: Herbs that go up in smoke!  ( 336 )

Big Gee

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Herbs that go up in smoke!
« : March 19, 2014, 02:58:44 PM »

Herbs are beneficial. Some are deadly. Some just make food taste nicer, others can cure the symptoms of certain illnesses, whilst still others can protect and ward off certain illnesses & diseases. They can also contribute to our happiness & general mental well being. In a word they are 'miraculous'. Most medicines are derived from herbal plants, before modern pharmaceuticals were developed (not necessarily the best way of doing things), the local herbalist was the local doctor, who, armed with his knowledge of plants & herbalism kept his community healthy, happy & contented.

Herbs contain certain components that are taken into the body and processed by it, creating desirable effects that are not only associated with culinary use (the most common use of herbs in our modern western world), but also medicinal effects on both the physical body and the mind (the most common use for herbs in past times). These compounds can be absorbed by the body in various ways. To take these compounds into our bodies we can eat the leaves, fruit, seeds, roots etc. Seep them out with boiling water, ferment them or take them in via our lungs by burning them and inhaling the smoke. All of these techniques have been developed for one reason - to absorb what the herb has to offer us.

The health benefits of smoking vary between different varieties of herbs (it isn't JUST tobacco that you have to smoke). Smoking is typically the inhalation of smoke obtained while burning cured herbal leaves. Whilst smoking Tobacco cigarette  is injurious to health, smoking herbs is thought to be beneficial to overall health and vitality. As an example Lobelia, commonly known as Indian tobacco, is very effective for quitting your smoking habit, because it is very much like real nicotine, (the Lobelia molecule fits the gap filled by nicotine molecules in the brain - because it physically resembles the nicotine moecule and therefore fools the brain into thinking it is receiving nicotine that it craves) without its addictive properties. Smokers can benefit by smoking mixtures made from lobelia in betel leaves as it is purely herbal with no side effects.

The health benefits of smoking are rarely talked about because Tobacco smoking is one of the most common causes for health problems and death. However, it has been noted that smoking can reduce the occurrence of some conditions like endometrial cancer, ulcerative colitis, Kaposi’s sarcoma, breast cancer, preeclampsia, Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease and atopic disorders such as allergic asthma. These protective affects are attributed to the anti-inflammatory properties of certain compounds - including nicotine ironically -, which interferes with these conditions. The scientists from Tornblad Institute have recently disclosed that pregnant mothers who indulged in herbal smoking while pregnant gave birth to babies with a decreased risk of neural defects.

There are many natural herbs that contain no nicotine, and smoking them can reduce the craving of smokers. It is considered to be a useful method to curb the smoking tendency and to eventually quit smoking.

Why Smoke at all?

In my opinion, the nicotine addiction is only one component to smoking. There is also the soothing nature of the act, the entire contemplative relaxation one gets from smoking, it is more than removing the nicotine, it is also finding other ways to self soothe that are less harmful.

There are many reasons why people smoke Tobacco. Whenever 'smoking' is mentioned most of us link that to smoking Tobacco - it's resultant addiction to nicotine (which incidentally is not harmful - it just makes us crave Tobacco because it contains the nicotine), it's production of tar (which IS very harmful) and many dozens of other cancerogenic compounds (primarily tar) that Tobacco smoke contains. These compounds are not present in ALL of the other herbal mixtures. Here are but a few reasons why we smoke anything at all:

Some folks find the act of smoking and its effects pleasurable. Sometimes they are just bending under social pressures (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 mam’s nipples, contribute to constant smoking. Yes I was breast fed!

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 groups (Mormons/ Jehovah's Witnesses etc,). 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. Although Marijuana is not physically addicting, there are a few people who smoke the stuff every day and form an emotional dependence on it.

Tobacco Alternatives:
There are numerous reasons not to smoke Tobacco, health reasons are not a small factor. It would be abundantly stupid to say Tobacco smoking is not bad for your health - it is - simple as that, whether it's the popular demon that some 'nicotine Nazis' & trendy politicians & doctors profess it to be, is a different argument. It may be social pressure (in this case 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.

There are a variety of medicinal uses of herbal smoking mixtures. One can use calming or tranquillizing 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 get from it. It is such a powerful mixture of fire and air.

Preparation of Herbs into Palatable Smoking Mixtures

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 (placing a dock leaf in your tobacco pouch or tin is a great ancient way of doing it). 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 flavourful smoking ingredients need to dry slow, and cure, but the majority are best picked fresh and not dried completely. Package in an airtight container.

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 flavouring 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.

I'll post some herbal smoking mixture recipes on here in the future - for anyone that's interested - along with more information on Herbal Smoking generally.
« : March 19, 2014, 03:06:15 PM Big Gee »