Does Shamanic Snuff Cause Cancer?
The risks of smoking tobacco are now widely known across the world. The fact that smoking cigarettes can lead to lung cancer, cardiovascular disease, and more is no secret to the modern world. This growing awareness of the dangers of smoking have led to an emerging industry of products that help you to “quit smoking”. Everything from electric cigarettes, to patches and pills; the need for smoking alternatives is growing. However there is one lesser known alternative without any of the dangers of synthetic ingredients often included in these products, and it’s one of the most ancient forms of tobacco.
Tobacco snuff, or “shamanic snuff”, goes back to pre-Colombian times, and was actually used to cure ailments back in the day. After tobacco snuff was discovered as a part of the practices of indigenous Native Americans, it made its way across Europe and was met with popularity. In 1566 the Queen of France was convinced that it cured her migraines! But with all of the research coming out about the harmful effects of smoking, understandably there is some speculation about the possible dangers of snuff. So does shamanic snuff have the same risks for cancer as smoking cigarettes? Let’s find out.
Smoking vs. Sniffing
Few people know this, but the main risks associated with tobacco come from what happens to the chemical constituents when you smoke the tobacco. Be it in the form of cigars, cigarettes, or a pipe, when you smoke tobacco you create carbon monoxide, which are oxides of nitrogen and tar. Tobacco ingested in the form of a snuff is considered far less dangerous than smoking. All of the components of smoking that lead to cardiovascular disease, such as fibrinogen, are all greatly reduced through snuff. Snuff has shown no effect on promoting atherosclerosis or myocardial infection.
The effects of smoking has been widely documented and researched and everyone knows that smoking majorly increases risks for cancer. In smokers, the risk for head and neck related malignant cancers is increased times four. There is no convincing evidence that snuff increases risk of head and neck cancers. There is strong evidence that the carcinogenic aspects of smoking are mostly in what happens when heat is applied to tobacco. Obviously, a shamanic snuffer is not exposed to any of these chemicals, which are all induced through burning.
There are, however, some carcinogenic compounds still present in shamanic snuff, even without the application of heat. Chemicals called “nitrosamines” are still present in tobacco when prepared in the form of a snuff. In fact, in many cases the concentration of nitrosamines are higher in the form of snuff. These chemicals have been shown to have carcinogenic effects in studies done on animals. Regardless of this fact, the majority of cancer-causing properties related to smoking tobacco are non-existent with snuff. The negative health effects of all smokeless tobacco products are only two percent of those of smoking. In other words, 98% of the cancer causing properties associated with smoking are non-existent with snuff. Of course, there could be other factors such as synthetic or chemical additives put into the snuff, which is why it’s so important to find a really high quality and pure source.
What About Nicotine?
Nicotine is the main psychoactive in tobacco. Nicotine is typically considered the main culprit for the addictive tendencies associated with smoking. However, the smoking industry has manipulated the nicotine content of tobacco to create more dependency and addiction, in order to sell more product. In a whole, organic, natural form of tobacco, such as with shamanic snuff, the nicotine has not been disproportionately enhanced.
Many of the products out there designed to help people quit smoking utilize nicotine replacement therapies. Though it’s absorbed a little differently, the nicotine peak associated with smoking is mimicked when you use the snuff. However it’s been found that 24 hours later, the concentration of nicotine in the blood is lower than it is with smoking, meaning it creates less risk for disease. This means that snuff provides a good alternative for people who are trying to quit smoking, as it provides the nicotine high without the dangers of tar.
In general, it is the tar in the cigarette smoke which causes cancer. As a chemical substance, nicotine is generally considered as having no carcinogenic properties. It does have an addictive quality that users should be mindful of. Again, this addictive quality will be reduced in a high quality, all natural tobacco snuff because the nicotine hasn’t been chemically enhanced like it is with cigarettes. Nicotine is present in substantial quantities in shamanic snuff, which is why the use of snuff needs to be treated with respect, as the ancients once knew. If the snuff is used excessively and without awareness, the nicotine can lead to a chemical dependency and addiction. Abuse of snuff also creates negative changes in the nasal mucosa.
Not only are users at much lower risks of cancer when ingesting shamanic snuff versus smoking tobacco, but there are ceremonial and spiritual benefits associated with shamanic snuff. To learn more about how to use shamanic snuff in a safe, ceremonial, and non-abusive way, check out the Modern Shamanic Guide to Rape.
- Txana Ikaruru, featured image by Susan Zurrender
- Matses tribemen using Tepi blow pipe