- 1st Year Apprenticeship
- 2nd Year Apprenticeship
- Clinical Internships
Herbal Smoking Mixtures
by Howie Brounstein
_1995HB This file may be reprinted and distributed freely as long as it
remains unchanged and with this header attached.
Hard Copy available for US$7.00 from:
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I became an adult immersed in the counter-culture
of the Pacific Northwest. As a teacher, wildcrafter,
herbalist, and botanist for more than a decade,
many unique herbs have passed through my hands.
It was only a matter of time before I tried to smoke
them, to see how I might mix different herbs for
varying psychological and physiological effects.
After my knowledge and experience grew, I began
teaching a lecture titled Herbal Smoking Mixtures:
Local Legal Roots, Barks, and Leaves, and Flowers.
This class was very popular. Many more people will
show up to a class titled “Herbal Smoking Mixtures”
than will for “Medicinal Herbs for the Lungs.”
Perhaps this is a sign of the wild North American
society I live in. Perhaps it’s a sign that humans
have been intrigued with the idea of fire and
smoking since the earliest of our race’s memory.
Smoking is a synthesis of fire and smoke, such
powerful archetypal images. Perhaps it’s just a fad,
and means nothing at all. Nonetheless, I have
expanded my lecture, and after smoking many a
pipe full over this computer keyboard, produced this
It doesn’t cover every possible herb. It is a starting
point for your own explorations into the world of
herbs and smoke. Take this knowledge and run with
it, make it your own, create you own herbal stories
to tell. I hope this helps you in your quest for a
satisfying legal alternative to Tobacco or Marijuana,
or perhaps the perfect ceremonial blend.
I am a smoker, and I am writing from the viewpoint
of a smoker. If you don’t smoke anything regularly,
my suggestion is don’t start. Smoking every day on
a regular basis is never healthy. Occasional use of
smoking herbs, or even Tobacco, is not very
damaging. It’s our trend towards making it a habit in
excess that becomes the problem.
Many of the plants described in this book are
difficult, if not impossible, to find on the commercial
herb market. These need to be gathered in the wild
(wildcrafted), or garden grown. Wildcrafting requires
skill and practice. It requires a positive identification.
If you are not sure of the plant, or if you are not sure
how to harvest wild plants ethically, DON’T wildcraft.
Seek one of the many fine teachers available to
obtain the necessary skills first.
There are many reasons why people smoke
Tobacco, Marijuana, and other herbal mixtures.
Here are but a few reasons:
Recreation: Some folks find the act of smoking and
its effects pleasurable. Sometimes they are just
bending under a social pressure (it’s cool to smell
like an ashtray). Some herbs taste good when
smoked. Certainly, an oral fixation, or some
subconscious early childhood memories of mom’s
nipples, contribute to constant smoking.
Addiction: Recreational use of Tobacco can lead to
the dreaded addiction so prevalent in the world
today. Tobacco has firmly ingrained itself in every
culture in the world it has been introduced to, except
for a few religious sects. Don’t let the advertisement
fool you; the Marlboro man is an addict. It is very
hard for most people to stop on their own. Marijuana
is not physically addicting, but there are a few folks
who smoke every day and form an emotional
dependence on it.
Tobacco and Marijuana Alternatives: There are
numerous reasons not to smoke Tobacco, health
reasons not a small factor. It may be social pressure
(it’s so cool not to smell like an ashtray). A satisfying
replacement for Tobacco is like the search for the
holy grail. Many will look for it and come close, but
nothing will be exactly like it. Have you heard the
mythical story of the sage herbalist, quite a wise and
aromatic fellow? After years of spiritual purification
he finally found the proper herbs and curing process
to make the perfect Tobacco-like smoking mixture
substitute. Unfortunately, shortly thereafter he
became fully enlightened and gave up smoking
completely. The formula was lost forever.
Many people smoke marijuana for a variety of
reasons, but wish not to. It may not agree with their
constitution; it may not give them the effects they’re
looking for. The fact that it is selectively illegal and
semi-legal in some places might contribute to the
desire to quit. The biggest reason I see people
wanting to quit is drug testing. In the Pacific
Northwest, these tests are very popular with
employers. Even workers who are not responsible
for welfare of others are tested. Evidently,
occasional weekend use of marijuana might impair
the judgment of janitors, domestic workers at hotels,
and the check-out clerks in the local market.
Medicine: There are a variety of medicinal uses of
smoking mixtures. One can use calming or
tranquilizing herbs to relax physically or mentally.
Some herbs can be smoked for calming the lungs or
to aid in expectoration. The difference between
poison and medicine is dosage; smoking a strong
herb is one way to regulate its dosage.
Spiritual and Ceremonial Uses: Throughout history
people have taken (and smoked) herbs to produce
altered states of consciousness. Although some in
modern times seek hallucinogens for pure
recreation, many still use these plants respectfully
on the journey for spiritual knowledge. Even the
milder herbs are useful during meditation and vision
quests. Smoking is a ritual, and the more conscious
we are of it, the more we will get from it. It is such a
powerful mixture of fire and air.
Preparation of Herbs into Palatable Smoking
A number of factors contribute to making a palatable
smoking mixture. First and foremost is the way you
cure the herbs. If you take fresh Tobacco and dry it
like any medicinal herb, it becomes an unpalatable
obnoxious smoke that the most hard-core smoker
couldn’t stomach (or lung, as the case may be).
Tobacco is semi-dried slowly, allowing for chemical
changes, and is never dried to a crisp. It is
packaged slightly moist in air tight containers. If it
dries out, the smoker adds an apple slice or sprays
it with water. Dried out Tobacco is harsh.
Herbal smoking blends are similar. In most cases
you do not want the herbs to be dried crispy. It’s OK
for some of the ingredients, but as a whole the
mixture should be ever so slightly moist. Some of
the most flavorful smoking ingredients need to dry
slow, and cure, but the majority are best picked
fresh and not dried completely. Package in an
Most store-bought herbs are too dry for a pleasant
smoke and taste harsh. If you use herbs that are too
dry, try spraying your mixture lightly with water. Mix
it thoroughly and let sit in an airtight container to let
the moisture travel throughout the herbs.
Experiment with the liquid. Try adding an apple slice
or honey. You can always let the herbs air dry if
they get too moist to burn properly.
Another factor is the consistency of the mixture. The
herbs should be well mixed and burn evenly. If you
are using a pipe to smoke, this is not quite as
important. The mixture can have small pieces of
stems and roots without problems. If you plan to roll
the herbs in cigarette papers, this becomes very
important. Even small stems will poke holes in the
paper. Remove all the stems. Powder or finely chop
the slower burning roots and hard herbs.
Some herbs are especially helpful to obtain the
proper physical consistency of the mixture. By far
the best physical base for a smoking mixture is
Mullein. When prepared correctly, it is light and
puffy. The other herbs mix well into it, and it will
burn evenly when lit. It is a good carrier of the other
substances. You can also use finely shredded
barks. Thin slices or inner barks of plants like
dogwood and willow should be finely cut into long
strips, much like fine Virginian Tobacco. This can be
difficult to do, but it works well.
Certain plants need to be rubbed before use.
Mullein and Mugwort don’t become fluffy until you
take the herbs in your hands and rub them. Keep
rubbing until the herb becomes light and puffy.
Sometimes I put the Mullein in a blender before
mixing. It becomes even more fluffy, but it lacks the
personal touch hand rubbing gives.
Finally, the amounts and kinds of flavoring herbs
you use will change the palatability. You need to just
play with it until you get it right. Unfortunately, most
commercially available herbal smoking blends don’t
properly prepare, cure, and package the herbs.
They often have good recipes,and I have to assume
the manufacturers have the best intentions but lack
of resources or knowledge. Some are still good
enough to smoke. Very few rival even the simplest
hand picked, rubbed and/or cured, and semi-dried
do it yourself mix.
Barks for Body: Hearty Smoking Mixture Bases
Barks were a standard ingredient of Native
American smoking mixtures, at least on the West
Coast of the United States. Good smoking barks are
usually astringents, and have medicinal value for
external burns, cuts, etc. Smoked, however, they
have no medicinal effects, and no apparent
physiological effect other than the act of smoking.
They have a dull thick flavor that adds Tobacco-like
“body” to the smoke.They can be too “raspy” to
Willow and Dogwood bark are two common barks.
Use the thin barked willows, or inner layer of the
thicker barks for best results. If possible, cut the
bark into very thin strips to approximate a fine cut
Virginian Tobacco. This isn’t always possible, but it
helps to make the smoking mixture easier to deal
with for rolling and mixing other herbs.
You can use other astringent herbs like Kinnikinnik
in a similar fashion. There are many undiscussed
astringent herbs that might add body to smoking
mixtures. Try Avens, Geum sp., Cinquefoil,
Potentilla sp., Rose, Rosa sp., and Spirea, Spirea
Willow Bark, Salix sp.
The species of Willows are numerous and hard to
identify. As a botanist, there seems to be as many
different kinds of Willows as stars in the southern
sky. Each of these Willows has a slightly different
flavor and texture. Experiment to find the one you
like the best.
Willows have medicinal effects internally. They
contain salicylates that act like aspirin to relieve
inflammation, lower fevers, and relieve pain. These
properties do not transfer through smoking.
Dogwood Bark, Cornus sp.
Dogwood Bark is another herb for body and texture.
You can use any Cornus tree or shrub. Each will be
different, but this includes Flowering Dogwood and
Red Osier (Creek) Dogwood.
Pipsissewa, Chimaphila sp. and Pyrola,
The leaves of all species of these plants are mild
astringents that add body to the smoking mixture,
yet are very mild. You can smoke them alone with
good results, and they break up easily into usable
Kinnikinnik, Arctostaphylos uva-ursi
Kinnikinnik or Bearberry is the standard for the
Northwestern smoking mixture. It is a fine thick
smoke, but mild enough for some to smoke alone.
The leaves are usually used, but it is possible to
smoke the red bark. The leaves are leathery, and
may require some extra attention to break into small
enough pieces to roll into a cigarette.
Kinnikinnik is an Native American word for smoking
mixture. It is true they smoked Kinnikinnik (the
plant), but usually the “Kinnikinnik” they smoked
also contained willow bark and other ingredients.
Sometimes it did not even contain Bearberry. This
confused some of the ethnobotanists cataloging
their herb usage, so be aware of this when reading
“Indian Uses for Herbs” type books.
In order of strength from mildest to strongest:
* Pipsissewa, Pyrola: Mild, can be smoked alone.
* Kinnikinnik: Medium, can be smoked alone
* Manzanita: Strong, can be too raspy to smoke
* Madrone Leaf: Very strong, too raspy, excellent
to mix with other herbs.
Manzanita, Shrubby Arctostaphylos sp.
Manzanita leaf (and bark if you wish) is a strong
astringent with body and flavor that can be too
harsh to smoke alone. The leaves may be difficult to
break into small pieces. Mix it in small amounts with
other herbs, and it will work just fine.
Manzanita has an unusual relationship with fire.
Manzanita is fire slowed down and embodied into a
plant. Just look at its red bark and wispy habit.
Manzanita evolved with fire. If Smoky the Bear
wasn’t in charge of fire suppression, most
ecosystems with Manzanita would burn naturally on
a regular basis. Old thick unburned Manzanita
eventually becomes unhealthy. Burning doesn’t kill
the plant, it invigorates its growth. The wood is fire
resistant and often has unique grains and “burls.” It
makes excellent pipe material.
Madrone, Arbutus menziesii
Madrone is a fiery red barked tree. Its leaf and bark
are even stronger than Manzanita. It can still be
useful in mixtures, but mix just a little with the other
herbs. It is very raspy and harsh when smoked
alone, so use a gentle hand when adding it to a
Blackberry, Rubus sp.
Blackberry root is a strong astringent that has use in
smoking mixtures. Be sure to powder the root and
mix well. The bark of the stems can also be used.
The leaves are very gentle, and can be added also.
Any Rubus like Raspberry, Loganberry,
Thimbleberry, and Salmonberry might be useful
Some of the milder psychotropic herbs can be
effective in smoking mixture for ceremonial reasons.
These light smokes will not knock you down as the
heavy counter-cultural chemicals, but they will give
you the feeling of the plant. The best use of these
mixtures is during meditation or vision quests where
you pay great attention to the way the herb feels.
These are not for everyday smoking mixtures.
Many people are looking for psychotropic herbs that
are legal and smokable. If you are looking for a
replacement for Marijuana, stay with the calming
herbs or Calamus. There are many other plants
available in the wild that range from mild LSD-like
experiences to strong other worldly experiences.
Many are very dangerous and unhealthy to your
body. Certainly a spiritual experience maybe worth
short term bodily discomfort, but it’s not worth death.
These stronger psychotropics should be used under
the guidance of a Shaman or other experienced
practitioner trained in the specific uses and dosages
of these herbs. Carlos had his don Juan to help him
back to earth from these outlandish worlds. Don’t be
stupid and get lost in other dimensions leaving your
body in a coma in a hospital for your loved ones to
The hardest part of being a teacher is not teaching
what I know but knowing what not to teach. If you
are looking for heavy duty psychedelic smoking mix
you won’t find it in this book.
Scotch Broom, Cytisus scoparius
Scotch Broom is planted by the roadside to prevent
erosion, but it regularly escapes to the neighboring
areas. When I was about 19, I heard that if you dry
the flowers and smoke them, they will get you high.
What I got was a sore throat, a headache, and a
hangover, but no real psychoactive effects.
As the years went by I researched it further. Merlin
smoked it in a legend, but he must have done
something to it. I finally found out about a curing
process. Put the freshly picked flowers directly into
a jar and seal it. Let it cure about two weeks. It
should turn brown and look like scat. If not, open the
jar for a minute and close it up again. It’ll turn brown
in a moment. When it’s ready it will smell putrid;
however, when you dry it, it will have a very
pleasant aromatic aroma. Don’t dry it to a crisp;
leave it slightly moist. It will have the most amazing
flavor. I tried this curing process and smoked it. It
gave me a mild altered state with a minimum of a
headache. I then tried curing it for eight months. The
resultant product is a hallucinogen, although mild.
Even cured it is still harsh on your body. It will cause
nausea along the altered states. It can also cause a
loss of motor control in larger amounts, with no
major hangover if you are healthy. People with liver
problems should probably stay away from this herb,
and most other organic hallucinogens as well. Many
people are allergic to Broom, and should not smoke
it. It is not an everyday blend to replace Marijuana
smoking. The effect is nothing like Cannabis, and it
feels as if it will cause damage to your body with
long term use.
I sometimes teach this process in my
apprenticeship. It depends on the students’
attitudes. If they’re looking for highs … forget it. I
won’t even mention it. If they really understand
about “power plants” then I will. Broom to me is a
very powerful spirit that enters your body when you
take it internally in the described fashion. When
harvesting it, one has to be careful to pay attention.
The plant forcibly stops some students from
harvesting it. It will actually warn them to stay away,
and then hurt them through rashes, hives,
headache, sneezes, and nausea. All from just a
harvest; it is a very powerful plant indeed.
I harvest Broom in the spring and cure it throughout
the year. In the fall it’s dried and mixed with a
number of other plants harvested as the seasons
cycle. I blend it in small amounts with the other
herbs to make a special smoking mixture that is mild
and pleasant. One that gives a feeling of our
connection with the earth and the fine gifts we’ve
harvested, and the fine gifts we’ve given back to
nature. This is my smoking blend used for special
purposes in times of meditation and retreat.
I regularly make a blend like I this. I only gather a
small amount each year, enough for a few times of
smoking. I don’t always add Broom. Broom will make
it so I don’t feel like walking. I like to walk. In
contrast, to smoke Broom regularly just to get high is
to invite bodily damage. If you’re looking for a daily
Marijuana replacement use Skullcap or Pedicularis.
They won’t give you a hangover.
Calamus, Acorus calamus
This ancient herb is mentioned in the Bible and is
chewed by the Natives of Northeastern Canada on a
daily basis. It is also used in ayurvedic medicine for
canceling out the negative effects of consistent
marijuana smoking. This makes it an especially
good smoke for those who are quitting long term
marijuana use. In small doses it is a stimulant. In
large internal doses it is hallucinogenic. It’s main
ingredient (TMA) is more psychoactive by weight
than mescaline. However, smoking it will not cause
psychic pyrotechnics. It appears to provide a
relaxed, pleasant, mild psychotropic effect very
different from Marijuana. It is very unlike calming
herbs used to quit Marijuana because it will make
your head cloudy.
The active ingredient of Calamus is not the most
stable of compounds. It will deteriorate within a few
years leaving the herb useless. Try to get as fresh
an herb as possible and buy large pieces if
possible. Break these pieces up small before use in
a pipe. If you use papers, powder the herb and mix
People often ask me how smoking herbs can
possibly be good for your lungs. I tell them the
peanut butter story. Is peanut butter good for you? If
you wake up to coffee and a maple bar (it has the
sugar I need to get up and go in the morning), a
quick coffee and some sugary lunch snack bar,
followed by a processed dinner with an extra serving
of tensions, then replacing the lunch with a peanut
butter sandwich will be healthy. If you’re on a strict
vegan diet of raw fruit only, a peanut butter
sandwich will clog your digestive tract like super-
glue. Peanut butter is bad. It all depends where your
It is the same with smoking herbs. If you have never
smoked and your lungs are healthy and clean, then
smoking anything will not be healthy. On the other
hand, if your lungs are filled with crud that won’t
come out from cigarettes and a mild respiratory
cold, smoking some lung herbs will help your body’s
natural expectoration. Smoking will be good for your
lungs. It all depends on where your body is.
Herbs for the Lungs
Mullein, Verbascum thapsus
Mullein is a fine medicinal for the lungs, even when
you smoke it. It soothes inflamed or infected lungs,
and prevents coughing until infection or
inflammation is broken. Then it aids in
expectoration, helping to break up congestion and
promote “effective” coughing. It was smoked to stop
the coughing of tuberculosis years ago. It is
wonderful for any kind of lung cleansing. Very gentle
and non-toxic, you can use it anytime. If you are a
smoker, and you are sick and can’t stop coughing
from a cold, you can smoke some Mullein instead of
Tobacco. It may help you to stop coughing, and you
will have smoked one less cigarette. If you are not a
smoker, stick with tincture (extract) or Mullein tea.
After all, there’s no need to smoke when you’re sick
in your lungs.
It also has almost no flavor and is a very light
smoke. I have never seen anyone become addicted
to smoking Mullein, as after a while it is very
unsatisfying. The average smoker would feel as if
they’re smoking air.
Crispy dried crushed Mullein is a lousy smoke. Be
sure to keep it ever so slightly moist. Dried Mullein
should be rubbed for the best results. It will become
very fluffy and puffy. This fuzzy rubbed Mullein will
burn evenly when smoked in a paper or pipe. It will
hold other herbs that are in the form of small pieces
and powder, and keep them evenly distributed. And
it has no flavor! Ideal for a smoking base; I use it in
almost every smoking mixture.
I like the light green baby leaves found in the center
of the first year basal rosette, but it’s a matter of
personal choice. Any leaf will work.
Horehound, Marrubium vulgare, and
Coltsfoot, Tussilago farfara
These commonly used smoking ingredients are
expectorants. They promote coughing and aid in the
upward flow of mucus. Let me repeat this: these
herbs will make you cough. Let me relate to you a
story I have heard more times than I can count on
my hands and my feet. The person hears that
Coltsfoot was smoked by the Native Americans.
They run to the health food store, roll up a cigarette
of dried raspy Coltsfoot, and proceed to smoke it as
if it was marijuana. After they cough a piece of their
brains out, they decide that perhaps this wasn’t such
a good idea. However, the difference between
poison and medicine is dosage. If used properly,
these herbs are very effective healthful herbs.
Mix these herbs in medium amounts with other
herbs. If the mixture makes you cough too much,
use less of the expectorant. They are ideal for a
general lung cleanse, for the ending of respiratory
flus and colds, when you’re quitting Tobacco, and to
get the crud out of you lungs in general. Do not use
them when you are coughing up blood or if it hurts
when you breathe. See a qualified health
professional if this is the case. Also, do not use
them when you can not stop coughing. If this is the
case, stick with Mullein. Ideally theses mixtures
should not make you cough incessantly, but just
cough effectively once in a while, bringing up some
of that excess phlegm.
Jimson Weed Seeds, Datura sp.
One good reason to smoke an herb as a preferred
method of ingestion is regulation of dosage. You
can smoke an herb that is very strong and regulate
the dosage safety. The difference between medicine
and poison is dosage. Many plants are too strong to
take internally safely. If you take a tea, it may take
half an hour or more before you can tell how strong
of a dosage you took. At that point it is too late to
take less. When you smoke an herb the effects or
side effects become apparent quickly. If the herb
doesn’t agree with you, you can stop before
Jimson weed is definitely a strong hallucinogen,
poison, medicine any way you look at it. The dosage
is all important. I do not recommend internal use of
Datura without the guidance of a shaman. The use
of Datura for a high by pimply adolescents looking
for some fireworks is deplorable. Too many of them
end up as newspaper reports. I personally know of
people who have landed in the hospital for extended
stays because of this plant.
Used in the proper dosages, Datura can be a very
effective treatment for a variety of problems. Smoke
the crushed seeds only. The seeds are the mildest
part of the plant. Just a few puffs will anesthetize
your throat and lungs. This could be very helpful
with some lung problems. You will not feel
psychological effects from this small a dosage. I
have used this method of taking this herb and will
guarantee that you will not get high from two puffs.
This plant does not agree with some people. If you
feel light headed or nauseous, then stop smoking it.
No harm will be done.
In some oversea countries, you may find that the
cigarettes still contain Datura leaf. Datura has been
used as smoking mixtures in a variety of cultures.
Generally this is for their hallucinogenic effect and
doesn’t concern us in this book.
Herbs to Quit Smoking Tobacco
Let’s face it, herbal smoking mixtures will not cause
you to quit Tobacco. Only you can cause you to
stop. Smoking mixtures can aid in the process if you
are ready. A variety of mixtures can be helpful.
At first, a thick bodied flavorful smoke with Lobelia
and calming herbs is indicated. After the physical
withdrawal is finished with, drop the Lobelia smoke
and use a calming smoke with lots of astringent
herbs for a heavy “Tobacco” smoke. In reality, no
herbal smoking mixture tastes as “thick” as
Tobacco. Be sure to add some Mullein and possibly
some expectorants to aid in the cleansing process.
Finally, you may wish to cut the astringents and just
go with the very light Mullein alone. Mullein is so
light it will feel as you aren’t really smoking
anything, and you will eventually lose interest in it.
This regimen is an example, and can be modified to
your own personal needs. Some examples of these
mixtures are found in the recipe section.
Other herbs, taken as tea or tincture, may be helpful
during the withdrawal process. A liver stimulant like
Oregon Grape Root or Goldenseal may help your
body remove the nicotine quicker. This won’t make
the withdrawal symptoms easier, but it will just
speed it up. Salicylate herbs, like Willow and Oak,
can help with headaches. Calming herbs like
Skullcap, Valerian, and Parrot’s Beak, are definitely
indicated. After the physical addiction is broken, it’s
up to you to break the psychological addiction.
Lobelia, Lobelia inflata
Lobelia is another example of a strong herb whose
dosage can be regulated by smoking. It is a very
strong muscle relaxant and tranquilizer that should
not be mixed with any other pharmaceutical
tranquilizers or alcohol. It also is an expectorant. As
an added bonus it is an alterative that increases
your body’s own natural defense mechanisms. All
this makes it ideal as an herb to stop smoking with.
Your body sees Lobelia’s main ingredient, lobeline,
as nicotine. Certain receptors in your body are
waiting to be filled with nicotine and so you feel
nicotine fits. Lobeline is the same shape as nicotine
and fits into these receptor sites, fooling your body
into thinking you’ve been smoking Tobacco.
Lobeline, however, is not addictive when used
properly for the short term. The prescription chewing
gums that doctors prescribe to quit smoking have
lobeline as the main ingredient.
Years ago I had a booth at a weekly fair where I
sold my herbal products. Eventually I got very tired
of this. Towards the end I could no longer stand
being available for questions for eight hour
stretches. One day I had a wicked headache and
took some Lobelia. It was a good solid dose; I had
to sit down but my headache was gone. I went to
light a cigarette, but after one puff I could not smoke
any more. My body felt as if I had smoked too many
cigarettes already. It was just the Lobelia.
The important thing to remember about Lobelia is
that it is so strong. When making tea, use a
teaspoon per 1/2 gallon of water mixed with other
herbs. For a smoking mixture add a pinch to a bag
of other herbs. If you do take too much Lobelia will
make you throw up over 90% of the time.
Unfortunately, if you do not throw up, you can have
respiratory failure from the sedative effects. This is a
very difficult thing to do because you’ll feel so
wretched long before it’s dangerous. Unfortunately,
Jethro Kloss in Back to Eden recommends an
insane fasting regime that includes using Lobelia
every day to throw up. This recommendation has
sent a few alternative minded folks to the hospital.
My suggestion: don’t use Lobelia as an emetic
(causes vomiting), use something that is safe and
effective like syrup of ipecac.
In the United States Lobelia is illegal to sell for
internal consumption. Certainly official reasons
include the possibility of poisoning. Strangely
enough Lobelia is extremely effective for a
significant amount of asthmatics. For some people
the tincture is useful in place of inhalers. I am sure
that the powerful pharmaceutical companies losing
a significant percentage of inhaler business has
nothing to do with this law.
When I was a pimply adolescent looking for psychic
pyrotechnics, I found this ad in the back of High
Times for legal highs. My friends and I purchased
some Lobelia touted as a mild LSD type feeling.
Leaving our parents and going on a camping trip,
we promptly rolled thick joints of Lobelia which we
smoked endlessly. After puking our guts out, we
were left with headaches and not so vague feelings
of depression. We were so bummed out we
canceled the camping trip. The difference between
poison and medicine is dosage. Personal note:
almost all of the 15 or so herbs we tried during that
time period had similar results.
Lobelia is the herb for stopping smoking with its
calming, expectorant, alterative, and nicotine
mimicking effects. When making your mixture, add a
pinch of Lobelia. If it’s not satisfying, add more. I
once tried to quit smoking. It was very difficult for
me, so I smoked a too strong Lobelia cigarette. It
made me dizzy, light headed, and nauseous.
However, when I smoked my first cigarette after
quitting Tobacco, it made me dizzy, light headed
and nauseous. These herbs are very similar in some
Herbs for Calming
Calming herbs are antispasmodic for muscle
cramps, sore muscles, menstrual cramps, hiccups,
spasms, tight muscles, etc. They are also used for
their psychological effects. They are good for anger,
fear, pain, anxiety, circular thoughts that go round
and round in your head that you can’t get rid of,
relaxing after a hard day, blues, melancholy,
irritability, too much coffee or other stimulants, and
circular thoughts that keep coming back to you.
Calming herbs are very good for quitting Marijuana
smoking. Many people smoke Marijuana because
they want to unwind after work. The constant hustle-
bustle of modern life only leaves us a few hours in
the evening to relax. Many people are too wound up
from work. The only socially acceptable drugs
available are alcohol and pharmaceutical
tranquilizers that wreak havoc on our bodies, thus
the evening Marijuana smoker.
Unfortunately, Marijuana has effects other than just
relaxing. Many people become cloudy, paranoid, or
shaky from blood sugar imbalances, but it is the only
drug they know to take. These people can be helped
greatly by calming herbs.
These herbs will relax you without clouding your
judgment. You will feel them. They are as strong as
Marijuana but with a different effect. It causes a
calm clear feeling that will not interfere with the rest
of your evening’s thoughts. It will relax you and stop
the rehashing of the days constant traumas so that
you can fall asleep naturally, if you’re tired. I find
many people try these herbs for this reason and
wake up in front of the TV set after smoking these
plants. It didn’t knock them out. They were just so
tired they needed the sleep.
Sometimes people smoke these plants and don’t
feel anything. You may have to take notice of it
consciously. However, if you are irritable and about
to fight with your partner, you will find the effects
Other smokable calming herbs worth an honorable
mention include Passionflower, Passiflora sp., and
Hops, Humulus sp.
Skullcap, Scutellaria sp.
Skullcap is a very good calming herb to smoke. I
find that the commercially available Scutellaria
lateriflora is not very strong as a smoke. Almost all
commercially available Skullcap is too dry and
stemmy to make a good smoke. The Scutellaria
galericulata the more common plant found growing
wild in the United States is much stronger. It is
roughly equivalent in strength to good Marijuana
leaf or bud shake. It works in almost all cases. The
nice green leaf is easy to roll and blends well with
many smoking mixtures. It is one of my standard
I have found through blatant experimentation that
the desert species of Skullcap, Scutellaria nana, is
exceptionally strong. We affectionately call it Mad
Dog Desert Skullcap. Mad Dog Weed is another
common name for Skullcap as this plant was used to
treat rabies in the past. Found throughout the Great
Basin the small, nearly invisible plant is as strong as
the highest quality Marijuana. Unfortunately, it will
cloud your head and make you tired unlike most of
the other herbs we use. If you live in a desert area
you should definitely try your local little Skullcap.
This herb is so strong I urge mixing it with other
Elephant’s Head, Parrot’s Beak, and Indian
Warrior, Pedicularis sp.
All of the Pedicularis’ are tranquilizers and muscle
relaxants. They are of varying strengths with
Elephant’s Head, Pedicularis groenlandica, being
the mildest. The most outstanding thing about
Pedicularis’ are their flavor. They are the best
tasting herbs for smoking I have found. Some are so
strong that they rival Mad Dog Desert Skullcap.
Many of them form unusual looking groups of
flowers that dry into illegal looking buds. Indeed,
Elephant’s Head dries to beautiful red or purple
buds with what appears to be red hairs. Cobrahead,
Pedicularis bracteosa, dries into green buds that
could easily confuse a local peace officer. The
effects however are profoundly different.
A student of mine went by herself to collect some
Elephant’s Head for her smoking mixture. While she
picked, she kept munching on the heads. The next
thing she knew, she was waking up from a nap and
the sun was going down. It is a fine herb indeed.
There is very little reference to these plants in the
herbal literature except for Michael Moore’s
Medicinal Plants of the Mountain West. I did find two
other references. One was an Italian article on
identification. Another was that the natives in Tibet
use their Pedicularis for upset stomachs and kidney
problems. Still as I wander through the high
mountain meadows enjoying the wonderful gifts of
the earth, I find it very hard to believe that the
Native Americans in my area did not use this plant.
A number of years back I had a student whose uncle
was very woods wise. After a number of classes he
visited his uncle. The uncle was impressed with his
knowledge, and with a wry grin asked, “But have
you tried the Pedicularis yet?” I wondered how the
uncle knew about these plants. I found out that he
learned of Pedicularis from a Native American friend
whose tribe smoked it. There are many uses of
plants that have not been recorded even now.
These plants are a welcome addition to any
smoking mixture both as flavor and a medicine.
Elephant’s Head has the best flavor but is the
mildest, but every Pedicularis I have tasted has
been an excellent smoke.
Sometimes an herbal smoking mixture can be quite
bland, or the smoker may like menthol cigarettes.
The herbs in this section are good for flavoring.
Most are aromatic or good smelling herbs with no
system wide effect when smoked.
If you were to smoke these herbs alone full strength,
they wouldn’t taste good. They may even be
irritating this way. Only add a little to the mixture and
taste it. Experiment to find your own special flavor
and strength. Go light handed at first.
Feel free to go further in experimenting with flavors.
Any smelly edible plant might be useful as a
flavoring. Look in your spice and tea rack for
possibilities like lemon grass, etc.
Mints, Mentha sp.
Mints are probably the most accessible and used
flavoring agents for smoking mixtures. They impart a
menthol flavor. This includes Spearmint,
Peppermint, and all the numerous ornamental
varieties such as Apple Mint, etc. Remember to go
light so as not to irritate your lungs and throat.
Herbaceous Artemisia sp. (not shrubs)
Mug means glass; Wort means plant. It’s the mug
plant used for beer in medieval times. It is also used
today at country fairs and gatherings by the more
esoteric beer makers. It replaces hops in the beer
Mugwort is a very interesting plant deep in historical
references. It is often said to promote prophetic
dreams. I don’t find this to be true all the time. It
seems to me that Mugwort intensifies the dreaming
process. It all depends on where you are in this
If you don’t dream, Mugwort will help you to dream,
but you may not remember them. If you don’t
remember your dreams Mugwort will help you to
remember them. If you remember your dreams,
Mugwort will help you to have conscious dreams.
Conscious dreams are dreams where you are aware
that you are dreaming and in full control of the
situation. If you are consciously dreaming already,
the plant will increase the frequency and control.
None of this implies that the dreams will be
pleasant. Some people don’t remember their dreams
for a reason. Mugwort can cause nightmares and
restless dreams leading to lack of sleep or poor
quality of sleep. I know of an essential oil company
that puts a warning on their Artemisia oil: Caution,
may cause nightmares.
Certainly, Mugwort can lead to prophetic dreams if
that is what you are into. I do not prefer that course
of dream work. It is all up to you. One of my long
term students feels that Mugwort is the most reality
altering of all the psychotropics he’s tried. Maybe
you will too.
These effects are most pronounced with long term
exposure to the herb. Dream pillows, fresh bundles
allowed to dry by your bed, and smoking over a
period of weeks. You may not always experience
the subtle effects with one joint.
You can smoke Mugwort alone, but it’s best to use
as a flavoring agent because it is strongly aromatic.
Mugwort can also be rubbed into a very good
consistency as a carrier for the smoking mixture like
Mullein but the flavor can overwhelm the mixture.
Internal use of Mugwort has physiological effects on
your stomach and reproductive system but this will
not transfer through smoking.
Tarragon is a herbaceous Artemisia called Artemisia
dranunculus or Dragon Sagewort.
Sagebrush, shrubby Artemisia sp.
Sagebrush is a shrub found growing throughout the
desert western United States. It is in the Sunflower
family and is not related in any way to the Salvia
Sage used in cooking. It has been traditionally used
to purify the environment. It is indeed an anti-
bacterial for airborne bacteria. Often found in Sage
sticks, and in stores labeled as Sage, it can be used
as a flavoring for smoking mixtures. Native people
used this plant like Salvia if they lived in an area
where there was no Salvia.
Sage including White, Black, and Hummingbird
There are many kinds of Salvia Sages. Some are
good to smoke as flavors including the white, black,
purple and garden Sages. Some are not so pleasant
but worth a try. Some of these Sages were used by
Native Americans for purification rituals. They are in
the mint family and are not related to Artemisia
Sagebrush or Mugwort. These are also found in
Lemon Balm, Melissa officinalis
Melissa is an herb often escaped from gardens and
easy to find in the Pacific Northwest growing wild in
cities. It is a very mild and friendly calming herb that
will add a peaceful lemony flavor to any blend.
Yerba Buena Satureja douglasii
Yerba Buena is a good herb for flavoring that grows
in the coastal west. It should not be confused with
peppermint, which is also sometimes called Yerba
Buena. It has a menthol flavor that should satisfy
those people who like “Kools.”
Angelica, Angelica sp.
Angelica has many physiological effects when taken
internally. When smoked as a flavoring in small
amounts, it should have no system wide effects. You
can use the root, dried and powdered and
thoroughly mixed with the rest of the blend. Feel
free to experiment with the leaves and green seeds
for different flavor and strengths.
Osha, Oshala, Lovage Ligusticum sp.
Ligusticums are yet another very special herb that
the Native Americans deemed powerful and sacred.
Ligusticum porteri, Osha, is called Peyote’s little
sister. All native Ligusticums were held in high
regard by the local Natives. As a smoke it is only a
flavor. You can use the root, dried and powered, but
I find that the root hairs, not usually used for their
medicinal effects, to be the best for flavor.
A common kitchen spice used with a light hand. Use
the powder. Clove cigarettes with Tobacco were
very popular for a while. Clove can be very irritating
to the esophagus and lungs. This, together with the
exceptionally strong Tobacco found in these
imported cigarettes, quickly caused lung and
esophageal problems. I have known many singers
who have lost their voices in a few weeks of clove
cigarette smoking. So feel free to use it, but respect
Use the flowers and rub them if you wish. I love the
smell of lavender but I hate the taste of smoked
dried lavender. Perhaps you will love it, feel free to
check it out.
Sweet Cicely Osmorhiza species
This is another local Pacific Northwest plant with a
pleasant aromatic anise flavor. You can use the root
dried, powdered if it smells good. Seeds are also
Use dried powder, thoroughly mixed with a light
Use dried powder, thoroughly mixed with a light
For those who like the licorice flavor, try these
This area of herbalism is still very unexplored. If you
want to experiment further with herbs not mentioned
here, check out innocuous edible leafy herbs like
Violets, Viola sp., Self-Heal, Prunella vulgaris,
Waterleaf, Hydrophyllum sp., and Paintbrush,
Castilleja sp., to name a few. You may wish to
explore plants with names like Indian Tobacco, but
be cautious. This common name refers to many
plants. Some are not good to smoke. Some were not
smoked by Native Americans at all. Yellow Dock is
called Indian Tobacco because the old flowers look
somewhat like Tobacco in some people’s eyes.
Standard Smoking Mix
Rubbed Mullein leaf as a base
Kinnikinnik leaf, for body, finely broken
Optionally Manzanita leaf and Pipsissewa for
Optional flavoring herbs to taste
Another Favorite Mix
Rubbed Mullein leaf as a base
Willow Bark, finely cut for body
Skullcap Leaf, for calming effects
Osha Root, finely ground for flavor
Mix thoroughly. Mildly relaxing
To Quit Smoking
Rubbed Mullein leaf as a base
Kinnikinnik leaf, for body, finely broken
Manzanita leaf, for added body, finely broken
Skullcap Leaf, for vitally needed calming effect
Lobelia, as needed for lobeline
Mint, small amounts for menthol cigarette smokers
Stop adding Lobelia
Add Coltsfoot, as needed, not so strong as to cause
Increase the Mullein Leaf
Continue to add more Mullein until Phase 3, Mullein
Rubbed Mullein leaf as a base
Coltsfoot, not so strong as to cause coughing fits
Horehound, not so strong as to cause coughing fits
This blend is excellent for a general lung cleanse or
chest cold, but do not use when coughing up blood,
or if it hurts when you breathe.
Elephants Head to taste
Relaxing, mild and pleasant alternative to Marijuana
Lobelia – a pinch
This can make you sleepy so do not drive any
bulldozers or jumbo jets when smoking.
Too Stoned Blend
Rubbed Mullein Leaf as a base
Calamus Root, small pieces or powder
Elephant’s Head Buds, for calming effect and flavor
Coltsfoot, not so strong as to cause coughing fits
This mixture is smoked as an aid to quit a long term
Too Expensive Blend
1/2 High Quality Cannabis buds
1/4 Elephant’s Head Buds
1/4 Skullcap Leaf
This blend will help with the rising costs of
Cannabis. You can substitute the Cannabis buds
with any quality Cannabis, and the other herbs will
help to stretch it out without diluting its effect.
Rubbed Mullein leaf as a base
Fermented Scotch Broom Flowers
Desert Skullcap, just a small amount
Elephant’s Head Leaf
Parrot’s Beak Leaf
Osha Root, powdered for flavor
Not an everyday smoke, for vision quests and
spiritual pursuits. Use consciously.