Most of us have first-hand experience with the benefits the body, mind, and soul each receive from an inhalation of cannabis. In fact, studies show that cannabis acts as a bronchodilator, opening the airway passages and aiding in respiratory health. But the proliferation of chemical-coated, cancer-causing tobacco cigarettes has created a stigma that smoking anything is bad for your health, period. The truth is, humans have been inhaling herbs for their health benefits for centuries.
If smoking one herb — cannabis — can make us feel so good, logic dictates that there must be additional herbs that deliver similar relief, right? Right. Below, we explore some of the wonderful medicinal herbs you can smoke, the benefits that can come from those herbs, as well as how to make your own herbal blend with help from The Herbal Academy.
Herbs for your lungs
A tasteless light smoke, mullein is revered as a highly medicinal herb that is believed to cleanse lung infections and inflammation. It's an expectorant, meaning that it potentially helps in breaking up respiratory congestion and promotes productive coughing. Since mullein has no flavor, it makes a great base for an herbal smoking blend. Mullein that is too dry won't smoke smoothly, so add a little moisture and rub the leaves together for the best result.
If you're like me and the other 300 million people around the globe who suffer from asthma, white horehound is about to be your new best friend. A unique herb native to the Mediterranean, white horehound is a very potent anti-inflammatory, specifically regarding respiratory inflammation. In natural medicine practices, it is used to treat bronchitis, whooping cough, and asthma.
White horehound is high in marrubiin, which is responsible for its expectorant properties and its ability to stimulate appetite. This useful herb is also analgesic which helps with general aches and pains, specifically headaches and toothaches.
Fun fact: Marrob, the Hebrew name for white horehound, is one of the five sacred herbs traditionally served at Passover feasts.
Hyssop has been regarded as a holy herb for centuries, mentioned in the Bible as an herb used to cleanse and purge. Hyssop is often combined with white horehound. It's also used to potentially treat emphysema and purify the lungs because it is an expectorant. Hyssop also potentially soothes irritated mucous membranes in the respiratory system.
On top of lung and respiratory health, hyssop is used to relieve anxiety and stimulate focus. Note: because of its powerful ability to cleanse the body, hyssop has been reported to make some people sweat.
Popularly used in a tonic for restoring balance in the body, Korean ginseng releases many potential medicinal properties when smoked. It dilates constricted vessels in the lungs allowing for deeper and more effective breathing. Korean ginseng also potentially cleanses the adrenal glands and reduces the physical side-effects of stress in your body such as high cortisol levels in the bloodstream.
For some, it also provides a refreshing boost of energy and optimism which in turn lessens fatigue and anxiety. Amazingly, Korean ginseng has been shown to potentially decrease cancer development in lung tissue.
Herbs used to quit cigarettes
Red Raspberry Leaf
Not only does red raspberry leaf contain a wide variety of medicinal compounds, but it is also a great tobacco alternative. Smoking red raspberry leaves may even neutralize nicotine poisoning. It also potentially helps with easing menstrual pain.
Red raspberry is a sedative herb that may produce a calming effect on the nervous system. Its fluffy texture makes it the perfect base for an herbal smoking blend.
A very strong lung antiseptic, bergamot is rich in oregano oil which has a plethora of healing properties. This powerful herb could easily be placed in the “herbs for your lungs” category because of its effective lung infection-fighting properties.
Commonly used to help smokers quit cigarettes, bergamot significantly reduces nicotine cravings as both an herbal smoke and in its essential oil form. In fact, this unique herb has shown to help with dependency or compulsive disorders. Bergamot hails from the citrus family so it's also known for its uplifting energy and immune-boosting properties.
This unique herb has a long, entwined history with humankind. Its mild hallucinogenic properties have entranced people for centuries, leading it to be heavily used in rituals and spiritual endeavors. On a medicinal level, mugwort is similar to cannabis in the sense that it has a wide range of benefits.
This special herb has been used to potentially alleviate fever, colds, digestive issues, nervous problems, and menstrual problems. For some, mugwort relaxes the body and is known to enhance and improve recollection of dreams. It's light and fluffy, like mullein, which makes it a great base for an herbal smoking blend.
St. John's Wort
One of the most common medicinal herbs in the world, St. John's Wort is best known as an all-around “feel good” plant. It's a mood stabilizer and enhancer that has been used for centuries to potentially alleviate depression and melancholy. St. John's Wort can also reduce symptoms of anxiety and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). For some, it acts as a mood-elevating sedative, erasing signs of tension throughout the body. However, be aware that St. John's Wort interferes with many medications, including birth control. Speak with your doctor before trying this herb.
An herb that delivers a diverse number of health benefits, skullcap is best known for reducing anxiety and insomnia. This incredible herb and our nervous system are a match made in heaven. Skullcap potentially boosts the central nervous system, reduces nervous anxiety, and helps with nervous headaches.
Famed for being the primary ingredient in absinthe, it turns out that wormwood isn't as strong of a hallucinogen as once thought. Prior to its infusion into alcohol, wormwood was revered as a very medicinal herb. And contrary to popular belief, you won't bear witness to any dancing green goblins after ingesting this unique herb. It's a light anesthetic, providing potential relief to pain and muscle or menstrual cramps. For some, smoking wormwood releases mild effects that help reduce pain, headaches, and even rheumatism.
How to make your own herbal smoking blend
It can be helpful to think of herbal smoking blends as having three components:
- The carrier or base herbs
- Herbs with a specific supportive role
- Herbs used for flavoring
Some great base herbs we discussed above were mullein and red raspberry leaf, but cannabis is also a great base/carrier herb for your smoking blend.
Next, you can pick a few herbs from the list above to address the potential medicinal benefits you're looking for.
Finally, spice it up and add some flavor. Herbs you can include to add flavor have incredible medicinal properties as well — you can flavor your smoking blend to cater to your individual needs. Peppermint and spearmint are great for respiratory health, lavender is potentially calming and stress-relieving, while anise and angelica may soothe digestive issues and heartburn.
Add a pretty touch to your smoking blends by rolling them up in pesticide-free rose petals for a floral joint experience.
Tip: herbs purchased from a store can be too dried out to make for an enjoyable smoke. The Herbal Academy recommends giving the herbs a conservative spritz with water and honey.
Another great tip from The Herbal Academy is to include a little bit of willow bark to add richness to your smoking blend, particularly if you plan on rolling and consuming your blend with papers.
Of course, this article is for educational purposes only. Speak with your doctor before trying any herbal smoking blends.