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Cigarette smoking using primarily tobacco is one of the main causes of preventable deaths. Tobacco is used either as cigarettes, pipes, snuffs, chewable, or, the newest rage, e-cigarettes. (1)
Tobacco’s main component is nicotine, which has an influence on the central nervous system and can stimulate the release of “feel-good” hormones such as endorphins. This can create a feeling of pleasure and relaxation, which cause addiction. (1)
However, nicotine and cigarette smoking have harmful health effects, including: (1)
- Constriction of blood vessels, leading to increased blood pressure
- Irregular heartbeat
- Increased blood flow from the heart
- Lung diseases
- Changes during pregnancy and birth
The Difficulty in Quitting Cigarette
Many smokers will attempt to quit cigarette smoking and fail.
Nicotine, through smoking, is quickly absorbed in the lungs, and the longer one relies on nicotine, the harder it is to quit. Withdrawal symptoms may then occur within 24 hours and may last for several days, weeks, or months. (1)
Some of the withdrawal symptoms of quitting smoking include: (1)
- Difficulty concentrating
- Strong cravings
Natural Aids to Help You Quit Smoking
If you have decided to quit smoking and find it difficult, the following natural remedies, herbal or otherwise, can help you in your journey of leading a cigarette-free life.
Acupuncture is part of traditional Chinese medicine, which works by regulating internal organs. It can also greatly reduce smoking addiction and eliminate the symptoms of withdrawal. (2)
Results of multiple studies show acupuncture, in combination with counseling and education, has a beneficial effect on smoking cessation. (2)
2. Licorice root
Licorice root is very useful in treating lung conditions such as bronchial infections, coughs, and asthma. (3) Though licorice may not help with reducing cravings, it will help in alleviating symptoms that occur due to smoking. (3)
Lobelia, also called Indian tobacco, is rich in an alkaloid called lobeline. In the early 1900s, it gained popularity as an alternative to nicotine. (4)
Various studies have identified lobeline tablets (7.5 mg, 9 times a day) to be effective long term in moving away from reliance on nicotine. (4)
Recently, skin patches with lobeline have been developed that have shown some promise in one 12-month study. (4)
4. St. John’s wort
St. John’s wort is a herbal supplement primarily used to treat mild-to-moderate depression. (5)
Animal studies using this herb have shown its promising benefits for nicotine withdrawal. Human trials have shown that intake of 900 mg/day of St. John’s wort for 3 months resulted in 24% smoking cessation amongst 24 smokers. (5)
Ginseng is a popular medicinal herb in countries of East Asia such as China, Japan, and Korea.
The black ginseng variety has an effect on inflammation and associated injury in the lungs. (6) Black ginseng improves the activity of immune cells and increases mucus secretion and antioxidant capacity to help fight against the changes associated with cigarette smoking. (6)
6. Green tea
Green tea can be very beneficial in alleviating damage to the lungs caused by cigarette smoking. (7) Studies have found green tea consumption to reduce the risk of lung cancer in cigarette smokers. (7)
Mullein has many different common names including candlewick plant, torches, our lady’s flannel, shepherd’s staff, and beggar’s stalk. It has been used for the treatment of tuberculosis, which is one of the most deadly diseases of the respiratory system. (8)
Mullein can help with persistent coughs, tumors, or inflammation of the throat. This herb may help smokers who have these symptoms. (8)
8. Smokable herbs
While smoking of all kinds is bad due to the effect of smoke on the lungs, many interventions report using a mix of tobacco and smokable herbs such as St. John’s wort, aromatic black pepper, dried roses, or lavender to be beneficial. The amount of tobacco is eventually reduced until the dependence on nicotine can be eliminated completely. (9)
Though this strategy is not supported by a lot of evidence, it can make quitting long-term cigarette smoking easier.
- Nicotine patches: Though these patches still deliver nicotine into the body, they can take away the harmful effects of smoke.
- Seeking help: There are intervention groups that can make quitting and managing withdrawal symptoms easier to manage.
- Education: Educating people on the harmful effects of smoking – both long-term and short-term – can be useful in ensuring adherence to interventional strategies.
Can I use anything else instead of nicotine patches?
Nicotine is also available as a nasal spray, lozenge, tablet, or chewing gum. It is often a better alternative than quitting cold turkey.
How long does the withdrawal last?
It may vary from person to person, but the roughest withdrawal symptoms may be over in a month.
Can the lungs recover fully after smoking?
Prolonged smoking occurring over 30 or more years may cause irreversible permanent damage to the lungs. However, it is still advantageous to quit smoking to prevent worsening of symptoms.
Smoking is an extremely addictive and damaging habit, but quitting cigarettes is extremely challenging and difficult. Some people can quit cold turkey, but some people may need a weaning process through the use of nicotine patches, tables, and gums.
Some herbs can also reduce the cravings associated with cigarettes and nicotine and some can repair the damage caused by cigarette smoking.
If you have taken the brave decision of quitting smoking, make use of counseling and education to help you in identifying the best approach for you.