Q: I have tried to quit smoking several times over the years, but have never had success. What can I do?
-Lenny G., New York
A: Smoking used to be cool. We didn't know it caused lung cancer, one of the most horrible ways to die. That was about 50 years ago, so it's time to get with it, and quit! A helpful book on the subject is The Easy Way to Stop Smoking, by Allen Carr. The premise of the book is that you become willing to see yourself as a nonsmoker. Bathe your self-image in an aura of white light, and see your healthy lungs, smell your sweet breath, feel your freedom from those cancer sticks. Don't guilt-trip yourself. Just make a commitment and a plan. Remind yourself of reasons to quit:
- You'll cough less.
- You'll smile more.
- Your food will taste better.
- You'll be less likely to have a heart attack.
- You'll be much less likely to die of cancer.
- You'll sleep better.
- Your breath won't smell.
- Your skin will improve.
- You won't be a slave to a bad habit.
- You owe it to yourself and want to feel good about yourself.
First, set a quit date. Make it just a few weeks away-not months. Make sure your friends and family know you are serious about quitting. While getting ready to quit, switch brands. Yes, stop smoking "your" brand.
You'll see how bad other brands taste. Don't fool yourself: they all taste bad. Switch to hand-rolled cigarettes for the last few weeks. Get rid of all your smoking paraphernalia: lighters, ashtrays, etc. Make it inconvenient to smoke.
Identify your "need" cigarettes versus your "automatic pilot" cigarettes. Stop smoking the cigarettes you don't even pay attention to immediately. This will help you figure out what the nicotine does for you. For some, it's a laxative and they want a cigarette right after a meal. Instead, drink more water, eat rehydrated prunes, get more exercise, and avoid constipating foods, such as white flour products. Cigarettes can also serve as a surrogate companion. In this case, pay more attention to your nonsmoking friends. You may need to abandon your smoking friends until they have quit too. If your partner smokes, ask him or her to respect your commitment and to quit smoking in the house or car. For some, smoking can also mean break time. But guess what? You can actually take a break without smoking! Just sit and space out, practice deep breathing, or read.
As you approach your quit date, gather a few tools. Essential oils of lavender and rosemary blended together and rubbed on your skin over your liver will help regulate blood sugar levels as your cravings kick in. This will be especially helpful in the first week after quitting. Clove oil will reduce the desire for cigarettes. Rub a few drops into your throat, the back of your neck, or on your fingertips. You can suck on a whole clove to give you something to do with your mouth as well as lower cravings. The homeopathic remedy Nux vomica will help with irritability associated with withdrawal. Take three to five low-potency pellets (12X is good) two to three times daily until the nicotine is out of your system (usually about 10 days).
My favorite quit-smoking herbal combo is Avena (oats) and Lobelia. Lobelia contains lobeline, which is structurally similar to nicotine. Lobelia (in tincture or capsule form at any health food store) blocks the nicotine receptors on your cells and tones down the craving for nicotine. Avena is an all-around nerve-soothing plant medicine. You can mix tinctures of three parts Avena and one part Lobelia and take 60 drops up to every 20 minutes for two or three doses if needed.
Chamomile tea helps soothe nerves as you transition to better coping methods. Drink a cup of strong chamomile tea (steep the tea bag for 20 minutes) several times daily. At the end of the day, take a not-too-hot Epsom salts bath to prepare for a peaceful night's sleep. Make time to sleep extra hours for the first few weeks. Keep lots of crunchy veggies in the fridge. Clean your house really well, including clothing, drapes, bedding, and even furniture, to remove cigarette odor. Consider repainting any rooms that were used for smoking. Keep everything simple. Don't take on huge extra projects for a few months. The quit-smoking project is the single most important thing you can do for your health and well-being right now.
DID YOU KNOW?
You can e-mail health questions to Emily Kane (aka Dr. Em) at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Put "Ask the Naturopath" in the subject line.