Natural & Pharmaceutical Treatment Options to Help with Quitting Smoking
Combining the advice of medical doctors with alternative medical practice is a great way to not only stay health-conscious but to also create habits that will improve your long-term health and meet short-term health goals. With your personal health, your best offense is a good defense; in other words, prevention is key. Pharmaceutical drugs can work to solve a problem that already exists but herbal remedies can arm your body to properly prevent those issues from arising in the first place. Below, I will explore this idea by taking a closer look at herbal and pharmaceutical treatment and prevention options for nicotine addiction.
A little over 14% of Americans smoke cigarettes. Smokers as a whole have an increased risk of heart and lung disease, COPD and lung cancer, living on average 10 years less than non-smokers.
Herbal Remedies for Smoking Cessation
The most common herbal remedies used to help quit smoking include:
GABA works by calming the neurotransmitter that causes cigarette cravings, kava root promotes overall calmness and clarity, ginseng prevents nicotine from releasing dopamine in the brain and St. John’s Wort can help smokers feel less depressed about quitting making the withdrawal period more bearable. After quitting, it is also important to replenish nutrients lost from smoking. The antioxidants in a cup green tea also help to reverse cell damage, and vitamins C, E and B can all be taken orally as supplements to help your body heal.
Pharmaceutical approach: The doctor’s orders
Cessation medications often help with tobacco craving, reduce withdrawal symptoms and keep you from starting to use tobacco again. These medications come in many different forms, and must be taken well before your desired quit date:
- Varenicline: Interferes with nicotine receptors in the brain, must be taken 1 week before quit day and then every day for 12 weeks
- Bupropion: This extended-release antidepressant reduces cravings for nicotine, must be taken 1-2 weeks before quitting and then every day thereafter
- Nortriptyline: Reduces cravings, must be taken 10-28 days before quitting, gradually weaning off of it for 12 weeks after
Weighing out the options
Generally, the pharmaceutical drugs used to help smokers quit come riddled with nasty side effects. These range anywhere from nausea and vomiting to heart problems, depression and high blood pressure. While these drugs tend to be more dangerous, they are powerful, and, if used under careful supervision, can help a patient quit their smoking habit. While the herbal remedies are generally safer, there is less concrete evidence for their effectiveness, though anecdotal stories show success. Depending on the severity of your habit, your doctor will always have what’s best for you in mind, so be sure to be honest with your doctor before making any lifestyle changes.
Photo by Abed Kayali