The use of incense is found throughout the world and is believed to have given rise to the practice of smoking. Psychoactive smoking blends play important roles in shamanic rituals, such as native American healing ceremonies and vision quests.
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In India and Nepal, religious ascetics often use Cannabis in their smoking mixtures.
In Pakistan and North Africa, a common blend consists of hashish (cannabis resin) and tobacco.
Cannabis was even employed in Western smoking mixtures before becoming illegal. In the 19th century, cigarettes were sold in Europe containing cannabis in addition to other herbs.
Almost any plant can be smoked after it has been dried, though some “taste” better than others. However, there are “magical” herbs, which can be smoked or mixed with other smokable herbs to produce specific psychoactive effects.
Warning: Do not smoke if you’re pregnant, taking medications, or have any medical disorders without consulting with your physician first. Remember that smoking of any substance is always dangerous, and not recommended, even for healthy people.
How does smoking exerts its psychoactive effects?
The smoke of psychoactive plants contains substances which may be pharmacologically active, some of which may “survive” the combustion involved in smoking.
At appropriate dosages, these substances may affect our brain and nervous system.
Other plants contain volatile oils, some of which may not be active pharmacologically, but can nevertheless exert psychological effects.
Creating Your Perfect Smoking Mixture
While tobacco and ganja/marijuana (dried female inflorescence of the Cannabis plant) are the most commonly smoked plants, there are good reasons to avoid both.
Chronic use of cannabis may disrupt sleep, especially the deeper levels of sleep, as well as diminish one’s ability to recall experiences from altered states of consciousness, such as dreams and out-of-body experiences. Moreover, cannabis is illegal in many countries, including federally in the United States.
If you do include cannabis in your smoking blends, remember that it may potentiate the effects of other plants, including Atropa belladonna, Brugmansia, Datura, Hyoscyamus niger, Piper methysticum, and tobacco.
If you choose to include tobacco in your blends (perhaps for its potent stimulating effects), keep in mind nicotine may suppress the effects of THC.
On this page, you will find guidelines to help you construct your own smoking blends to achieve any state of altered consciousness you like through the synergistic effects of blending smoking herbs.
Most herbs can be combined with one another for smoking. However, be very careful when experimenting and always begin with small dosages.
Note: I chose to mention only plants which are not endangered.
Non-Psychoactive Smokable Herbs
Kitchen spices can be included in smoking blends for refreshing and invigorating effects as well as to engineer a pleasant aroma. Also, there are many plants that are not psychoactive, but may have medicinal or psychological benefits when smoked.
Is there scientific evidence for any medicinal benefits of smoking herbs?
A 2007 study published in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology reviewed medicinal herbs and mixtures administered as smoke to treat
- mood disorders
- pulmonary disorders
- neurological conditions (e.g. analgesics, anticonvulsants, stimulants, narcotics, sedatives, hallucinogens, strengtheners, and remedies for vertigo)
- and other medical and health issues.
The paper concludes that while this method of administration can sometimes be more efficient than oral delivery, both due to better absorption by the body and faster delivery to the brain, not enough is known about medicinal smoke.
What’s in Smoke?
Mostly, the smoke we inhale contains particles of carbon.
Tobacco smoke contains many substances, including:
- terpenoids (a class of chemicals which play a role in traditional herbal remedies. Examples include menthol, salvinorin A, and cannabinoids)
- alkaloids (e.g., nicotine)
How to Smoke?
Cigars and cigarettes produce smoke at temperatures of 800–920 ◦C (1,472-1,688 ◦F), while in hookahs, charcoal heats the plant material to a temperature of 50-400 ◦C (122-752 ◦F).
Vaporizers usually do not exceed 230 °C (446 °F).
A lower temperature can decrease the amount of inhaled carcinogenic compounds as well as the damage to the lungs.
In water pipes and bongs, the smoke passes through water before being inhaled, which can lower the temperature of the smoke as well as cause some loss of water soluble substances.
If inhaling is your thing, then vaporizing would be the least harmful way, followed by using a hookah, a water pipe, and finally a cigarette/cigar.
Medicinal Actions of Smokable Herbs
Medicinal smoke has the advantage of destroying airborne bacteria if antimicrobial herbs are used. Thyme (Thymus vulgaris) is an excellent herb for this purpose due to its affinity to the respiratory system. They may also be able to improve the body’s ability to resist to pathogenic microorganisms that have infiltrated the respiratory system.
Anti-inflammatory herbs are used to relieve pain and discomfort due to inflammation. They are best employed for chronic inflammatory conditions, and not for acute infections, where the inflammation serves as a healthy immune response. Because smoking causes inflammation, I recommend including anti-inflammatory herbs in almost every smoking mixture. Coltsfoot (Tussilago farfara) and mullein (Verbascum thapsus) are excellent because they have an affinity to the lower respiratory system (the lungs).
Anticatarrhal herbs, such as cayenne (Capsicum annuum), peppermint (Mentha piperita), sage (Salvia officinalis), thyme (Thymus vulgaris), coltsfoot (Tussilago farfara), and mullein (Verbascum thapsus), help the body remove excess mucus common during respiratory infections and allergies.
Antispasmodic herbs prevent or ease muscle spasms/cramps, reducing muscular tension without causing sedation.
Relaxing expectorant herbs, such as thyme (Thymus vulgaris) and coltsfoot (Tussilago farfara), are a subtype of antispasmodic herbs, with a special affinity to the respiratory system. They may help reduce coughing.
Alterative herbs, such as nettle (Urtica dioica), increase overall health and vitality, restoring proper functioning to the body.
Astringent herbs, such as sage (Salvia officinalis) and mullein (Verbascum thapsus), reduce irritation through a numbing effect, inflammation, and create a barrier against infection.
If you just like to smoke, and do not desire any psychoactive effect, you can choose from the following list of non-psychoactive smokable herbs (following each plant, you’ll find a list of potentially relevant medicinal properties):
Peppermint (Menta x piperita) aerial parts
- Moderate-strength antimicrobial
- Mild antispasmodic (analgesic, nervine relaxant)
Thyme (Thymus vulgaris) leaves and flowering tops
- Relaxing expectorant
- Strong antispasmodic
- Strong antimicrobial (with affinity for the respiratory tract)
Coltsfoot (Tussilago farfara) leaves
- Relaxing expectorant
- Moderate-strength antispasmodic
- Anti-inflammatory (with affinity to the lower respiratory system)
Stinging nettle (Urtica dioica) aerial parts
- Strong alterative
Mullein (Verbascum thapsus) leaves and flowers
- Mild astringent
- Mild antispasmodic
- Expectorant (relaxing nervine)
- Anti-inflammatory (with affinity to the lower respiratory system)
Sage (Salvia officinalis)
- Mild astringent
- Mild antispasmodic
- Tones the mucous membranes
- Moderate-strength antimicrobial
Cayenne pepper (Capsicum annuum) fruit powder
Use sparingly as it is a strong irritant.
- Moderate-strength antimicrobial
- Peripheral circulatory stimulant, promoting the delivery of the active ingredients to the whole body
Regarding all the above non-psychoactive smokable plants, whether or not the medicinal properties apply when the herbs are smoked is unproven by science.
Psychoactive Smokable Herbs
Now that you have selected a base for your smoking mixture, you can select your psychoactive herbs, based on the specific effects you’re interested in.
The effects of smoked plants tend to be mild. For a stronger effect, an extract can usually be prepared, which can then be sprayed onto other smoking herbs.
If the blend is too harsh when you smoke it, spraying very little plain water may help.
In general, the act of smoking may be mildly sedating due to the fact that less oxygen makes it to the brain. However, for a stronger sedative effect, the following plants, which may be sleep-inducing even when they are smoked, can be added to the mix:
- Passionflower (Passiflora incarnata) – the whole plant contains harmala alkaloids and flavonoids which have sleep-inducing, soothing, and antispasmodic effects. It also potentiates the effects of other sedatives. Smoking it is said to produce a very subtle marijuana-like high.
- Hops (Humulus lupulus) – the inflorescence relaxes the central nervous system and induces a sedative/hypnotic state. It is beneficial in cases of tension/anxiety, but contraindicated for depression. It is also antimicrobial, antispasmodic, and astringent.
- Wild lettuce (Lactuca virosa) – the leaves and latex are analgesic, sleep-inducing, and antispasmodic (cough-suppressing).
A relaxation effect can be induced by using a smaller amount of sedative herbs. Additional herbs with relaxing effects include:
- Catnip (Nepeta cataria) – the leaves and flowering tops act as sedatives. It is also antispasmodic and astringent. It is said to induce a mild euphoric state.
- Motherwort (Leonurus cardiaca) / Honeyweed (Leonurus sibiricus) – the aerial parts act as a relaxant beneficial in cases of heart palpitations, anxiety, or tension, particularly during menopausal changes. It is said to have mildly narcotic, cannabis-like effects.
- Mugwort (Artemisia vulgaris) – the leaves contain volatile oils with mild nervine tonic action, which may ease depression and tension. It (as well as other Artemisia spp.) is also anti-asthmatic and muscle relaxing and may even improve absorption of active constituents from the other ingredients of the smoking blend.
- Skullcap (Scutellaria spp.) – the aerial parts act as a nervine tonic and antispasmodic. It is sometimes used as a marijuana substitute.
- Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) – the flower acts as a relaxing nervine.
- Lemon balm (Melissa officinalis) – the dried aerial parts have a mild nervine relaxant effect and are also anti-inflammatory, moderate-strength antispasmodic, antidepressant, and antimicrobial.
- Kava kava (Piper methysticum) – the rhizome is sleep-inducing, relaxing, and antispasmodic. It is also antifungal and therefore a good addition to smoking mixtures which contain the fly agaric mushroom.
- German chamomile (Matricaria recutita) – the flower head contain essential oils with nervine, antispasmodic, anti-inflammatory, and antimicrobial properties. It is used for anxiety among many other conditions and is the most widely used relaxing nervine herb in the West.
Whenever stimulants are used, they should be combined with nervine tonics or relaxants to balance out any over-stimulation.
Tobacco is the most commonly smoked stimulant, other herbal stimulants which can be smoked include:
- Cacao (Theobroma cacao) – the beans and leaves contain theobromine, caffeine, and anandamide (which, like cannabis, effects cannabinoid receptors).
- Damiana (Turnera diffusa) – the herbage has aphrodisiac and stimulant effects, and is said to induce a pleasant state of euphoria and mild, marijuana-like effects.
- Coffee (Coffea arabica) – the seeds (coffee beans) contain caffeine.
- Tea (Camellia sinensis) – the young leaves contain caffeine and L-theanine.
- Guarana (Paullinia cupana) – the seeds contain caffeine and has the highest caffeine concentration.
- Kola (Cola acuminata) – the seeds (cola nuts) contain caffeine and act as a CNS stimulant, antidepressant, and astringent.
- Fly agaric mushroom (Amanita muscaria) – only the red skin should be used to avoid inhaling spores. Induces a euphoric state and is also an aphrodisiac. It may also generate synergistic effects with many other herbs and prevents the mucous membranes from drying out. (A side effect of smoking cannabis and nightshade plants.)
- Mexican prickly poppy (Argemone mexicana) – the leaves, flowers, capsules, and latex are said to have narcotic, euphoric, and aphrodisiac effects, which are reminiscent of the effects of cannabis.
- California/Golden poppy (Eschscholzia californica) – the aerial parts are moderately sleep-inducing and antispasmodic. It is said to induce a mildly euphoric state.
- Wormwood (Artemisia absinthium) or, preferably, Mexican Wormwood (A. mexicana) – the herbage contains essential oils (thujone) with antimicrobial and antidepressant actions. The effects of thujone are said to be similar to those of THC.
- Wild dagga (Leonotis leonurus) – the buds, leaves, resin, and flowers are said to have cannabis-like effects.
- Blue lotus (Nymphaea caerulea)/White water lily (Nymphaea ampla) – the buds and flowers are said to induce hypnotic effects as well as mild hallucinogenic effects. They may also act as dream herbs.
- Aztec dream grass (Calea zacatechichi) – the leaves and stems are said to be dream-inducing and to promote sleep. They may also induce mild marijuana-like effects, a calming sensation, and an increase in the vividness of dreams, even lucid dreams.
- Vervain (Verbena officinalis) – the aerial parts have a nervine tonic, sedative, and antispasmodic effects. It is also a mild anxiolytic. As a dream herb, it may induce vivid, and even prophetic dreams. It may also have aphrodisiac effects.
The below plants will produce only mild psychedelic effects.
- Cebil (Anadenanthera colubrina) – In South America the dried seeds, which contain hallucinogenic tryptamines, are roasted and smoked with amaranth (Amaranthus spp.) herbage and tobacco.
- Syrian rue (Peganum harmala) – the seed powder contains beta-carbolines which can potentiate the effects of other smoked substances and cause sedation as well as aphrodisiac, antidepressant, and imagination-stimulating effects. It may even induce a dreamlike state.
- Jurema (Mimosa tenuiflora) – the root/trunk cortex contains DMT and may produce very mild psychedelic effects.
- Madagascar periwinkle (Catharanthus roseus) – the leaves are used as a marijuana substitute and are said to induce euphroia and hallucinations.
- San Pedro (Trichocereus pachanoi) – this cactus contains mescaline and may produce mild psychedelic effects.
- Henbane (Hyoscyamus spp.) – the herbage is anti-asthmatic and aphrodisiac, and is said to induce prophetic dreams.
- Deadly nightshade (Atropa belladonna) – the leaves and fruit.
- Angel’s trumpet (Brugmansia spp.) – the leaves and flowers have narcotic, sedative, and anti-asthmatic effects and may induce intense dreams, including prophetic dreams, which is why they are sometimes used for divination.
- Mandrake (Mandragora officinarum) – the leaves are mildly narcotic and aphrodisiac.
- Nutmeg (Myristica fragrans) – sprinkle some powder on your smoking mix to induce a mild narcotic and euphoric state as well as potentiate the other herbs.
- Potency wood (Liriosma ovata)
- Damiana (Turnera diffusa)
The effects of cannabis often include mild to profound sense of euphoria accompanied by rich associative and imaginative abilities, a stimulated imagination, and a sense of physical well-being. It is also analgesic, aphrodisiac, calming, and sleep-inducing.
The THC in cannabis is responsible for its euphoric, stimulant, muscle-relaxing, and anti-depressant effects, while other cannabinoids (CBD, CBG, and CBC) have sedating effects.
To create a smoking blend that replicates the effects of cannabis, you will need your smoking mixture to include mostly euphoriants, as well as relaxants and possibly sedatives and aphrodisiacs.
To add the visionary aspect, psychedelic herbs can be added.
In shamanic smoking mixtures, Tobacco (Nicotiana tabacum) and Wild tobacco (Nicotiana rustica) are often included. Other herbs are included, especially divinatory herbs, which help shamans diagnose and heal illnesses.
- Epena (Virola spp.) – the resin and inner bark.
- Mexican tarragon and other marigolds (Tagetes lucida and other species) – the flowering herbage is said to produce images and visions similar to those produced by peyote. Native to Mexico and Central American, Mexican Tarragon’s dried leaves and flower heads contain anethole, chavicol, coumarin, estragole, isorhamnetin, methyleugenol, and quercitin, which are said to promote relaxation and sleep, relieve tension, elevate the mood, and enhance/increase/alter dreams. The effect may last up to 3 hours when ingested orally and can be phenomenologically described as a lucid state of awakeness, in which noticeable effects include clarity, alertness, closed-eye visuals, body warmth, body tingles, feeling of well-being, and some time distortion.
- Ska Maria Pastora (Salvia divinorum) – the leaves can induce out of body experiences.
- Jessamine (Cestrum spp.) – the leaves may induce hallucinations, mild euphoria, and physical relaxation.
- Thorn apple (Datura spp.) – the leaves, flowers, and seeds have pleasurable, cheering, aphrodisiac and dream- and sleep- inducing effects, and are used for divination. Medicinally, the smoke of Datura species has the potential to be used in treating respiratory conditions.
Kinnikinnick (Holy Tobacco)
Kinnikinnick (in Algonquian “something that is mixed”) is a Native American and First Nations herbal smoking mixture, made from a traditional combination of leaves or barks. It has social, spiritual, and medicinal uses.
Many Native American Indians know bearberry (Arctostaphylos uva-ursi) by the name kinnikinnick and use its leaves, which have astringent and antimicrobial properties, as a basic ingredient in their ritual smoking mixtures. It is said to have narcotic opium-like effects, inducing a feeling of drunkenness.
Other kinnikinnick ingredients include:
- Sassafras (Sassafras albidum) – the bark is said to induce mild euphoria.
- Indian tobacco (Lobelia inflata and other Lobelia spp.) – the aerial parts contain alkaloids which are antiasthmatic, antispasmodic, expectorant, and nervine. It has a depressant and sedating/relaxing action on the nervous system, but at the same time it is also stimulating.
- Cornsilk (Zea mays) – the stigma (fine soft threads) from female flowers are anti-inflammatory. They are said to induce excitation and delirium.
- Water mint (Mentha aquatica) – the essential oil contains limonene, caryophyllene, and thujone.
Bottom Line: Procuring Psychoactive Smoking Blends
If you want to make your own blends, experiment carefully and supplement the above information with additional research you should conduct into any herb you intend to try.
Remember that the plant material should be dry in order to burn well. Also, powder will not burn well, so if using powder, sprinkle some on top of loose-cut herbs, such as mullein.
Whether you purchase ready-made smoking mixtures or create your own, do not smoke them before consulting with your physician.