(Editor’s Note 7/1/2021: : Some research shows conflicting evidence of St. John’s Wort as a smoking cessation aid. Research is still ongoing.
Added three studies to show the efficacy of lime, black pepper, and Ginger as a smoking cessation aid.)
Smoking is a significant health risk. You may want to kick the habit, but it’s tough to stop smoking. Researchers suggest that some natural remedies, like St. John’s Wort, may be helpful to quit smoking. If you want to quit smoking, here are some things you should know about St. John’s Wort and its ability to help you stop smoking.
The Harmful Impacts of Smoking
You often hear how bad smoking is for you. But do you know the specifics of why it’s terrible for you? Understanding the risks to yourself and others could be your first step toward giving up smoking.
1 – Smoking causes cancer
According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), almost 500,000 Americans die from illnesses related to smoking each year. That’s around one in five people. Smoking contributes to 30% of cancer deaths in the United States.
Lung cancer is at the top of the list for smokers. Smoking also increases your chances of getting these types of cancer:
2 – Smoking damages your lungs
The American Lung Association also warns about the dangers of smoking.
Besides cancer, they say that smoking damages your lung’s airways and tiny air sacs. You may not notice it at first, but your lung function is reduced over time as you continue to smoke. It can take years for the problem to show up as lung disease. When you smoke, you’re also more susceptible to infections in your lungs, such as pneumonia or bronchitis. Asthma is another common lung problem that smokers develop over time.
3 – Smoking can cause Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
COPD is a lung disease that causes emphysema and chronic bronchitis. There’s currently no cure. COPD symptoms include difficulty breathing, wheezing, coughing, and excess sputum.
4 – Smoking creates other health risks
Of course, some people smoke for years without getting cancer or lung disease. However, many other health problems result from smoking.
These include the following concerns:
- Suppressed immune system
- Gum disease
- Type 2 diabetes
- Aging prematurely
- Bad breath
- Yellow teeth
- Loss of bone density so you’re more prone to breaks
- Higher risk of macular degeneration, which causes blindness
- Higher risk of arthritis
- Dulls your taste buds
- Impaired sense of smell
- Heart disease and narrowing arteries
5 – Smoking is habit-forming
Researchers found that 70% of people who smoke say they want to quit. There are many treatments available, but because the nicotine in tobacco is so habit-forming, many people try only to give up. There is hope, though, because studies show that the rate of those who are giving smoking has increased.
6 – Smoking affects others
Science suggests that children of smokers are more likely to grow up to be smokers themselves. Your smoking also causes your kids to be more susceptible to illnesses such as the following:
- Lung infections
- Sinus problems
Second-hand smoke can be just as dangerous as smoking. Cancer, lung, and heart disease can show up in individuals who had parents who smoked. Besides your own family, your smoking affects your co-workers, neighbors, and community.
What is St. John’s Wort?
St. John’s Wort is a yellow flower used in herbal medicine for centuries–since Ancient Greece! According to tradition, healers named it after St. John in the Bible. Natural healers use it to help fight kidney and lung problems, insomnia and wounds heal. Today it’s known as an aid to fight depression. This medicinal herb has also used for
- Menopausal symptoms
- Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
- Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
You can take St. John’s Wort in tea, capsules, tablets, or liquid.
How St. John’s Wort can help you stop smoking?
One study found that St. John’s Wort was effective in helping stop smoking. It also helps increase serotonin in your body, making it helpful if you suffer from depression. Many people who smoke also struggle with depression and alcohol use. Taking care of your depression may help you quit smoking.
In animal studies, researchers found that St. John’s Wort reduced withdrawal symptoms from nicotine. Nicotine is the addictive substance found in cigarettes, cigars, and pipe tobacco. In human testing, those who took St. John’s Wort reported they had less of a desire for nicotine than those who didn’t take St. John’s Wort. Some said they felt no difference, so researchers are still studying the benefits of St. John’s Wort for those who want to quit smoking.
Note: The researchers did not conduct any clinical studies. However, the consensus is that having a conversation with your physician about this St. John’s Wort study is one worth having.
What are the negatives of taking St. John’s Wort?
There are some adverse side effects you should know about if you decide to take St. John’s Wort. One is that it can interfere with other medications, sometimes in a severe way. It can weaken certain drugs so that you aren’t getting the proper benefits. The medicines it weakens include these:
- Birth control pills
- Heart medication, Digoxin
- HIV drugs
- Cancer medications
- Blood thinner, Warfarin
Side effects of St. John’s Wort
St. John’s Wort can also cause a reaction to the sun so that you become overly sensitive to it. Other less extreme side effects include these:
- Stomach problems
- Dry mouth
- Sexual dysfunction issues
Another severe side effect is something called “serotonin syndrome.” This syndrome is due to the levels of serotonin getting too high. You may feel agitated, nervous, anxious, with higher blood pressure and heart rate. If you have these symptoms when you take St. John’s Wort, you’re taking too much. Stop taking it immediately.
Although St. Johns’ Wort can help fight depression and help you stop smoking, possible side effects are possible. If you decide to tray St. John’s Wort, be sure to discuss it with your doctor. They can tell you what other side effects to watch out for and advise you how much you should take.
Other natural remedies to help you quit smoking
There are other natural remedies you may want to try to give up smoking.
- Mindfulness: This technique helps you relax and aids some people in quitting smoking.
- Yoga: Relaxation techniques like yoga may help you quit smoking.
- Acupuncture: This treatment may help short-term for some people.
- Hypnosis: Some people suggest this works well, but it doesn’t work for everyone.
- Cytosine: This remedy is used in other countries to quit smoking. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not approve it in the United States, but researchers see dramatic help through its use. Currently, there are clinical studies with cytisine to understand its benefits and side effects.
Other remedies include fresh lime, black pepper, or ginger.
Increasing your Vitamin C levels helps you through the process of quitting cigarettes. Vitamin C boosts your antioxidants, which can help reduce your cravings for nicotine.
Some people find that support from friends or family is helpful, too, since some behavioral issues you need to overcome. For example, perhaps you smoke with your friends while out on the town or after a meal. It’s essential to find ways to break your smoking routine.
Final thoughts of trying St. John’s Wort to quit smoking
Smoking is a huge health risk, but it’s tough to stop because it’s so addictive. Many people want to quit smoking. They may try but then give up.
If you are ready to stop smoking, consider a natural remedy like St. John’s Wort to help you. Be sure you understand the potential side effects of taking St. John’s Wort. The study we shared suggests that it might be effective in helping you quit. It is at least worth the try!
However, you may want to talk to your doctor first to be safe. Never take St. John’s Wort if you’re on prescription medications like those listed above. Of course, you may want to try another natural remedy such as yoga or mindfulness classes.
These are great ways to feel calmer and help you cope with withdrawal symptoms and behavioral issues associated with smoking. Many people have kicked the smoking habit, and you can too. Don’t give up. Find what works best for you, and enjoy your new smoke-free life.