You’ve heard it all before. How smoking can kill you. How it annoys those around you. How being addicted to that smoldering stick of tobacco burns a hole in your bank account faster than a California brushfire. About the only thing you don’t know about America’s vilest vice is a surefire way to quit once and for all.
Sorry, but that’s one question that isn’t easily answered, at least not by the 50 million Americans who continue to smoke despite all they have to lose. Nicotine, the active ingredient in tobacco, is as addictive as heroin. But just because quitting is hard doesn’t mean it can’t be done. The natural remedies in this chapter—in conjunction with professional help and used with your doctor’s approval—may help you quit smoking, according to some health professionals.
See Your Medical Doctor When...
To help you ride out a cigarette craving, Fair Oaks, California, aromatherapist Victoria Edwards suggests mixing three essential oils—three parts lemon, two parts geranium and one part everlast (also known as immortelle or helichrysum)—in a small bottle that you keep in your pocket, briefcase or purse. Whenever a craving hits, she says, inhale directly from this bottle. “Lemon is a detoxifying agent, and geranium helps balance the adrenal system,” explains Edwards. “Everlast is a powerful cellular rejuvenator and will help your body heal the damage smoking has done.” This blend is also good when used in a diffuser, says Edwards.
For information on preparing and administering essential oils, including cautions about their use, see page 19. For information on purchasing essential oils, refer to the resource list on page 633.
To help you quit smoking or cut down on your habit, try chewing on small pieces of dried pineapple (about ½ teaspoon’s worth) mixed with 1/2 teaspoon of honey, suggests Vasant Lad, B.A.M.S., M.A.Sc., director of the Ayurvedic Institute in Albuquerque, New Mexico. He says to use this remedy whenever you desire a cigarette.
Load up on citrus fruits and other foods rich in vitamin C, suggests John Pinto, Ph.D., associate professor of biochemistry at Cornell University Medical College and director of the nutrition research laboratory at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, both in New York City. “There is no doubt that smokers can benefit from extra vitamin C, since it protects against the oxidative damage caused by smoking,” he says. “You can get this extra vitamin C through foods if you eat plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables.” He recommends having well over the Recommended Dietary Allowance for vitamin C, which is 60 milligrams, the amount you’d find in one orange. (For more food sources of vitamin C, see “Getting What You Need” on page 142.)
If you’re trying to quit smoking cold turkey, drink a lot of orange juice, adds Thomas Cooper, D.D.S., professor of oral health sciences at the University of Kentucky in Lexington and an expert on nicotine dependency. But if you’re quitting with the aid of a nicotine patch, you should avoid orange juice, says Dr. Cooper. Here’s his explanation: By making your urine more acidic, the juice will clear your body of nicotine faster. But the purpose of the patch is to keep some nicotine in your body as you try to wean yourself off the weed.
The body wrap, or wet sheet pack, can help detoxify your system if you’re trying to quit, according to Charles Thomas, Ph.D., co-author of Hydrotherapy: Simple Treatments for Common Ailments and a physical therapist at Desert Springs Therapy Center in Desert Hot Springs, California. This treatment can be done at home but will probably require help from a partner.
After warming up with a hot shower, lie down on a bed with your entire body wrapped in a sheet wrung out in cold water. Then wrap yourself in one or more wool blankets. While the pack feels cool at first, your body heat will gradually dry the sheet, and you will begin to sweat. Leave the wrap in place for one to two hours after you start perspiring. Dr. Thomas suggests using this treatment once a day until you no longer feel as intense a craving for cigarettes.
See yourself smoking. While you’re doing it, do you perceive yourself as a smoker? In your mind, continue to see yourself smoking, but say to yourself “At this time, I have the habit of smoking, but I am not a smoker,” says Dennis Gersten, M.D., a San Diego psychiatrist and publisher of Atlantis, a bi-monthly imagery newsletter. That will help you adjust and maintain your self-image as you begin to make the transition from smoker to nonsmoker.
Now picture something that is good for you that you desire tremendously. It could be health, better looks or more control of your life. Focus on your desire. See yourself as an incredibly healthy, beautiful or self-reliant nonsmoker. Let that image overpower any desire that you have to smoke. Dr. Gersten recommends using this imagery for 10 to 20 minutes twice a day.
In addition, before you do this imagery, it may help to write down how and when you smoke, Dr. Gersten says. So if you light up after dinner, for example, jot down each step of the process, including getting up from the table, finding a match, grabbing your pack of cigarettes, tapping it on the kitchen counter, pulling out one cigarette, putting it in your mouth and lighting it. Doing that will help you understand and break the rituals of your habit, an important step in your effort to quit.
Relaxation and Meditation
Meditation techniques can help you overcome your urge to smoke, says Sundar Ramaswami, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist at F. S. Dubois Community Mental Health Center in Stamford, Connecticut.
“Studies have shown that many smokers use tobacco to help them reduce anxiety and tension. If you meditate, your mind learns another way to counteract that anxiety, so you may become less reliant on cigarettes,” says Dr. Ramaswami, a practitioner of meditation for more than 20 years.
To try a simple meditation technique, see page 117. Meditate for 20 minutes twice a day or for a few minutes whenever you feel the urge to smoke, suggests Dr. Ramaswami.
Vitamin and Mineral Therapy
“Studies show that smokers who take extra vitamin C in supplement form get some extra protection from the harmful effects of smoking,” says Judith S. Stern, R.D., Sc.D., professor of nutrition and internal medicine at the University of California, Davis. “Still, I wouldn’t recommend that smokers depend on this. The extra protection isn’t going to mean much compared with the overall damage that you’re doing to your body from smoking.”