Antidote for Tobacco – Victorian ‘nicorette’!
Trying to give up smoking? One of the most commonly used herbs was Lobelia inflata, nicknamed Indian Tobacco after its use by Native American peoples. It can be hard to get hold of these days as it is Schedule 3 herb which restricts its sale to the general public. If taken in inappropriate amounts it acts as an emetic, causing nausea and vomiting.
Here is another Native American smoking cessation aid which can be made at home:
White Oak Chew Beans
150 grams White Oak Bark, finely chopped
A tiny pinch of capsicum (cayenne) powder (no more than a 12th of a teaspoon / 345mg)
Gum arabic (or edible pine resin)
Grind both your oak bark and capsicum with a pestle and mortar to pulverise them into a very fine powder. Moisten with gum arabic enough to make it stick together. A chew is about the size of a bean. Chew a bean several times a day. In three or four days the desire for tobacco will be gone. Whenever you want a cigarette take a chew on an oak chew bean.
I have recommended calamus root (Acorus calamus) to a lot of people as chewing the dried root does help with cravings. It also creates a ‘zen-like’ focus eliminating the fuzzy mind that can go with withdrawal. This also includes withdrawal from some benzodiazepines.
Jim McDonald in Blessed Bitters says “Cravings need not be relegated to food, however. Small doses of many bitter herbs can be very helpful for cravings associated with many addictions, due to their calming affect on mood. An example of this is the chewing of calamus root to ease the cravings for tobacco.”
Use around a centimetre of the root, chew to moisten it and then wedge it between your gum and cheek. Chew again whenever you get cravings. In large quantities (over 3 cm) Acorus can make some people feel nauseous to work out your own tolerance level.
If collecting your own, do remember that sweet flag (Acorus) root can be confused with blue flag (Iris) root which is poisonous so take special care when harvesting. The freshly dried root is by far the most effective. I have written much more on the use of Acorus here in cooking, medicine and collecting it.
If anxiety is a big factor, you could also take a tincture of valerian root Valeriana officinalis to chill your nerves. Put it into a dropper bottle and place a few drops on the tongue for 2-3 minutes at the point of craving or take a teaspoon 3 or 4 times a day if anxiety pervades your life.
Smoking Thins Your Brain – The Evidence!
A day after this article was posted, research was published showing that smoking thins your brain and is linked to all major neurological diseases. Even 25 years after giving up, your cortex is thinner than someone who’s never smoked.
When people have conversations about getting old, most people say that it’s the loss of mental powers that would bother them most. They don’t want to be a great age if they have senile dementia, Alzheimer’s disease and memory problems. These are all inextricably linked to smoking, in that smoking hugely increases the likelihood of your brain function and memory being affected in old age.
The study involved 244 male and 260 female subjects — five times larger than any previous similar research on smoking and cortical thickness. Their average age was 73. The test group included current smokers, ex-smokers and non-smokers. All of the subjects were examined as children in 1947 as part of the Scottish Mental Survey.
Researchers used health data gathered during recent personal interviews with the subjects, and also analyzed data from MRI scans showing the current state of the subjects’ brain cortices.
“We found that current and ex-smokers had, at age 73, many areas of thinner brain cortex than those that never smoked. Subjects who stopped smoking seem to partially recover their cortical thickness for each year without smoking,” says the study’s lead author Dr. Sherif Karama, assistant professor of psychiatry at McGill University, psychiatrist at the Douglas Mental Health University Institute and an affiliate of the Montreal Neurological Institute.
The apparent recovery process is slow, however, and incomplete. Heavy ex-smokers in the study who had given up smoking for more than 25 years still had a thinner cortex.
Although the cortex grows thinner with normal aging, the study found that smoking appears to accelerate the thinning process. A thinner brain cortex is associated with adult cognitive decline.
“Smokers should be informed that cigarettes could hasten the thinning of the brain’s cortex, which could lead to cognitive deterioration. Cortical thinning seems to persist for many years after someone stops smoking,” says Dr. Karama.
S Karama, S Ducharme, J Corley, F Chouinard-Decorte, J M Starr, J M Wardlaw, M E Bastin, I J Deary. Cigarette smoking and thinning of the brain’s cortex. Molecular Psychiatry, 2015; DOI: 10.1038/mp.2014.187