Many people say that smoking is one of the most difficult addictions to break. There is a variety of over the counter and prescription remedies available, but they may cause unwanted side effects so some people are turning to natural herbs to help them quit smoking.
If you want to quit smoking and are looking for herbal remedies to assist you, there are several easily available options that may help you break the nicotine habit once and for all.
Herbs for Quitting Smoking
Severe withdrawal symptoms can be one of the main reasons that those attempting to quit smoking fail. The following herbs are believed to help reduce the symptoms of withdrawal and relieve nicotine cravings.
Also known as Indian Tobacco, many believe lobelia may help to taper off an addiction to nicotine. While the Food and Drug Administration concluded that lobelia does not help smoking cessation, the herb has been found to help relieve amphetamine addiction as a result of its effect on dopamine, a substance believed to have a strong connection to drug addiction.
Lobelia comes from the dried leaves and tops of the lobelia inflata plant. It is commercially available as a dried herb, liquid extract, suppository or tincture. It is important to note that lobelia is a respiratory depressant and can cause respiratory symptoms from mild respiratory slowing to death from respiratory arrest, so it's critical to only use lobelia under the care of your doctor.
Valerian root, also known as tobacco root and All-heal, is the root from a perennial plant that seems to have a calming effect. Sometimes known as nature's Valium, valerian may help you deal with withdrawal symptoms such as irritability, depression, restlessness and anxiety. According to the American Cancer Society (ACS), some studies show that people who take valerian root enjoy less insomnia and more restful sleep.
Valerian is commercially available in powders, tinctures and capsules. It has a pungent smell and taste, causing many to prefer the capsule form, although the tincture is the most quick acting.
ACS indicates that taking valerian root for more than four to six weeks at a time may cause serious side effects. The herb can cause blurred vision, headache, heart palpitations, and nausea. It can also cause drowsiness and interact with prescription medications, so use caution if taking it during the day and always consult your doctor and pharmacist before using.
Peppermint contains menthol and may help relieve nicotine cravings. A study by Wheeling Jesuit University showed people using a peppermint inhaler achieved similar results in relieving smoking urges and cravings as those actually smoking. Peppermint is also known for its tummy-relieving properties, so it may help relieve stomach upset caused by nicotine withdrawal.
Peppermint can be used in the form of teas or you can simply chew on the fresh herb or a stick of peppermint gum as needed.
St. John's Wort
Depression is a common side effect of smoking withdrawal and some smokers turn to prescription antidepressants for relief. However, St. John's Wort is known for its antidepressant qualities and may be a viable option for people seeking a non-prescription alternative. ACS states that studies show St. John's Wort to be as effective or better for treating mild depression than newer prescription antidepressants; however, the herb has not been shown to be as effective on people with severe depression.
St. John's Wort can be found in capsule, tablet, liquid extract, and tea forms. ACS states that it should never be taken with any other antidepressant drug or herb or used to treat severe depression or anxiety.
Avena Sativa - also known as oat straw, green oats or wild oat extract - is an Ayurvedic medicine treatment used to cure opium addiction. A 1971 study in Nature magazine showed that the tincture of this herb may reduce the desire for nicotine and help promote detoxification from nicotine during the withdrawal process.
Mimosa Pudica, also known as mimosa tea, is believed to enhance the regeneration of nerves. It also has anti-inflammatory and mild sedative properties. It may be effective in the treatment of anxiety associated with nicotine withdrawal; however, more studies are needed to prove this conclusively.
Mimosa pudica is taken as a tincture. Use of this herb may interact with antidepressant medication so you should check with your doctor or pharmacist for potential interactions.
- You should never self-prescribe herbal remedies. Always check with your doctor or personal health care provider before using, especially if you are taking prescription or over-the-counter drugs, you are pregnant or breast feeding, or you have an underlying medical condition.
- Herbal quality varies greatly from product to product. Do your research to assure you are taking high quality products.
- Withdrawal from a substance such as nicotine may take a few weeks to several months.
- None of the above referenced herbs are approved by the FDA for use as smoking-cessation aids.
A Natural Alternative
While withdrawal from any drug - including nicotine - is never easy, when you quit smoking your health will improve almost immediately. If you're looking for a natural alternative to prescription smoking cessation aids, talk to your doctor about using any of the above herbal remedies to help make the transition from smoker to being smoke-free much less harrowing.