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Kicking the Tobacco Habit


Herbal and nutritional supplementation, along with behaviour and lifestyle modification, can provide the holistic health support needed to quit smoking and begin to repair the damage it causes.

While the ginger tea steeps, my long-time friend Elizabeth and I get caught up on each other’s lives. By the time I pour our second cup of tea, we’re deep into the personal stuff. She's telling me about her husband Charlie and his unsuccessful attempts at trying to quit smoking.

“National Nonsmoking Week is coming up again soon, and Charlie’s at least talking about quitting. He knows he should quit and he’s tried. Over and over again,” Elizabeth confides. “Why is it so hard to quit smoking?” I hear the worry and frustration in her voice. “Just because smoking is more socially acceptable than many other drug addictions, it’s as real an addiction as heroin, and it’s every bit as hard a habit to kick,” I gently remind her.

Hooked on Nicotine

“Quitting smoking is easy. I’ve done it a thousand times,” quipped America’s great writer and humourist Mark Twain. Twain was hooked on cigars, but whatever the source–cigars, cigarettes, or chewing tobacco–nicotine is the core addiction.

When smokers try to cut back or quit, the absence of nicotine leads to very unpleasant withdrawal symptoms, including dizziness, depression, feelings of frustration and anger, irritability, insomnia, poor concentration, headache, fatigue, and increased appetite. These symptoms often lead back to a smoke, which boosts blood levels of nicotine to a level where there are no symptoms. It usually takes two or three attempts to successfully kick the habit.

Giving It Up

Herbal and nutritional supplementation, along with behaviour and lifestyle modification, can provide the holistic health support needed to quit smoking and begin to repair the damage it causes. Here are some supplements recommended by natural health care practitioners to help you succeed.

Multiple Benefits

An encouraging article published in the Journal of American Dietetics Association (July 2005) stated that both body weight and amount of cigarettes smoked were significantly lower in people who used nutritional supplements, especially vitamins A, C, and E, along with niacin (vitamin B3), folic acid, and iron. Taking a complete daily multiple vitamin and mineral formulation is the ideal foundation for providing all these nutrients.

Be Calm with B Vitamins

In addition to the B vitamins in your multi, take two or three daily doses of a high potency B-complex with each meal. They will support your nervous system while contributing to your overall sense of emotional and mental well-being.

Herbal Rescuers

Because cigarette smoking is so common, it’s easy to forget how serious a nicotine addiction truly is. Several herbs can help reduce the nerve-wracking and often depressive symptoms of tobacco withdrawal. Consult a qualified herbalist to determine the best form and dosage to help you beat your habit.

Lobelia (Lobelia inflata)

Ample research published in such distinguished journals as Biochemical Pharmacology, The Journal of Pharmacy and Pharmacology, and the Journal of Neurochemistry identifies lobeline, an alkaloidal constituent of lobelia, as having antidepressant properties that support smoking cessation and amphetamine withdrawal.

Lemon Balm (Melissa officinalis)

Insomnia and nervousness are common nicotine withdrawal symptoms. Lemon balm acts as a mild sedative and sleep aid that contributes a calming yet focused effect. A study published in the European Journal of Medical Research (September 2004) determined the effects of a lozenge containing lavender oil, extracts from hops, lemon balm, and oats on electrical brain activity of volunteers. They found the herbal combination “induced a state of relaxation and regeneration” and would help one “to better cope with psychological and emotional stress.”

Passion flower (Passiflora incarnate)

An active phytochemical component of passion flower called benzoflavone moiety (BZF) has been shown to greatly reduce nicotine withdrawal symptoms, according to a study published in Addiction Biology (October 2002).

St. John’s wort (Hypericum perforatum)

A study conducted at the University of Messina in Italy concluded that not only does St. John’s wort act as a natural antidepressant, it also helps reduce many unpleasant nicotine withdrawal symptoms.

Breath In, Breath Out

Smoking is a toxic form of deep breathing, but it is often the only deep breathing smokers do. Breathing deeply–without the cigarette–can help to retrain mind and body. Try it; it may fulfill a big part of what you’re truly craving.

National Nonsmoking Week is observed January 14 to 20.

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Matthew Kadey, MSc, RDMatthew Kadey, MSc, RD