Smoking herbs is a practice that humans have engaged in for centuries. Today, tobacco and cannabis are the most commonly smoked herbs. The reason for smoking herbs varies, but generally, herbs are smoked either for their medicinal benefits or for recreational use. In this article, we’ll explore the potential benefits of smoking herbs as well as potential side effects and health risks.
When Did the Practice of Smoking Herbs Begin?
The practice of smoking herbs is ancient. While no exact date can be determined, people have been smoking herbs since 5000 BC. Native people have long practiced smoking herbs throughout the Americas in ceremonial shamanistic rituals. In India, smoking herbs have been used in Ayurvedic medicine for various uses. In China, opium was commonly smoked recreationally. All around the world, people have been smoking herbs for centuries.
Exactly how the practice originated is uncertain. What is certain is that this practice is ancient. The exact effect of smoking herbs depends on the herbs themselves and how they are smoked.
Today, we hear primarily about tobacco and cannabis smoking. However, many different herbs have been used as herbal smokes throughout history, each with unique properties. When smoked in moderation, certain herbs can have many therapeutic properties. In addition, they can serve as great alternatives to mass-produced tobacco products that often contain many toxic chemicals.
Is Smoking Herbs Bad For You?
When it comes to smoking herbs safety, people are often concerned about the adverse health effects of smoking on the lungs. While it is true that any form of inhaled smoke will irritate the mucous membranes of the lungs, smoking herbs is not necessarily harmful. It depends on what herbs you smoke, how much of the herbs you smoke, how often you smoke, and what your relationship is to the herbs you smoke.
Smoking herbs can have many benefits. That irritation of the mucous membranes in the lungs, for example, may help clear out phlegm and blockages in the respiratory tract. Not to mention, each herb has unique properties that can affect your body and mind when smoked. Additionally, some of the compounds in herbs are activated more from smoking than from consuming and digesting them.
Suppose you are smoking high-quality, organic herbs with no added chemicals and smoking small amounts of them in moderation. In that case, it will have a much different effect than smoking several cigarettes or joints daily. Suppose you are smoking the herbs for their benefits or occasional ceremonial or recreational use. In that case, it is also much different than habitually and compulsively smoking herbs.
So, the question of whether smoking herbs is bad for you or not is not an easy one to answer. It depends on many factors. Smoking herbs can have many potential benefits but can also have possible side effects and damage your lungs if consumed in excess. Tobacco also has nicotine in it, which is an addictive compound that could cause you to form a dependency on it. It is best to consult your doctor when making these sorts of decisions.
So, is smoking herbs safe? Yes, in moderation, and if you know what the properties of the herbs are and have a healthy relationship with smoking them. However, they can be unsafe if you smoke herbs that have adverse side effects, if you smoke high volumes of herbs, smoke too frequently, or have an unhealthy relationship with smoking.
Below, we will discuss different herbs that are smoked and the potential benefits of smoking these herbs.
This information is provided purely for educational purposes. We are not suggesting you smoke anything, as that is a personal choice.
If you choose to smoke these herbs, do so mindfully and with moderation and respect for the plants and yourself. Inhaling large amounts of smoke from any herb regularly or mindlessly will undoubtedly have negative consequences, especially for your lungs. Herbal smokes were traditionally done ceremonially, occasionally, and often only in small amounts. However, daily smoking, especially many times a day, is a habit that can damage lung health no matter what herb you are smoking.
Potential Benefits of Smoking Herbs & Smoking Herbs Side Effects
The potential benefits of smoking herbs vary according to the smoked herbs. Smoking any of these herbs can have the same potential side effects from smoke inhalation, such as lung irritation, increased mucus production, and cough. We will not note these as side effects, as they apply to every herb—especially when smoked in excess. Additionally, we will only state other side effects if they apply to a specific herb. Suppose there are no other known side effects besides those related to smoke inhalation. In that case, we will not include these in the descriptions.
Do not take this information as medical advice; always consult your doctor before smoking any of these herbs.
Let’s start with the most commonly smoked herb in the world. Some people may be surprised to hear that smoking tobacco can offer potential benefits. In Native cultures of both North and South America, tobacco is seen as one of the most sacred plants in existence. For example, it is consumed in Peruvian shamanism as a protector plant, offering spiritual protection. It is also used as a purgative that helps to encourage vomiting.
Still, smoking tobacco is associated with many health risks. Tobacco contains nicotine, which is an addictive chemical. Nicotine and tobacco smoking may also contribute to the development of heart disease, stroke, lung diseases, diabetes, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and chronic bronchitis.
If you are going to smoke tobacco, use pure tobacco leaf and avoid smoking cigarettes that contain any added chemicals.
Cannabis is the second most widely smoked herb in the world. Smoking cannabis has been associated with many potential health benefits and risks. THC, the active compound in cannabis, causes mind and mood-altering effects that can have various effects—both positive and negative. For some, this provides relaxation, joy, and laughter. For others, it causes anxiety, depression, and paranoia. The strain of cannabis largely influences this, the amount consumed, and the subjective perception of the person smoking it.
Smoking cannabis is associated by some research with pain relief, depression relief, seizure regulation, glaucoma treatment, slowed development of various cognitive and nervous system disorders, multiple sclerosis relief, reduction of tremors, relief of digestive disorders, and reduction of nausea.
Potential health risks of cannabis include addiction, increased coughing, phlegm production, increased risk of lung infections, changes in social behavior, mood, disorientation, hallucinations, increased heart rate, and increased appetite. Health risks of cannabis smoking tend to be more prevalent in frequent smokers.
Cannabis is also an illegal substance in many countries and many states. However, numerous states in the United States have legalized the consumption of cannabis. So, be sure to check with the local laws of your state to determine if the use of this plant is legal where you live.
Blue lotus is an herb that has mild psychoactive properties. It was used commonly consumed in Egypt and is known to calm the nervous system and cause vivid dreams. In high doses, it may have euphoric and hallucinogenic properties. Potential side effects of smoking blue lotus include altered mental state, drowsiness, slurred speech, and increased heart rate.
Chamomile is a popular herb most commonly consumed as tea. However, it can also be smoked, and smoking chamomile may provide some benefits. Studies suggest that chamomile acts similarly to some anti-anxiety medications. In addition, smoking chamomile may provide anti-spasmodic and sedative effects, relaxing your mind and reducing tension. Side effects of smoking chamomile include possible drowsiness, tiredness, and fatigue.
Calendula is an orange edible flower that is a part of the daisy family of plants. Smoking calendula can increase mental clarity, support dream recall, and lower inflammation. It may also calm muscle spasms and support the healing of ulcers.
Smoking lavender may reduce stress, provide pain relief, and produce a calm state of mind. It is also used to support a good night’s rest.
Mugwort is most commonly smoked to enhance vivid dreams, encourage lucid dreaming, and support dream recall. However, mugwort can cause allergic reactions in some people, such as sneezing and sinus-related symptoms.
Smoking passionflower may have calming, sedative-like properties and support pain relief. However, possible side effects of smoking passionflower include altered consciousness, loss of coordination, dizziness, drowsiness, and nausea.
Damiana is considered a very uplifting herb and is often smoked to relieve symptoms of depression, anxiety, and nervousness. It is also used as an aphrodisiac and may provide relief from headaches. However, it is also mildly sedative. In high doses, damiana may cause hallucinations.
Smoking rose may have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits. It may also relieve symptoms of anxiety and depression, as well as enhance mood and libido.
Clove cigarettes are often consumed as alternatives to tobacco and to help reduce nicotine cravings. Cloves also have anti-parasitic properties and may help relieve congestion and provide headache relief. Clove smoke is also used as a mosquito repellent. However, severe health risks are associated with clove cigarettes, including hemorrhagic pulmonary edema, pneumonia, bronchitis, and hemoptysis.
Mullein has commonly been used as an herbal smoke to clear out lung mucus. In addition, it is a decongestant that may help alleviate coughs and soothe irritated lungs.
Smoking mint is said to sharpen the mind, soothe the senses, and treat congestion of the sinuses and respiratory tract.
Smoking Herbs Health Risks
Smoke is a byproduct of heated plant matter. Inhaling it may be a way to ingest some of the heated active compounds in the plants and may produce a specific effect depending on the compound ingested. Still, no matter what herb you smoke, inhaling smoke will cause some irritation to the lungs. This may have few negative consequences if done in moderation and consumed in low quantities. However, if consumed frequently, habitually, or in excess, it can increase your risk of developing specific health issues—especially those related to the respiratory and circulatory systems.
When considering smoking herbs, it is essential to be aware of the possible health risks. It is also always recommended to consult with your healthcare provider whenever you are introducing a new substance to your life.