Herbs that Help Smokers Quit: 3 Herbal Friends to Help Along the Way

Stop smoking with these herbal tips

| July/August 1999

1. Easing stress

Asian ginseng (Panax ginseng) and American ginseng (P. quinquefolius) can help smokers adapt to stress. In fact, ginseng is known as an adaptogen and has long been used as a tonic to help increase overall physical and mental performance. Although the herb’s effects are subtle, several European clinical studies using ginseng extracts standardized from between 4 to 7 percent ginsenosides have confirmed the herb’s adaptogenic effects. Results included a shortening of reaction time to visual and auditory stimuli; increased respiratory quotient; increased alertness, power of concentration, and grasp of abstract concepts; and improvement in visual and motor coordination.

There are many ginseng products on the market, and a good rule of thumb for choosing an effective product is to find one standardized to 4 to 7 percent ginsenosides and follow instructions for use on the label. But while standardized extracts will produce the most predictable benefits, whole ginseng roots may also help. Purchase whole roots of either Asian or American ginseng at most large natural and health– food stores. The whole roots are hard and tough, but nibbling on the end of one, ingesting 1 or 2 g of the root per day, will not only deliver a standard daily dose of ginseng, but will also provide an alternative to the habit of taking something to the mouth. I keep a piece of ginseng root in the car to nibble on when the urge strikes.

2. Detoxifying

Smoking can overtax the body systems that filter and eliminate toxins. Once you quit smoking, toxins are released from storage tissue such as fat and need to be eliminated from the body. One organ that processes toxins is the liver. Extracts made from the seeds of milk thistle (Silybum marianum) are a remarkable phytomedicine to support healthy liver function.

More than 300 studies conducted since the late 1960s have provided an experimental basis for the effectiveness and safety of milk thistle seed extracts. In standardized extracts, silymarin, the main chemical complex of the seeds, is concentrated to 70 percent. Studies show that standardized milk thistle seed preparations alter the liver’s outer cell structure to prevent toxic chemicals from entering liver cells. Milk thistle also stimulates the liver’s capacity to regenerate new cells and spurs antioxidants specific to the liver to scavenge harmful oxygen radicals.

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