Quitting smoking: the best thing you can do to improve your health
Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last several decades, you surely know that smoking is, at best, unhealthy and all too often deadly. If you’re a smoker, quitting is likely to be the single, best thing you possibly can do to improve your health. Directly through lung cancer or indirectly through damage to the cardiovascular system, cigarettes kill. There’s never a question of whether or not they lead to premature death and suffering, it’s just a question of when.
Also, if you’re a smoker, you know how difficult it is to break the habit. I can’t tell you how many patients have asked me to help them stop smoking. Usually what they really wanted was something that would “make” them stop rather than “help” them stop. Unfortunately the only thing that can break the smoking habit is the desire of the smoker.
Nicotine replacement patches, gums and lozenges, hypnosis, acupuncture, nutritional supplements, controlling blood sugar levels, et cetera, may make the change easier for some people, but ultimately, studies continue to show that a smoker’s true desire to quit determines success.
For this reason I haven’t (and still can’t) recommend a single procedure that will work 100% of the time for everyone. However, there are some natural and inexpensive methods to try if you’re trying to quit.
Vitamin C Spray
One smoking cessation tactic you should try is ascorbic acid spray, which is simply powdered vitamin C mixed with water in a spray bottle. Research shows this technique can reduce the cravings of cigarettes and help reduce or eliminate the smoking habit.
All you need is a small spray/mister bottle, which can be found in most drug stores or purchased from pharmacists, filled with a water and powdered vitamin C solution. Regularly throughout the day, especially when cigarette cravings occur, patients will discharge a couple of squirts into their mouth and throat. Many of those I interviewed said it had helped them totally quit smoking or substantially reduce the number of cigarettes they smoked daily.
To determine how much water should be used to dilute the vitamin C, most people simply started experimenting. Being an acid, the powdered C definitely needs to be diluted. (Continuous use of a strong acid in this manner could possibly lead to some tooth enamel erosion. Using a totally buffered vitamin C product probably wouldn’t achieve the desired effect, however, since the slight irritation from the acid is what helps curb the habit.)
If you want to be somewhat scientific there’s a simple way to determine approximately how many milligrams of C you’d be getting in each squirt.
Fill the mister you intend to use with water. Then count the number of squirts it takes to empty it. Knowing that a level teaspoon of ascorbic acid powder is about 4,500 milligrams, you can determine how strong you’re making each squirt.
Some companies have been experimenting with vitamin C sprays for this purpose, and it seems the general consensus on strength is around 1 milligram per spray, up to 300 milligrams a day. This same delivery rate per day (300 milligrams) would probably be a good starting point. Not knowing how much solution will be delivered with various sprayers, I can’t give any specific formula for mixing, but based on the information I’ve given it shouldn’t be too hard to figure it out on your own.
Again, misters can be purchased from your drug store or pharmacist. Vitamin C powder is sold in most health-food stores.
The above routine may have to be used for several months to completely break the smoking habit. But based on the results we’ve been seeing and the fact that the technique costs only a couple of pennies a day, this is one smoking cessation method well worth a try.
If the vitamin C spray method isn’t convenient for you, then maybe one of the following two acupressure techniques will do the trick.
The first acupressure area involves points on the ear that correspond to the lungs and other organs (“auriculo” refers to the ear). In a smoker, where there is obvious irritation in the lungs, these points should be fairly easy to find by pressing a small blunt object (such as the writing tip of a pen that no longer works) in the area until you find the most tender spot.
Keep in mind that all of the points are located on the outside of the ear except the “Subcortex” point, which is located on the inside surface of the ear fold. Once you’ve pinpointed the spots, it helps to have someone else mark them with a ball-point or small felt-tip pen. Here's the map for these points:
Using a pen tip or other small blunt object, press against and massage each of these points for 30 seconds to a minute twice a day. It doesn’t matter which ear you use. The points should also be worked anytime there is a craving to smoke. Gradually, as the urge to smoke decreases, you can taper off the frequency of treatment.
“Seed Embedding” May be More Convenient
However, it’s not always convenient for everyone to massage their ears, and a more convenient method involves seeds. The most common ones used are the seeds of Vaccari segetalis (Wang Bu Liu Zing or in English, cow soapwort), but unless you have a Chinese pharmacy nearby they may be hard to find. While I was in Southeast Asia, I found that either white or black mustard seeds work just as well. These can be found in almost any grocery store.
Take two small pieces of tape (athletic tape works best) and place a seed in the middle of each. Then tape one seed to the Shen Men point on the ear and the other to the Lung point on the wrist (refer to the diagram of points below, under "Wrist Acupressure"). Leave them in place for one week and then replace them. Any time you get a tobacco craving, gently press the “seeded” area.
You only need to use the seeds in one ear (I would suggest the one on the side on which you don’t sleep or use the phone). You can switch ears after the first week if there’s any soreness or irritation. When treating something like smoking, the best results are seen when the points on the ear are under constant treatment. Many acupuncturists use small “clip-on” needles that stay on the ear for days at a time.
I personally prefer recommending the seed method because it’s easy for people to do on their own and there’s no chance of infections in the ear. When done correctly, seeding is reported to have about an 80% success rate in helping to stop smoking.
The second way you can help curb your smoking habit involves acupuncture points on your wrists. The following three points are stimulated for 30 seconds to a minute twice a day, as well as any time the urge for tobacco arises. It is best to work the points on both wrists. (You also can use your fingertip or a blunt object).
To increase the effectiveness of this method, many people use it in conjunction with seed embedding. A seed is placed over the Shen Men point of one ear, and the point is massaged whenever there is a craving for tobacco.
When you stimulate the points on the wrists, you may notice a slight, temporary tingling, heaviness or numbness in both hands. This is normal and nothing to be alarmed about. Some people have even reported an unusual taste in the mouth.
These techniques are very simple and don’t require any special training or tools. I think you’ll be quite pleased with the results. I personally don’t believe this or any other technique can “make” someone quit smoking, but if you have the desire to quit, following the procedures I’ve described above will work.