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Start Again in 2010 - smokers - Billy and the Herbalist

Thursday, 25 February 2010

The week of the 11th of Jan we started our "Start Again in 2010". We have chosen two groups of people to focus on. We have taken 3 Mum's who are hoping to shift some of their baby weight and we are taking 3 smokers who have tried everything to stop and really want to. We will follow them for 10 weeks and join them on their journey as they try to achieve the goals they have set for themselves. With the help of a panel of experts we hope to make this happen for them.

Who Is The Guest?

Expert - Medical Herbalist Sarah Hughes

Sarah is a Medical Herbalist having completed a 4 year science degree (BSc) at Westminster University, London. Medical Herbalists are trained in the same diagnostic techniques as doctors but they use a more traditional approach to their patients and have the benefit of a longer consultation to evaluate the situation. She is a member of both the Irish Institute of Medical Herbalists (IIMH) and the National Institute of Medical Herbalists (NIMH). She uses medicinal plants from around the world but concentrate's on those growing locally feeling because from her experience over the years of treating hundreds of patients that they are most suited to those living in the Irish climate.

For further information on Sarah's work please contact 091 583 260 or go to

Smoker - Billy (William) Salinger Dublin

Billy's ailments: Billy is doing really well, but finds he has some difficulty sleeping and is putting on a bit of weight but is ok with that. Billy suffers from Asthma because of the smoking, but he has noticed that he is not using his inhalers as much and is delighted with that. He is doing well with the cravings so far.

Sarah Hughes suggested remedies:


Asthma is a common side effect of smokers both when they smoke and when they quit. Often when people ditch the cigarettes the side effects of coughing, wheezing, runny nose and shortness of breath get worse before they get better. This is because the body is ridding itself of years of tar and build up residues in the lungs.

Herbs to help break up this tarry mucous and expel it will speed up this process and in the meantime the lungs will heal quicker and breathing will become easier and everyday tasks such as climbing the stairs will seem effortless in comparison to a few months before.

Lung Strengthener Tea:

To make one pot of the tea (amount for 1 day)
1 teaspoon of thyme, mullein, marshmallow root, eyebright and ½ teaspoon ginger root and licorice root. Pour on boiling water. Let it seep for at least 10 minutes, put in a flask and drink throughout the day.

Thyme (Thymus vulgaris)-

. THE throat herb known as the universal disinfectant. We Use the leaves and the flowers of common thyme
. Thyme is a powerful antiseptic due to the oil thymol which is found in the plant and will work brilliantly on asthma, lung infections and ex smokers because it both relaxes the bronchi (tubes into the lungs) and helps bring the mucus up so it can be coughed out and expelled.
. Drink it hot so that it can kill any germs lurking in the throat. Luke warm tea will not do the trick.

Licorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra)

. Use the root of the licorice plant
. Licorice produces soothing viscous, sticky mucus like substance which sticks to the throat wall and thereby soothes and calms down any inflammation or damaged tissue to the throat.

Mullein (Verbascum thapsus)

. Also known as Candlewort
. Medicinally we use the fluffy leaves and the flowers.
. Mullein is found in hedges, grassy roadside areas and waste ground.
. It's a soothing relaxant for irritable respiratory conditions and will help bring up the phlegm and mucus.

Marshmallow root (Althea officinalis)

. Medicinally we use the root, leaves and flowers.
. It protects and soothes the mucous membranes bringing relief to asthma, coughs and other chesty conditions.

Eyebright (Euphrasia officinalis)

. It has astringent or drying properties so it dries and tones up the mucus membranes particularly in the upper respiratory tract.
. It will also clear up inflamed and congested sinus' which can also accompany smokers.

Ginger (Zinziber officinalis)

. A valuable medicine and I'd go so far to call it a super food.
. Used for all sorts of conditions but in regard to this tea it helps to clear catarrh and/or tar and therefore relieves catarrhal colds and chest infections.
. In India they treat children with whooping cough with ginger tea


CARRAGEEN (Chondrus crispus)

The seaweeds are cheap and grow abundantly in Ireland. There are many types but I would recommend the Carrageen or Irish Moss. Packed full of minerals (eg. iodine, iron) and is another lung strengthener and a de-toxifier both which Billy needs. Get into the habit of adding a pinch to soups and stews on a daily basis. A bag of carrageen costs about 2 euro so this is a cheap easy addition to the therapeutic pack.


Insomnia is a common side effect of stopping smoking or stopping any other stimulant such as alcohol or sugar. The increased stress and the addiction can play havoc with sleep patterns.

. In terms of herbal medicine Valerian (Valeriana officinalis): Valerian is also known as the herbal tranquiliser due to its general calming effect on the nervous system. It improves length and quality of sleep by aiding a deeper sleep. It will also speed up the time taken to get to sleep and it isn't addictive unlike non herbal sleeping medication.

. The best way to use Valerian is to start with a low dose and work up. So start with 1 capsule before bed or 10 drops tincture every 2 hours from 6pm.

. Over stimulation is a major cause of insomnia today - so ideally there should be no TV, no lap top and no mobile in the bedroom - they are all eliminating radiation waves which are stimulating.

. There should be no caffeinated drinks or sweet foods in evening because these are all stimulants and the same goes for alcohol.

. You need enough exercise in the day to make you tired

. Burn essential oils in the bedroom eg lavender or put a couple of drops on the pillow.

. Also a Chamomile tea after the evening meal will help you wind down and help with digestion.


Nicotine works on the adrenal hormones and the blood sugar balance hence it can stop you feeling hungry and after a meal it can stop you feeling drowsy. Often when somebody stops smoking they go onto another stimulant like alcohol or sugar usually in the form of chocolate. To stop these cravings whether they are for cigarettes, sweet foods or alcohol you need to eat small meals with slow release carbohydrates regularly to balance the blood sugar. High in fruit and vegetables, seeds such as pumpkin, sesame and sunflower, fish, brown rice and whole meal bread. When your blood sugar is balanced you will experience fewer withdrawal symptoms.

Chromium is a mineral important in regulating blood sugar and necessary for the manufacture of insulin. Chromium deficiency is associated with raised blood sugar levels and high cholesterol. Raised blood sugar frequently leads to cravings. It is found in certain foods namely brewers yeast, wholemeal bread, rye bread, oysters, potatoes, wheat germ, green pepper and eggs.

Chromium helps balance the blood sugar so take 2 x 200mcg - one with breakfast, one with lunch. Every time you have a craving drink a glass of water and eat an apple or a pear which will raise the blood sugar which is often the trigger with a craving. On average it takes about 30 days to balance your blood sugar.

Smokers will frequently show signs of tiredness and often feel zapped of energy. They will then have a cigarette to perk them up again. When stopping smoking these symptoms will persist for a while making it harder to kick the habit. It takes time to fully oxygenate the blood again.
The first and simplest thing to do is exercise -even a 5 minute walk will help.

Herb to help combat fatigue and lethargy is Panax ginseng (Korean Ginseng). Athletes often take this herb to give them more energy for training. This is an adoptogenic herb, that is it helps adapt the body to combat stressful situations such as giving up an addictive substance. The body then isn't using its energy reserves and we're left with more energy in the tank. I'd give this herb in tincture form - probably 5 mls twice a day. Or if in capsule form 2-3 milligrams per day.

Lobelia inflata (Indian tobacco)

Lobelia also known as Indian tobacco is an important herb to help with keeping off the cigarettes. It is a powerful lung relaxant and antispasmodic therefore it allows the body to produce deeper and stronger breathing especially used with asthmatics, bronchitis and emphysema. In relation to smokers the substance lobeline found in the plant has similar properties to nicotine and will fill the nicotine receptor sites on cells, which are a little like docking stations and help reduce the cravings. If the person then smokes again the lobelia will stimulate feelings of nausea which is a very effective deterrent.

This herb is prescription only from a Medical Herbalist but is especially useful especially when the client feels they are weakening.