Tobacco, as we all know, is a plant. So what better way to support your quitting effort than by harnessing the power of other plants?
When it comes to herbs that can help you quit smoking, most help alleviate the symptoms of withdrawal that you're likely to experience. So they aren’t necessarily "herbs to quit smoking," per se. They’re herbal remedies that can help with the anxiety that's likely to accompany nicotine withdrawal, or the insomnia that might keep you up at night, or the mild depression that some people report, and so on.
Without further ado, here's a non-exhaustive list of herbs to quit smoking that may help ease withdrawal symptoms and help you quit.
At a glance:
Special Mention: MELO Air & ZERO
No list of tools to quit smoking would be complete without mentioning MELO Air and ZERO.
Let's start with ZERO. ZERO is an aromatherapy device dedicated to helping people quit smoking. It delivers "hits" of what is essentially "flavored air" — no tobacco, no nicotine and none of the bad stuff you sometimes find in other vape devices.
ZERO comes in six flavors, including Arctic Peach, Green Punch and Magic Mint.
Then there's our pick for best melatonin vape, MELO Air. MELO is the same concept as ZERO, but instead of just flavored air, MELO delivers a "shot" of relaxing melatonin — the natural hormone we all produce and that helps us relax and sleep.
Both MELO Air and ZERO help you quit by satisfying the oral fixation component of a smoking addiction, and both make our list of best vapes to quit smoking, best nicotine free vapes, and best vape alternative to help you quit.
They mimic the hand-to-mouth action of smoking, along with the inhaling and exhaling, which might make it easier for you to kick the habit and deal with withdrawal symptoms while you're giving up nicotine. (Check out some other oral fixation smoking alternatives.)
Valerian is considered one of nature's best anti-anxiety medications, and has been used for centuries as an herb to promote calm and relaxation. That makes valerian a perfect way to counteract the jitters, restlessness and anxiety that often accompanies smoking cessation, and the withdrawal symptoms that go along with giving up tobacco.
You can take valerian in capsule form or steeped as tea. You can find many varieties of herbal teas with valerian as a component, or buy your own valerian in bulk and make loose leaf valerian tea. Places like Amazon offer several varieties if you're interested in that option.
Lobelia is an interesting herb because it has a strong and specific connection to nicotine and (maybe?) to smoking cessation. Let me explain…
The active ingredient in lobelia is called lobeline. As it turns out, lobeline latches on to the same receptor sites in the brain as nicotine. Theoretically, this should help curb nicotine and smoking cravings since at least some of those nicotine receptors will be "otherwise occupied" with lobeline. Interesting side note: Native Americans have smoked lobelia for centuries, which explains its "Indian Tobacco" nickname.
Lobelia has similar effects as nicotine on the body, too — it stimulates your central nervous system, dilates lung passageways and increases your respiration rate. This is probably why many people believe it's the herbal holy grail for smoking cessation. Unfortunately, the data doesn't support that.
Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center says that the very limited data suggests "lobelia is not effective for smoking cessation, asthma, or any other medical condition." But perhaps there simply isn't enough data to definitively say one way or the other. It probably wouldn’t hurt to give it a try and see if it works for you.
Like a couple of the other herbal remedies on this list, Ashwagandha is an all-around tonic and natural remedy that's an important component of Indian Ayurvedic and alternative medicine. It's used for many purposes, and is widely considered to be an effective adaptogen that helps your nervous system deal with the rigors of everyday stress.
When it comes specifically to its use in a regimen dedicated to quitting smoking and giving up tobacco, Ashwaghandha is supposed to help rid your body of toxins. Why is that important? Because when you smoke cigarettes, you're introducing a lot of toxins into your body. And they don't instantaneously disappear once you stop. Ashwaghandha can help that process along.
Also, as a general stress reliever, Ashwaghandha may reduce your urge to smoke, calm nicotine cravings, and help you quit smoking. So it's a nice win-win-win.
St. John's Wort
Like many herbal remedies on this list, St. John's wort has been used for hundreds of years as a natural treatment for a variety of conditions — everything from kidney and lung problems, to insomnia and depression. It's St. John’s wort’s reputation for treating the symptoms of depression that earns it a spot on this list.
Going through nicotine withdrawal can trigger mild symptoms of depression in some people. If quitting smoking is giving you a case of the blues, St. John's wort might be something to try. There's a decent amount of evidence that it can help in cases where depression is mild or moderate. In fact, it seems to work as well as prescription meds like SSRIs.
Catnip ain't just for fluffy anymore! Anyone who's ever witnessed a cat after a session with catnip is no stranger to its effects on felines. But did you know it can have a similar effect on humans?
Catnip has long been used as an antispasmodic to help calm indigestion and stomach cramps. It's also a carminative, which means it can help alleviate gas pains and constipation. These benefits may or may not help someone who's quitting smoking. But there's another component in catnip that probably will — nepetalactone.
Nepetalactone is similar to sedatives found in herbs like valerian (see above). That means catnip can reduce stress and help you relax. There's also anecdotal evidence that it can act as a mood booster, alleviate anxiety, and calm restlessness and nervousness, all common nicotine withdrawal symptoms.
Skullcap is another herb that's been used by traditional natural medicine practitioners for centuries. Like many other herbs on this list, skullcap can help you relax. In fact, according to the National Institutes of Health, skullcap was a traditional treatment for "nervous disorders, including hysteria, nervous tension, epilepsy and chorea."
We doubt that quitting smoking will cause hysteria, but it certainly may up your anxiety or nervousness. Skullcap is often taken together with valerian to produce a sedative effect that may help combat that restlessness and perhaps control nicotine cravings. There's also some evidence that skullcap can boost your mood by stimulating gamma-aminobutyric acid, or GABA, which is a neurotransmitter associated with feelings of calm.
When you quit smoking, one of the first things that starts happening is that your lungs start to "come back to life." And that means that you may actually cough more once you stop than you did when you were still smoking. Rest assured that this is temporary.
Your smoking habit has actually paralyzed the tiny hair-like structures in your lungs called cilia, making it harder for your lungs to get rid of mucus. Once you quit, those cilia start to come back to life and do their job. That means they're going to get to work clearing all that junk out of your lungs.
Hyssop is commonly used as an expectorant and anti-spasmodic, which means it both helps suppress coughs and clear phlegm from the lungs. So it can help not only calm that hacking, but give your newly awakened cilia a little assist.
Ginger root is more of an all-around tonic for "whole body wellness" than an herb that targets one specific aspect of the quitting journey, although there is some evidence that it can help reduce cravings for cigarettes and nicotine. Ginger also contains sulfur compounds that can promote relaxation and calm frayed nerves that are coping with withdrawal.
Many people make a soothing ginger root tea, which you can drink throughout the day, to give your hands and mouth something to do besides smoke cigarettes. Combine it with peppermint (see below) for one of the most popular herbal tea blends.
Who doesn't love the smell of mint? Peppermint is extremely popular in aromatherapy for that very reason, and because of its purported health benefits. One of those is peppermint's ability to open up the airwaves and act as an expectorant.
Like ginger, mint is a popular ingredient in herbal tea. You can buy loose leaf mint, mint tea bags, mint essential oil or even use fresh mint for this purpose.
Studies also show that the very scent of mint can help people quit smoking. The American Psychological Association says that “using pleasant odors to disrupt smoking routines would offer a distinct and novel method for reducing cravings, and our results to this end are promising."
Magnesium makes this list for a few reasons. First, smoking robs your body of this vital nutrient. So whether you're quitting or not, it may be a good idea to take magnesium as a supplement. But when you're trying to stop smoking, why not restore what smoking has taken away?
Second, some studies suggest that magnesium decreases the effect nicotine has on GABA receptors, which theoretically should reduce your cravings for it.
Finally, like peppermint, magnesium can help expand your airways and clear your lungs of phlegm buildup. All good reasons to make magnesium a component of your quitting-smoking "herbal stack."
Take Advantage of Nature's Medicine Cabinet
As mentioned above, every herb on this list can produce effects in your mind or body that can help alleviate the symptoms of withdrawal you'll likely experience when you quit smoking.
That means that whichever combination you decide to try should be based on which of the common symptoms you need help with. Dealing with anxiety? Give an herbal blend that includes valerian a try. Want to help rid your body of the toxins that have built up in your system from years of smoking? Maybe ashwagandha is the solution. Try some experimentation until you find a combination that works for you.
IMPORTANT!! It's extremely important to remember that the herbs on this list may interfere with some prescription medications, or with each other. So before you start taking anything, do your own research and, above all, check with your doctor.
Good luck! You got this!