We’re living in an unprecedented age of anxiety. If you’re lucky enough to live outside of poverty, racial prejudice or police brutality, you still have to face the reality of a global pandemic. With the already high rates of anxiety and mental health issues in Western society, more of us are now seeking relief from stress and anxiety.
One of the features of our capitalist Western society is a disconnect from plant and herbal medicines. Traditionally, plants have been used for millennia to treat anxiety and unease, in addition to physical problems. Getting back in touch with smokable anti-anxiety herbs could help to ease the pressure and give you more space to look after yourself.
All of these herbal smoking blends have been tried and tested by centuries of human use – and although in some cases we are lacking a full scientific understanding of how they work, each has been shown to be relatively safe and surprisingly effective at offering calming and sedative effects.
Can Herbs Really Reduce Anxiety?
Yes they can! And many have been used for centuries for exactly that purpose. Brewed into teas, smoked, or simply chewed straight off the branch. They can be used to help you sleep better, stop worrying about trivial things, and help you cope better with stressful circumstances.
The anti-anxiety effects of herbs have not been fully studied, but have been shown to be due to interactions with a diverse range of neurotransmitter receptors, including GABA, dopamine, and opioids.
Studies have repeatedly shown that anti-anxiety herbs are more powerful than placebo,1 and can even be more powerful than synthetic anxiolytic medications!2 So there’s every reason to think that anti-anxiety herbs and smoking blends can work, and that they could be much more helpful (and less harmful) than pharmaceuticals.
Top Psychoactive Herbs to Reduce Anxiety
These are some of the world’s most popular psychoactive herbs used to make smoking blends that can reduce anxiety. Many of them can also be brewed into teas or even ingested in capsules!
This bright white-blue flower (Nymphaea caerulea) has been used in traditional medicine for thousands of years, and was revered by ancient Egyptians as a psychoactive plant. Smoking it or drinking it in tea induces a euphoric and sedative effect. It can be used to reduce anxiety and bring about calmness and relaxation. Purchase Blue Lotus here.
Passionflower has been used traditionally by indigenous people across the whole continent of America. Brewing it into a tea, or smoking it, can produce feelings of sedation and relaxation. It can be used to make changa blends, as it contains MAOIs (monoamine oxidase inhibitors), and can have some mild psychoactive effects on its own. Buy Passionflower here.
People indigenous to Central America have been using damiana (Turnera diffusa) as an aphrodisiac for many hundreds of years. Although there has been no scientific validation of the ability of damiana to treat impotence or improve sex, it is known to produce calming and gentle euphoric effects after drinking it as a tea, or smoking it. Buy Damiana here.
This plant has a long history of medicinal use, especially to treat lung problems. Mullein (Verbascum thapsus) doesn’t have any known psychoactive effects, but is a great inclusion in any smoking blends as it’s gentle on the lungs and has many traditional medicinal benefits.
Also known as catnip (Nepeta cataria), this plant’s psychoactive effects aren’t limited to cats! It has a history of traditional use in humans and has been used to treat breathing problems. It also has sedative effects and some people report that it is an excellent calming herb, both when smoked and when drunk in a tea. Buy Catmint here.
People report that lavender not only smells nice – it’s also great to include in smoking mixes! It can help to combat restlessness and can improve the quality of sleep. Although the smoke won’t taste as nice as the plant smells, it can be a pleasant and calming addition to an anti-anxiety smoking blend.
Mexican dream herb (Calea zacatechichi) is a popular herb for divination and treating stomach problems among indigenous Central American cultures. Its smoke has a delicious minty flavor, and it produces a very relaxing dream-like state. This one might be a bit too stimulating for pure relaxation, but can really help to shift your mind out of the normal anxieties of the day. Buy Mexican dream herb here.
Also known as lion’s tail, wild dagga (Leonotis leonurus) induces a gentle calming effect when smoked. Traditionally, it is made into infusions to treat a variety of health issues, although there is only scarce scientific evidence to back this up right now. What we know for certain is that smoking the dried leaves is a great way to reduce anxiety and help you relax! Buy Wild Dagga here.
Artemisia vulgaris, or mugwort, has been used ritualistically for centuries. It was used for magical defense against evil spirits, and also to repel insects. In traditional medicine across the world, mugwort is used to treat and prevent illnesses of all kinds. Smoking mugwort produces calming effects, and it is often used to improve dream recall and boost the chance of lucid dreams.
Scutellaria galericulata, or skullcap, is a very popular anti-anxiety herb. Although its traditional uses stretch from treating rabies to reducing inflammation, when smoked it can be a powerfully calming medicine. Taking it before sleep is a great way of making sure you wake up refreshed! Buy Skullcap here.
Artemisia absinthium, or wormwood, is most well known for giving the powerful alcoholic drink absinthe its name. It had been used medicinally for many hundreds of years before the invention of absinthe, however. Smoking it has painkilling effects, and in larger doses can have a strong sedative effect. Buy Wormwood here.
Although most commonly known as a tea, smoking chamomile can also impart some relaxing effects! It’s also a great substitute for tobacco, making it a good option for a base for any smoking blend.
How to Make an Anti-Anxiety Smoking Blend
First, choose your ingredients from the above list!
Ideally, you’ll include a base leaf – something like mullein or chamomile – that is pleasant to smoke and will plump up your smoking blend. It should be only mildly sedative, as its purpose is to give you a good foundation to which you can add your more strongly relaxing herbs.
Then add your chosen sedative herb(s). This is where you’ll need to experiment! Perhaps smoke them one by one, to figure out which have the most pleasant effects for your personal taste. Once you have some favorites, try combining them into your mixture to give you an ideal recipe tailored to your own individual relaxation needs.
Finally, there’s the option of adding flavor-enhancing herbs to your mix. These could include things like peppermint, sage, or jasmine. Again, experiment with pleasant-smelling herbs and flowers until you find one you really like.
You could also infuse your smoking mixture with flavors from fruits and spices; simply place your chosen flavoring (i.e. an orange, or cinnamon sticks) in a jar with isopropyl alcohol, attach a tight-fitting lid, and leave for a few days in a cool dark place. Shake it every few hours to make sure the flavor dissolves! Then, lay out your smoking mixture in a shallow tray and pour your infused alcohol over it. As it dries, the flavor will transfer into your smoking mix. Wait for it to dry completely before smoking it – this may also take several days.
Is it Safe to Smoke Herbs?
Taking any kind of smoke into your lungs on a frequent basis will have its health risks. There is no fully safe way to smoke anything!
However, none of the relaxing herbs listed here have any known health risks, if smoked infrequently in moderate quantities.
So just be sure you know your herb is from a reliable source, be cautious if you have any serious medical conditions, and don’t let smoking turn into a habit.