by Faye Sakellaridis
If you've ever tried an herbal cigarette, it likely didn't do much other than taste and smell flowery. But the world of herbs is so rich with medicinal properties, something we keep in the forefront of our minds when engaging with herbs in any other way. Why should herbal smokes be any different?
Herbalist Arati Ursus, founder of the online apothecary Brown Bear Herbals, is taking herbal smokes to the next level by incorporating their full range of potentialities. Her line contains multiple herbal blends, each crafted to induce specific effects. They're more than just safe alternatives -- they're medicinal and state-changing.
Arati may well be the only one making herbal smokes like this. Other makers also feature multiple herbal blends, but Arati's are designed to suit different desires. She explains that her cigarettes are created with the intention of addressing the reasons people want to smoke.
The most common reason is nicotine addiction. Her "Take It Easy" blend, which contains lobelia, skullcap, catnip, rose and mullein, is formulated specifically to help people who are going through tobacco withdrawal. "It interacts with your neurorecepters the same way that tobacco does," she explains. "It makes your brain think that you've gotten that fix, but it's not addictive." This was certainly true for a member of the retail team at The Alchemist's Kitchen, who swapped out regular cigarettes for one of Arati's herbal blends during a night out, and found that she smoked significantly less.
Of course, not every smoker is an addict. After all, smoking herbs like tobacco has a long history of ritualized sacred usage in indigenous cultures. The midday cigarette break is its own ritual, a moment of pause and mental regrouping. "Some people are very sensitive energetically," says Arati, "so they're smoking tobacco for its protective properties. Different herbs that are non-addictive give that same feeling of protection."
Smoking an herb is generally a more intense experience than eating or drinking it. By bypassing your digestive system, the herb's effects can be felt within a minute. "The 'Take It Easy' blend is for tobacco addiction, but it turns out it was helpful for headaches," recalls Arati. "I had this horrible headache that pills hardly touched. I smoked this blend and it was gone within 30 seconds."
Brown Bear Herbals also offers "Sexy Smokes," a line which includes damiana, an aphrodisiac traditionally used in Mexico and commonly added to beverages and chocolates. Damiana is considerably more potent in its smokeable form. It provides a buzz that some people enjoy as a marijuana alternative, and can be an intense sexual boost. It also contains blackberry leaf, hibsicus, rose, and mullein, which complement the damiana.
"These herbs give you a really healthy attitude and feeling about your own sexuality," says Arati. "You feel like you can express those feelings in a healthy way. It's not just about no inhibitions, like with alcohol. It makes you feel good about yourself." One customer at The Alchemist's Kitchen commented that this blend made their arms sensitive to touch in a pleasurable way.
The smoke itself is gentle and mellow. "It feels like a cloud!" says Diya SenGupta, marketing maven at The Alchemist's Kitchen. Arati says she formulated her blends to be as gentle on the lungs as possible, since she's quite sensitive herself. She aims to offer filtered cigarettes soon, so that they'll be even more gentle.