Mother Earth Living

Natural Remedies to Help Stop Smoking

Try these natural remedies to help stop smoking, including kola nut, vervain leaf, saw palmetto berry and mullein tea to alleviate cravings.

Read more about how to increase breast size naturally: Natural Remedies to Help Boost Breast Size.

Natural Remedies to Help Stop Smoking

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?
Alameda, California

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 non-smoker 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).

Karta Purkh Singh Khalsa has more than 25 years of experience with medicinal herbs. He is a licensed dietitian/nutritionist, massage therapist and board member of the American Herbalists Guild. Khalsa’s book Body Balance is available on our Bookshelf, page 58.

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.

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The information offered in “Q & A” is not intended to be a substitute for advice from your health care provider.

  • Published on Nov 1, 2005
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