Natural Remedies to Quit Smoking

1) Acupuncture

Acupuncture is a commonly used therapy to help people quit smoking. The acupuncture needles used are usually hair-thin, and they are inserted into various points in the ear where they remain for about 20 minutes.

For help in between sessions, many acupuncturists provide tiny balls (the size of the tip of a ball point pen), that are taped with invisible tape to the ear. When a craving for cigarettes hits, the smoker is instructed to press gently on the ball, which stimulates the acupuncture point.

A 2006 study analyzed 24 placebo-controlled trials on acupuncture, acupressure, laser therapy, or electrostimulation for smoking cessation. There was no consistent evidence that these therapies were effective for smoking cessation. The researchers, however, concluded that further research was needed because the poor design of many of the studies made it difficult to draw a conclusion.

One study involving 141 people found that acupuncture plus education on smoking cessation was four times as effective as acupuncture alone. The study also found that acupuncture plus education was twice as effective as sham acupuncture plus education.

For more information about acupuncture, read the Acupuncture Fact Sheet.

2) St. Johns Wort

Although the herb St. John's wort (Hypericum perforatum) is used primarily for depression, there is some preliminary research on this herb to help people quit smoking.

In one pilot study, 24 people who smoked 1 or more cigarettes a day received St.

John's wort (450 mg capsule 2 times a day) plus smoking cessation counseling. After 12 weeks, 37.5% or 9 out of 24 people had quit.

Another pilot study found some effect, but the results were not long-term. Twenty-eight smokers were randomized to receive St. John's wort (300 mg once or twice a day), either once or twice daily for one week before quitting and continued for three months after.

In addition, all participants received motivational/behavioral support. At three months, 18 percent continued to abstain from smoking. At a 12 month follow-up, it was zero percent. Neither study was double-blind or placebo-controlled, so they cannot be used as evidence.

Although St. John's Wort appears to be reasonably safe when taken alone, it can interfere with the effectiveness of prescription and over-the-counter drugs, such as antidepressants, drugs to treat HIV infections and AIDs, drugs to prevent organ rejection for transplant patients, and oral contraceptives.

St. John's wort is not recommended for pregnant or nursing women, children, or people with bipolar disorder, liver or kidney disease.

For more articles on St. John's wort, go to the St. John's wort article index.

3) Ginseng

Ginseng has been shown to prevent the prevent the nicotine-induced release of the neurotransmitter dopamine. Dopamine is what makes people feel good after smoking and is part of the addiction process.

Although intriguing, no studies to date have examined whether ginseng supplements can help people quit smoking. For more information about ginseng, read the Ginseng Fact Sheet.

4) Hypnotherapy

In 2000, a study by the Cochrane Collaboration analyzed nine longer-term studies on the use of hypnotherapy to quit smoking.

The researchers found that hypnotherapy was not more effective on 6-month quit rates than other treatments or than no treatment.

Two subsequent studies had more promising results. In 2006, a pilot study examined the effect of hypnotherapy (one visit a week for 8 weeks) or no treatment (people were put on a waiting list). After the 8 weeks, 40 percent had abstained from smoking. At 12 months, 60 percent had abstained, and at 26 weeks, the abstinence rate was four percent.

In the second study, researchers looked at 12 hypnosis studies that reported the results by gender and found that the odds of achieving smoking abstinence were 1.37 times greater for male than female participants.

Not Recommended: Lobelia

The herb lobelia (Lobelia inflata) has been promoted to help people fight the effects of nicotine withdrawal and is found in many anti-smoking products. The active ingredient in lobelia, lobeline, is thought to have similar actions on the body as nicotine.

In 1993, however, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) temporarily prohibited the sale of certain lobelia products marketed to help people quit smoking. According to the report, the reason was because evidence showed they were not effective.

Later research has shown that lobeline may increase levels of the neurotransmitter dopamine in the brain similar to cigarettes. Dopamine influences mood and produces feelings of pleasure. There is still no evidence, however, showing that lobelia supplements help people quit smoking.

Lobelia is a potentially toxic herb, however, so it cannot be recommended. It can cause dry mouth, profuse sweating, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, tremors, rapid heartbeat, confusion, seizures, coma, and in larger doses, even death.

People with heart disease, high blood pressure, heart disease, tobacco sensitivity, paralysis, seizure disorder, shortness of breath, or who are recovering from shock are at particularly high risk. Pregnant and nursing women and children should never take lobelia.

Using Remedies to Quit Smoking

So far, scientific support for the claim that any remedy can help with smoking cessation is limited. Supplements haven't been tested for safety and due to the fact that dietary supplements are largely unregulated, the content of some products may differ from what is specified on the product label.

Also, keep in mind that the safety of supplements in pregnant women, nursing mothers, children, and those with medical conditions or who are taking medications has not been established. You can get tips on using supplements here, but if you're considering the use of any form of alternative medicine, talk with your primary care provider first. Self-treating a condition and avoiding or delaying standard care may have serious consequences.


Abbot NC, Stead LF, White AR, Barnes J, Ernst E. Hypnotherapy for smoking cessation. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2000;(2):CD001008.

Barnes J, Barber N, Wheatley D, Williamson EM. A pilot randomised, open, uncontrolled, clinical study of two dosages of St John's wort (Hypericum perforatum) herb extract (LI-160) as an aid to motivational/behavioural support in smoking cessation. Planta Med. 72.4 (2006): 378-382.

Davis JM, Fleming MF, Bonus KA, Baker TB. A pilot study on mindfulness based stress reduction for smokers. BMC Complement Altern Med. 7.1 (2007): 2.

Dwoskin LP, Crooks PA. A novel mechanism of action and potential use for lobeline as a treatment for psychostimulant abuse. Biochem Pharmacol. 63.2 (2002): 89-98.

Elkins G, Marcus J, Bates J, Hasan Rajab M, Cook T. Intensive hypnotherapy for smoking cessation: a prospective study. Int J Clin Exp Hypn. 54.3 (2006): 303-315.

Green JP, Jay Lynn S, Montgomery GH. A meta-analysis of gender, smoking cessation, and hypnosis:a brief communication. Int J Clin Exp Hypn. 52.2 (2006): 224-233.

Kim SE, Shim I, Chung JK, Lee MC. Effect of ginseng saponins on enhanced dopaminergic transmission and locomotor hyperactivity induced by nicotine. Neuropsychopharmacology. 31.8 (2006): 1714-1721.

Lawvere S, Mahoney MC, Cummings KM, Kepner JL, Hyland A, Lawrence DD, Murphy JM. A Phase II study of St. John's Wort for smoking cessation. Complement Ther Med. 14.3 (2006): 175-184.

Teng L, Crooks PA, Dwoskin LP. Lobeline displaces [3H]dihydrotetrabenazine binding and releases [3H]dopamine from rat striatal synaptic vesicles: comparison with d-amphetamine. J Neurochem. 71.1 (1998): 258-265.

White AR, Rampes H, Campbell JL. Acupuncture and related interventions for smoking cessation. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2006 Jan 25;(1):CD000009.

White AR, Resch KL, Ernst E. A meta-analysis of acupuncture techniques for smoking cessation. Tob Control. 8.4 (1999): 393-397.

Disclaimer: The information contained on this site is intended for educational purposes only and is not a substitute for advice, diagnosis or treatment by a licensed physician. It is not meant to cover all possible precautions, drug interactions, circumstances or adverse effects. You should seek prompt medical care for any health issues and consult your doctor before using alternative medicine or making a change to your regimen.

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