Tobacco Substitutes

The Big Asthma Lie

Foods to avoid if you have Asthma

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BUCKBEAN leaves used to be shredded and smoked in the Faeroes in times of tobacco scarcity (Williamson). The Lapps believed that ARCHANGEL roots prolonged life, and they chew it and smoke it in the same way as tobacco (Leyel. 1937), just as gypsies smoke the stems of WILD ANGELICA. BLACKTHORN leaves were an Irish substitute (O Suilleabhain), as were LABRADOR TEA leaves for the Ojibwa Indians (Jenness. 1935), while Plains Indians used to dry the autumn leaves of SMOOTH SUMACH for smoking (Gilmore). BITTERVETCH roots were chewed in the Scottish Highlands as a tobacco substitute (G M Taylor). Devil's Tobacco is a name given to HOGWEED, but there is also Boy's Bacca, from Devonshire, where the stems were actually smoked as a tobacco substitute, and not only by boys, for apparently gypsies smoked them, too. One of the names for CAT's FOOT in America is Ladies' Tobacco, implying that experiments have been made in smoking the dried herb, and that it was found to be very mild in character - hence "Ladies" (Leighton). PLANTAIN-LEAVED EVERLASTING is a close relative, and that, too, has the name Ladies' Tobacco as well as Indian Tobacco. The real INDIAN TOBACCO is Lobelia inflata, and its chief use as a substitute is as an asthma remedy, in small doses, for this can be toxic if enough is consumed. The leaves and tops of Thorn-apple would be mixed with this plant to make "asthma powders", commonly sold for the relief of the complaint. A little nitre is included to make it burn, and the smoke is inhaled. The mixture is often made up into cigarettes, for convenience (Hutchinson & Melville). The existence of names like Cigar Tree (Harper), Indian Cigar and Smoking Bean (Hyam & Pankhurst) for the LOCUST BEAN (Catalpa bignonioides) is enough to show that American Indians actually smoked the capsules (Perry. 1972). YELLOW GENTIAN has been used as an antidote to or substitute for, tobacco (Lloyd), and MELILOT was included with ordinary tobacco as an aromatic (Fluck). BEARBERRY leaves were used as a tobacco substitute by American Indians (Sanford). Keres Indians mixed them with tobacco in the ordinary way (L A White), and so did the Chippewa, who also claimed that they smoked them "to attract game" (Densmore). The North-west Coast Indians used the leaves to make the smoking substance kinnikinnick, which is also used as a name for Bearberry. It is an Algonquin word meaning "that which is mixed", usually tobacco (Emboden. 1979).

ARNICA leaves (or indeed all parts) are used to make a tobacco substitute, known in France as 'tabac des savoyards', 'tabac des Vosges', or 'herbe aux prêcheurs' (Sanecki). The young shoots of LION's TAIL that are about to flower are pinched out and smoked as a tobacco substitute in Africa, under the name dagga-dagga. Dagga is cannabis, and whether this is smoked, or the dark green resin that the leaves exude is smoked with ordinary tobacco, the effect is the same, for this is a narcotic, producing mild euphoria (Emboden. 1979).

COLTSFOOT should be included here. But this is smoking with a purpose, as a cough cure, or for asthma. Bechion, the plant in Dioscorides taken to be coltsfoot, was smoked against a dry cough, and it is still smoked in all herbal tobaccos (Grigson. 1955), as it is also in Chinese medicine (F P Smith), for asthma, and even lung cancer. Gypsies smoke the dried leaves for asthma and bronchitis, and it was smoked by Cornish miners as a precaution against lung disaeses (Deane & Shaw).

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