Smoking is more than just a bad habit. It’s an addiction and, it’s very bad for your overall health. In fact, smoking is the number one cause of preventable death in the U.S. Smoking causes one-third of all cancer deaths and one-fourth of the fatal heart attacks in the U.S, according to the American Lung Association.
The main reasons why people start smoking are peer pressure, to be social, as a status symbol, to handle stress or awkward situations, and media influences. With every cigarette, the body builds up cravings for nicotine, the addictive component, and soon people start smoking more and more.
Nicotine, as well as the smoke inhaled and exhaled, causes many health problems. This may include respiratory health problems, increased blood pressure and heart rate, a weakened immune system, lower sperm count in men, reduced fertility in women, an irregular menstrual cycle, earlier menopause, and lung and other types of cancer.
Non-smokers are also believed to develop diseases from breathing in cigarette smoke, known as passive smoking.
Looking at the effects of smoking, it is essential that smokers make every effort to quit as soon as possible. Initially, you can expect to feel withdrawal symptoms like frustration, anxiety, anger, lack of concentration, increased appetite, headaches, higher blood pressure and a constant craving to smoke.
But if you are determined, then no matter whether you smoke a couple cigarettes a day or two packs a day, quitting smoking is very possible.
You can get help from professionals, from prescription medication to nicotine replacement products. You can also opt for some simple natural aids to help you quit the habit.
Here are the top 10 natural aids for quitting smoking.
It is suggested to follow the herbal remedies under the supervision of your health care provider.
Lobelia contains an active ingredient called lobeline that is believed to help reduce the effects of nicotine in the body, especially the release of the neurotransmitter dopamine.
Lobelia is available in the market in the form of a vinegar tincture. The typical dosage is 20 to 60 drops of the tincture three times daily.
It is best to begin with a lower dosage like three to five drops and gradually increase it. As lobelia is highly toxic, it is advisable to use this herb under the supervision of a qualified health practitioner.
Note: People with heart disease or high blood pressure should not take this herb. Pregnant and nursing women and children also should not take lobelia.
Licorice is an expectorant and demulcent herb that can help you quit smoking naturally. The slight sweet taste of licorice helps kill the urge to smoke. Also, it relieves smoker’s cough.
Plus, this herb is an adrenal tonic and can help balance cortisol levels, reduce fatigue and restore energy.
Chewing a small stick of licorice root can satisfy your urge to smoke. You can even drink licorice root tea two or three times a day.
Note: Licorice is not recommended for those who have diabetes, high blood pressure, adrenal disease or reduced kidney or liver functioning.
3. Cayenne Pepper
Cayenne pepper also desensitizes the respiratory system to tobacco and chemical irritants contained in the smoke. Plus, its antioxidant property stabilizes lung membranes, in turn preventing damage.
Cayenne pepper can be used in various forms including fresh pepper, ground pepper powder, capsules or tea to quit smoking. However, the best option is to add a couple of pinches of cayenne pepper to a glass of water and drink daily, especially when you have strong carvings for smoking.
4. St. John’s Wort
This medicinal herb may also help people quit smoking. The herb provides calming properties to help fight the edgy effects and stress caused due to quitting.
In fact, it has been observed that when going through nicotine withdrawal symptoms, people experience anxiety and stress like those suffering from depression. As nicotine helps with depression, it can also help with these symptoms.
In a pilot study, 24 people who smoked one or more cigarettes a day took St. John’s wort capsule (450 mg) twice daily along with smoking cessation counseling. After 12 weeks, nine out of 24 people had quit smoking.
This study, however, cannot be relied upon completely as it was neither placebo-controlled nor double-blinded. So, further research is still required in this regard.
St. John’s wort is available in liquid, bulk, and capsule form.You must start taking it at least two weeks before you plan to quit.
Note: As this herb can interfere with the effectiveness of prescription and over-the-counter drugs, it is advisable to consult your doctor before taking this herb. St. John’s wort is not recommended for pregnant or nursing women.
5. Green Oats
Green oats, also known as avena sativa or wild oats, is an effective herbal treatment to help you quit smoking. A 1971 study found that green oats can reduce the desire for nicotine and ease withdrawal symptoms. It can also help promote detoxification of nicotine during the withdrawal process.
Plus, green oats have a sedative effect as well as a tonic effect on the nervous system, which can be highly beneficial for those who are struggling to quit.
Green oat capsules are readily available in the market. You can safely take about 300 mg of green oats daily, but it is highly recommended to consult a doctor for the correct dosage for you.
Ginseng can also help alleviate the frequency of cravings. It is considered a tonic for the adrenal glands and it helps reestablish proper cortisol levels in the bloodstream.
Ginseng also helps the body deal with physical and emotional stress and restores balance in the body when experiencing withdrawal symptoms. It will also help you deal with the mental stress of quitting as it sharpens concentration, improves mood and lessens anxiety.
Adding one teaspoon of ginseng powder to your breakfast cereal or a glass of milk will help reduce the craving for smoking. You can also chew a small amount of dried ginseng and swallow the juice.
Note: Do not take ginseng if you suffer from heart problems, diabetes, an auto-immune disease, schizophrenia or a hormone-sensitive condition.
Valerian is a flowering plant that works as an herbal sedative and anti-anxiety supplement, and is considered very effective in helping people quit smoking. This herb is known to interact with GABA receptors in the brain, causing a sedative effect. The calming effect on the body also helps stave off cravings.
Plus, valerian helps people deal with withdrawal symptoms like irritability, depression, restlessness and anxiety. According to the American Cancer Society, valerian also helps people enjoy more restful sleep.
This herb is available in capsule, powder and tincture forms. You must take valerian under the guidance of a doctor.
8. Passion Flower
By promoting relaxation, passion flower can help fight anxiety and irritability that accompany smoking cessation. It is also helpful for those who experience insomnia and restlessness during the withdrawal period and even helps reduce nicotine cravings.
You can also take passion flower in tea, tincture or capsule form. However, like other herbs, it is better to take this herb under the care of a healthcare provider. The herb is not recommended for pregnant and breastfeeding women.
Acupuncture also helps smokers quit. Acupuncturists utilize a unique technique where fine needles are inserted into a set of five acupuncture points on the ear to help curb withdrawal symptoms.
Acupuncture also instills a sense of calm when going through withdrawal symptoms and stops jitters, lessens irritability and restlessness. Plus, it helps in the detoxification process.
You may need frequent acupuncture sessions for the first week or two, reducing the number of sessions with time.
10. Ear Massage
Ear massage is another way to cope with cravings. The ears are considered the key area of the body to help with smoking cessation. When you massage the ears, it stimulates acupuncture points, which in turn reduces the urge to smoke. Giving yourself an ear massage for about two minutes daily will help reduce cravings.
These natural remedies will help you quit smoking. But, always remember that a strong mental constitution is the most important thing that will help break your habit.
After you have successfully quit smoking, it is important to repair the damage it caused in your body through proper diet, exercise, meditation and adequate sleep.