Natural Standard

The authority on integrative medicine.

Set Fire to Your Smoking Habits

Complementary and alternative medical (CAM) therapies may aid smoking cessation

Everyone knows that tobacco is harmful to their health. Anti-smoking campaigns are everywhere, showing pictures of what people may look like after years of cigarettes. But here’s the thing: if quitting the habit were easy, millions would have done it by now. They wouldn’t still be sneaking out of the house or restaurant for a quick smoke, or telling themselves, “Just one more.” (http://informahealthcare.com/doi/abs/10.3109/16066359.2012.703264)

If you or someone you know is struggling to stay away from the lighter, you are probably aware of the numerous products that are supposed to help. There are special gums to chew and patches to wear, and although these might be effective for some people, they might not work for everyone.

If you haven’t thought about it already, complementary and alternative medical (CAM) therapies including herbs. supplements and integative modalities could be another useful approach to smoking cessation, not to mention all natural. (http://www.naturalstandard.com/databases/hw/all/generic-stopsmoki...?)

Find a Therapist

Search for a mental health professional near you.

According to the American Lung Association, smoking is the leading preventable cause of increased risk for disease and death in the United States. Approximately one of every five deaths (438,000 deaths) each year can be attributed to smoking, including deaths from lung cancer, emphysema, and heart disease. Causes of death from cigarette smoking include: stroke, lung cancer, coronary heart disease, chronic lung disease, other cancers, and other conditions.

An estimated 20.9% of all adults in the United States – which comes to approximately 44.5 million people – smoke cigarettes, a habit that is more common among men.

So how might alternative therapies, herbs, and supplements help this common issue?

Smoking and drinking alcohol puts the body at risk for thiamine deficiency.(http://www.naturalstandard.com/databases/environment/condition-nutritionaldeficiencies.asp?) When there is a severe, chronic lack of thiamine in the body, there’s an increased likelihood of serious health problems that affect the brain, heart and muscles. Thiamine is given to people who have a severe deficiency, and due to the good scientific evidence supporting its effectiveness for this condition, it has earned a Natural Standard Evidence Grade of B. (http://www.naturalstandard.com/databases/herbssupplements/thiamin...?)

If you have ever taken a yoga class at a local gym or studio, you might be surprised to learn that the ancient art may help your smoking cessation efforts. Studies have shown that people who engage in substance abuse may benefit from the popular system of relaxation, healing, and exercise. Yoga has been shown to be safe in healthy people when practiced appropriately, and it is an alternative therapy that has few side effects. It has earned a Natural Standard Evidence Grade of B for substance abuse. (http://www.naturalstandard.com/databases/hw/yoga.asp?)

Acupuncture, which is a major component of Chinese medicine and is used widely throughout the world, may be another natural option for smoking cessation. (http://informahealthcare.com/doi/abs/10.1080/00207450500535289) Chinese medicine theory holds that the human body contains a network of energy pathways through which vital energy, called “chi,” circulates. These pathways are called “meridians.” The meridians contain specific points that function somewhat like gates through which chi flows as it circulates through the body. Acupuncture needles are inserted into these points to regulate the flow of chi through the meridians.

Preliminary studies have found that acupuncture may help symptoms of craving and abstinence, but results are conflicting and more research is needed to confirm the effectiveness of this therapy. (http://informahealthcare.com/doi/abs/10.1080/09595239700186311) Acupuncture has a Natural Standard Evidence Grade of C for substance abuse. (http://www.naturalstandard.com/databases/hw/all/acupuncture.asp?)

Another possible method for smoking cessation may have been on your kitchen table all along. Black pepper has been studied extensively for its potential benefits in helping people quit smoking. This spice, which is native to India, was found in preliminary studies to reduce cravings and manage symptoms associated with withdrawal from cigarette use. However, evidence is conflicting, and black pepper has a Natural Standard Evidence Grade of C for smoking cessation. (http://www.naturalstandard.com/databases/herbssupplements/blackpe...?)

Remember to check with your doctor or pharmacist before adding any new therapy or regimen to your lifestyle, to ensure that it is right for you.

The struggle to quit smoking can be a frustrating one, but it’s nice to know that there are natural, alternative treatments out there that may help. If you want to reduce your habit, looking into these therapies could be just what you need to put away the cigarettes and live a healthier life.

Catherine Ulbricht, Pharm.D., co-founder of Natural Standard Research Collaboration, is the Senior Attending Pharmacist at Massachussetts General Hospital. more...

Subscribe to Natural Standard

Current Issue

Let It Go!

It can take a radical reboot to get past old hurts and injustices.