Although it is common practice for people in the Netherlands and other parts of Europe to roll a joint with tobacco, mixing weed and tobacco is not necessarily the healthiest of the practices. Apart from being addictive, adding tobacco to your joints is adding an extra layer of unwanted substances to your body. While weed might have something like 30 carcinogens in its smoke, tobacco has more than 60! With this in mind, those who would still stick to a spliff instead of a pure joint, should maybe consider tobacco alternatives when rolling. Smoking in general is unhealthy, anything that burns will inevitably produce toxins, but one can always try to stick to the least unhealthy options. Plus, tobacco alternatives come in a wide variety and allow for more customized flavours and experiences. There are a multitude of different herbs that can be used as a substitute for tobacco, finding the right ones for you is ultimately just a matter of trial and error (and good research!). Personally, I love smoking weed with liquorice root but for some it might be just a bit too sweet. Other alternatives may include red clove, spearmint, chamomile, damiana, hops flowers and many others! Some of these substitute herbs may also have some psychoactive properties themselves. Therefore, before combining any herb it is always good to do some preliminary research on the combined effects of the herb of choice and cannabis. Furthermore, some herbs might not be indicated for some. For instance, Mugwort_ a typical tobacco substitute used in spliffs_ can lead to miscarriage if smoked by pregnant women. Below are some popular herbs that can be used in combination (or not) with cannabis.
Damiana, sometimes used as a weed substitute, is native to South Texas (USA) and Central and South America. For a very long time it has been considered an aphrodisiac, used to ramp up sex drive and sexual performance. Nowadays, it is known that it has calming properties and when smoked with cannabis it amplifies the feeling of relaxation and euphoria.
Caution: it has been suggested that damiana may affect blood glucose levels. Those with diabetes or low blood sugar should proceed carefully.
Despite the name, passionflower is not necessarily the go to herb when it comes to spicing things up. Instead, passionflower is a well-known sedative. It has been used as an anxiolytic for a very long time and some would say it is the perfect herb to treat insomnia. Due to its slight sedative effect, passionflower is perfect for balancing the effects of potent high-THC strains.
Caution: Passionflower has MAO-inhibiting properties and as such should not be used with other MAO-inhibitors or antidepressants. When in doubt, you should always consult a physician.
Native to Southeast Asia, Kratom is known for its stimulant effects at lower doses (1 to 5 grams). Usually obtained in its powdered form, Kratom tends to be consumed orally, although some may choose to sprinkle some of it on a joint to obtain its stimulant effects. It should be noted, however, that there are many different types of Kratom and that the stimulant effects might vary slightly depending on what type of Kratom is being used.
Caution: Kratom is mildly addictive and should not be used regularly. Furthermore, Kratom should never be mixed with opiates or other depressants or sedatives as this could lead to fatalities.
Wild dagga, is a plant native to South Africa. Traditionally, it has been used for a very long time as treatment for a range of different ailments. Nowadays it is known that it has antioxidant and cardio-protective properties. Amongst the Khoikhoi people ‘dagga’ means ‘cannabis’, probably because of the similarity between the effects of cannabis and this plant. When mixed with cannabis, the euphoric and slightly psychedelic effects are enhanced.
Amongst the herbs presented here, hops flowers are the closest to the cannabis as they both pertain to the Cannabaceae family. Commonly found in the United Kingdom, hops flowers are sometimes used to brew beer. Both cannabis and hops flowers contain the terpene myrcene, which produces a relaxing and sedative effect. When smoked together with cannabis, the body high is slightly enhanced.
Apart from catching your cat’s attention (if you have one). Adding catnip to your joint can also produce some calming and slightly psychoactive effects. Found throughout Europe, parts of Asia and North America, catnip has traditionally been used as a remedy for a range of different ailments from digestive problems to muscle tension.
Although Kanna literally means ‘chewable thing’, relating to its traditional way of use. Kanna can also be smoked. It is known that when combined with weed it behaves synergistically, producing mood boosting and stress releasing effects. Some users may even report a certain boost in their confidence in social situations, which might be associated with its mood lifting properties.
Caution: Kanna is an SRI and so it can lead to very serious consequences if combined with other SRIs or with MAO-Is.
Skullcap is the common name given to a variety of different plants from the Scutellaria genus. The three most common types are those traditional to North America (S. lateriflora), China (S. baicalensis) and Europe (S. galericulata). Common skullcap, as S. galericulata can be referred to, is often used in the same ways as S. lateriflora and Western and Southern skullcap (S. canescens and S. cordifolia respectively). It is common to use these herbs to ease anxiety and reduce nervous tension. Some women might find it very effective against menstrual pain. As skullcap is generally used as a relaxing herb, it can work very well with indica strains.
Native to South America, Yerba mate is traditionally drunk by those in Argentina, Paraguay and South of Brazil. Being high in caffeine (up to 2%), Yerba mate is a very energizing herb that is sometimes consumed as a form of coffee. Despite usually being drunk, Yerba mate can also be smoked and in combination with cannabis it adds a slightly more stimulant effect to the mix.
For the ancient Egyptian, Blue lotus was both a party drug and a drug for religious ceremonies. As the flower would always open together with the sun rays and close again as the sun disappeared, they thought of it as the sacred flower of the sun and the sun gods. Nuciferine and aporphine are the two main active substances of the plant and act somehow in opposites ways, one as a dopamine receptor blocker and the other as a dopamine agonist. Aporphine is mainly responsible for the psychoactive effects, making people feel more euphoric and uplifted.
Although this list is somewhat extensive, there are many more other herbs that can be used as tobacco substitutes. Some you might already have laying around in your cupboard! Many herbs traditionally used as tea can also be a good addition to your spliff (like my personal favourite liquorice root and clove). Another option is to get pre-mixed tobacco substitutes packs such as those containing spearmint, red clover, cherry and much more. A good plus of these mixes is that you also get to choose the aroma.
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