least 1,100 years to treat breast cancer, mammary gland inflammation and lack of milk flow. Dandelion also contains natural hormones, but it is not known if these play a role in dandelion’s benefit for breast tissue. Rather than cause estrogen buildup, dandelion seems to normalize hormone ratios through its action on the liver.
Shatavari root (Asparagus racemosus) is taken for general women’s health and it increases milk and sexual function. This herb is said to increase fertility and balance female hormones. It does contain phytoestrogen triterpene saponins, including shatavarin. It is considered to increase intellect, digestion and physical strength.
For the record, the most likely breast size benefits come from a suction system that creates sustained tension and stimulates tissue growth. The disadvantage? To gain one cup size, a woman must wear the contraption for at least 10 hours a day, for a minimum of 10 weeks. This nondrug method is safe, and results are permanent.
Willard responds: Women have posed this question often in our clinic and for the most part, there isn’t much you can do. I have seen patients try most of the products on their own, with minimal results, but there are a few exceptions.
I have seen a few clients gain in breast size while taking oil-based saw palmetto (an herb commonly used for male prostate problems). The timing seems to be specific, in that during middle to late puberty, the use of two capsules of oil-based saw palmetto daily may have some effect. Of course this is hard to tell for sure, but it seems that these young women develop more than other relatives. We only can say this is a trend, as we don’t know what the situation would have been if they hadn’t taken the herb.
There have been scientific studies suggesting that enlargement does happen. Beta-sitosterol, one of the main constituents of saw palmetto, may be responsible for this claim. Studies on mice indicate that beta-sitosterol has an estrogenic activity, including breast enlarge- ment. It should be noted that studies show saw palmetto can reduce female hirsutism (excessive male pattern hair growth). Saw palmetto also is believed to be effective for correcting functional infertility in women and to increase the supply of mother’s milk.
This plant was used historically in the southern United States as a nutrient to increase growth in humans and livestock, suggesting that weight gain might be the reason for any breast enlargement.
I also have noticed saw palmetto can help reduce the loss of firmness and size when a woman stops breastfeeding. It might even be helpful during menopause, but at a more modest level. I am sorry to say that I have not seen the benefits that you are looking for. 8
Karta Purkh Singh Khalsa has more than 25 years of experience with medicinal herbs. A licensed dietitian/nutritionist, massage therapist and board member of the American Herbalists Guild, he specializes in Ayurvedic, Chinese and North American healing traditions.
Terry Willard is a clinical herbalist, president of the Canadian Association of Herbal Practitioners and founder of the Wild Rose College of Natural Healing in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. He is the author of eight books and a CD-ROM, Interactive Herbal.