Alternative therapies for quitting smoking--Do they work?

St. John’s Wort? Lobelia? Laser Therapy? Acupuncture? Herbal cigarettes? Electronic cigarettes? Hypnosis?

There is no lack of alternative treatments available to smokers looking to quit tobacco.  Smokers often turn to herbal remedies as a last ditch effort because they have "tried everything unsuccessfully" or "don't want to quit using medication."  But do these methods really work?

To date, there is little data supporting the effective and safe use of alternative therapies for quitting smoking.  That being said, this does not mean that alternative medications do not have their place in smoking cessation.  Any method can work for someone, somewhere, and at some point in time, if only because someone believes it will.

If you are looking into alternative therapies to help you quit smoking, be a savvy consumer and do your research.  Read articles from credible sources such as universities or health organizations.  Below are a few helpful links:

National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine

Alternative Smoking Cessation Aids

Federal Trade Commission

Have a discussion with your doctor.   Take into account your tobacco dependence, any pre-existing health issues, allergies and reactions, and current medications you are taking.  While a quit method may claim to be "natural" or "herbal," it may not be free of side effects. Keep in mind too, that natural does not necessarily mean safe.  Most medications are metabolized in the liver or kidneys.  This means medications can potentially harm these organs, particularly when using them (pharmaceutical, "natural" or otherwise) in combination.  Be sure to notify your doctor of any changes in moods or if you exhibit alarming side effects (i.e. swelling, chest pain, yellowing of the skin, etc.).

Get testimonials from real people who have used these products.  Do not rely on commercials! Manufacturers of herbal supplements can--and often do--make unsupported claims about their products--"quit smoking in one day!" Be suspicious of any quit method that claims to “cure you of smoking instantly."  Quitting is a process, not an event.   Nicotine addiction operates on multiple levels—physical, emotional, behavioral, and psychological.  A sound quit plan should address ALL of these things. 

There are pros and cons to every quit method.  Whatever method you choose, keep in mind that it should be complemented with a good support system  and a sound plan for coping with triggers (i.e. behavior and lifestyle changes). Be sure to talk with your doctor about what would work best for you and follow up with appropriate lab work.


Tobacco Treatment Specialist