7 Smokable Plants You Can Grow That Aren’t Marijuana
By Brian Barth
Here's a non-trend that you'd think would be more hip: tobacco-free herbal smoking blends.
Quite a few plants may be safely, and pleasurable, lit up in a pipe or rolling papers. Those listed below are legal, unregulated, and totally safe to use. They are also non-hallucinogenic and non-addictive—perhaps that explains their lack of popularity?
While they won't get you high, when blended according to the instructions below, these herbs produce a smooth, tasty smoke and give a gentle, relaxing buzz. All of the following varieties may be purchased online or at any well-stocked herb store. You may also grow your own. Of course, we'd be remiss not to remind you to discuss any questions with a doctor.
While scores of herbs are smokable, those listed below are among the most commonly used and easily grown at home. Skip to the sidebar to learn how to dry your herbs into the perfect smoking blend.
Mullein (Verbascum thapsus)
Herbal Properties: Mullein has a long history of use as a lung tonic. It can actually help you stop coughing when you're sick.
Smoking Qualities: The smoke is extremely light and mild, almost like smoking air, and virtually flavorless.
Type of Plant: This biennial herb grows up to two feet wide at the base, with flower stalks rising six feet or more.
How to Grow: Considered by some a garden weed, this fuzzy-leafed plant is very easy to grow from seed planted directly in the garden in spring. It prefers a sunny location and soil that is well-drained and not too fertile. It benefits from a bit of irrigation as a seedling but is drought-tolerant once established.
Skullcap (Scutellaria spp.)
Herbal Properties: Skullcap has a mild calming effect when smoked.
Smoking Qualities: This herb is a medium smoke, with a fairly neutral flavor.
Type of Plant: A spreading perennial that grows about a foot tall, skullcap makes an attractive groundcover in the garden.
How to Grow: Sow seeds indoors in spring, planting the seedlings in a sunny or partly shaded location with rich soil once the weather has warmed. Skullcap requires weekly irrigation during dry periods. Cut the dried foliage to the ground each fall.
Coltsfoot (Tussilago farfara)
Herbal Properties: Coltsfoot is an expectorant, helping to free phlegm from the lungs.
Smoking Qualities: This herb is a light smoke with a neutral flavor, but can cause harsh coughing if used in a high concentration in smoking blends.
Type of Plant: This 6- to 12-inch tall groundcover spreads by underground rhizomes to form extensive colonies under optimum growing conditions.
How to Grow: Dried coltsfoot seed rarely germinates, but "fresh" seed, as well as potted plants, are available online. Rich, moist soil and a location in full sun or part shade are this plant's preferred growing conditions.
Mugwort (Artemesia vulgaris)
Herbal Properties: Many ancient cultures smoked mugwort to promote vivid dreams. It also produces a very mild psychotropic effect while you're awake.
Smoking Qualities: This herb is a light smoke with a pleasant, slightly sweet flavor.
Type of Plant: Mugwort is a spreading perennial growing up to 2 feet tall.
How to Grow: While seeds are available online, mugwort is easier to start from a potted plant, or by transplanting a clump from an established patch. Mugwort thrives with little care once established, but beware: it can become invasive, especially in moist locations. Cut the dried stalks to the ground each fall.
Uva-Ursi (Arctostaphylos uva-ursi)
Herbal Properties: Also known by the Algonquin name kinnikinnick, this native plant has long been smoked by Native American tribes for ceremonial purposes.
Smoking Qualities: Uva-ursi herb is a medium smoke with a strong earthy flavor.
Type of Plant: This attractive woody groundcover, which grows about 6 inches tall, is a popular landscaping plant.
How to Grow: Uva-ursi is very difficult to propagate by seed, so it's best to obtain potted specimens from a native plant nursery in your area, or from an online supplier. Grow in full sun or light shade; excellent drainage is essential. Uva-ursi is drought-tolerant and requires little care once established.
Mint (Mentha spp.)
Herbal Properties: Mints are used primarily to impart flavor to smoking blends. There are many varieties worth experimenting with, including spearmint (Mentha spicata) (pictured above), peppermint (Mentha piperita), and chocolate mint (Mentha x piperita 'Chocolate'). Close relatives of mint, including lemon balm (lemony flavor) and yerba buena (sweet menthol flavor), are often incorporated in smoking blends, as well.
Smoking Qualities: Varies by species.
Type of Plant: These herbaceous perennials spread to form extensive colonies under optimum growing conditions.
How to Grow: Mints are easier to establish from potted plants, or by transplanting a clump from an established patch, than by sowing seeds. Part sun and rich, moist soil are the preferred growing conditions. Mints can become invasive in the garden, especially in moist areas, so you may want to confine them to a pot. Cut the dried stalks to the ground each fall.
Sage (Salvia spp.)
Herbal Properties: Sages are used primarily to impart flavor to smoking blends. There are many varieties worth experimenting with, including white sage (Salvia apiana), black sage (Salvia mellifera), and pineapple sage (Salvia elegans) (pictured above). Beware though: One type of sage, Salvia divinorum, has strong psychotropic properties and is illegal in many states (many gardeners find themselves accidentally breaking the law).
Smoking Qualities: Varies by species.
Type of Plant: Most sages are shrubby perennials, ranging from less than 1 foot to more than 6 feet tall.
How to Grow: Growing conditions vary by species, but most sages prefer full sun and dry conditions. Cut them back about 50 percent each fall.
How To Make Your Own Herbal Smoking Blend
Smoking mixtures are largely a matter of personal tastes and preferences—experiment with different herb combinations to see what suits you best—but here are the basics to get you started.
- Harvest fresh, young leaves, ideally in the morning after the dew has evaporated.
- Dry the leaves slowly indoors—try hanging them in bundles from the ceiling or spreading them out on a window screen (see our article on drying techniques here). Don't dry them fast in an oven, as you want the leaves to retain a bit of moisture for a smoother smoke.
- Once dry, crush the leaves by hand into an even consistency.
- Combine according to the guidelines below:
- Mullein is the ideal "base" for smoking blends because it is such a light, smooth smoke. It should form about 50 percent of the mixture.
- Then add several other herbs for the "body" of the blend. Mugwort and skullcap create a headier smoke, while uva-ursi gives it more of a tobacco-like quality. Add a bit of coltsfoot if you're lungs are irritated from frequent tobacco use. Combined, these herbs should constitute about 40 percent of the blend.
- Use flavoring herbs, like mints and sages, for the final 10 percent of the blend.
- If the blend is too harsh when you smoke it, trying spritzing the dried herbs with a spray bottle to reintroduce moisture.
- Store smoking blends in glass jars or resealable plastic pouches.
Reposted with permission from our media associate Modern Farmer.
By Daisy Simmons
1. Stay Informed<p>A first order of business in pet evacuation planning is to understand and be ready for the possible threats in your area. Visit <a href="https://www.ready.gov/be-informed" target="_blank">Ready.gov</a> to learn more about preparing for potential disasters such as floods, hurricanes, and wildfires. Then pay attention to related updates by tuning <a href="http://www.weather.gov/nwr/" target="_blank">NOAA Weather Radio</a> to your local emergency station or using the <a href="https://www.fema.gov/mobile-app" target="_blank">FEMA app</a> to get National Weather Service alerts.</p>
2. Ensure Your Pet is Easily Identifiable<p><span>Household pets, including indoor cats, should wear collars with ID tags that have your mobile phone number. </span><a href="https://www.avma.org/microchipping-animals-faq" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Microchipping</a><span> your pets will also improve your chances of reunion should you become separated. Be sure to add an emergency contact for friends or relatives outside your immediate area.</span></p><p>Additionally, use <a href="https://secure.aspca.org/take-action/order-your-pet-safety-pack" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">'animals inside' door/window stickers</a> to show rescue workers how many pets live there. (If you evacuate with your pets, quickly write "Evacuated" on the sticker so first responders don't waste time searching for them.)</p>
3. Make a Pet Evacuation Plan<p> "No family disaster plan is complete without including your pets and all of your animals," says veterinarian Heather Case in <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q9NRJkFKAm4" target="_blank">a video</a> produced by the American Veterinary Medical Association.</p><p>It's important to determine where to take your pet in the event of an emergency.</p><p>Red Cross shelters and many other emergency shelters allow only service animals. Ask your vet, local animal shelters, and emergency management officials for information on local and regional animal sheltering options.</p><p>For those with access to the rare shelter that allows pets, CDC offers <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/healthypets/emergencies/pets-in-evacuation-centers.html" target="_blank">tips on what to expect</a> there, including potential health risks and hygiene best practices.</p><p>Beyond that, talk with family or friends outside the evacuation area about potentially hosting you and/or your pet if you're comfortable doing so. Search for pet-friendly hotel or boarding options along key evacuation routes.</p><p>If you have exotic pets or a mix of large and small animals, you may need to identify multiple locations to shelter them.</p><p>For other household pets like hamsters, snakes, and fish, the SPCA recommends that if they normally live in a cage, they should be transported in that cage. If the enclosure is too big to transport, however, transfer them to a smaller container temporarily. (More on that <a href="https://www.spcai.org/take-action/emergency-preparedness/evacuation-how-to-be-pet-prepared" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">here</a>.)</p><p>For any pet, a key step is to establish who in your household will be the point person for gathering up pets and bringing their supplies. Keep in mind that you may not be home when disaster strikes, so come up with a Plan B. For example, you might form a buddy system with neighbors with pets, or coordinate with a trusted pet sitter.</p>
4. Prepare a Pet Evacuation Kit<p>Like the emergency preparedness kit you'd prepare for humans, assemble basic survival items for your pets in a sturdy, easy-to-grab container. Items should include:</p><ul><li>Water, food, and medicine to last a week or two;</li><li>Water, food bowls, and a can opener if packing wet food;</li><li>Litter supplies for cats (a shoebox lined with a plastic bag and litter may work);</li><li>Leashes, harnesses, or vehicle restraints if applicable;</li><li>A <a href="https://www.avma.org/resources/pet-owners/emergencycare/pet-first-aid-supplies-checklist" target="_blank">pet first aid kit</a>;</li><li>A sturdy carrier or crate for each cat or dog. In addition to easing transport, these may serve as your pet's most familiar or safe space in an unfamiliar environment;</li><li>A favorite toy and/or blanket;</li><li>If your pet is prone to anxiety or stress, the American Kennel Club suggests adding <a href="https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/home-living/create-emergency-evacuation-plan-dog/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">stress-relieving items</a> like an anxiety vest or calming sprays.</li></ul><p>In the not-unlikely event that you and your pet have to shelter in different places, your kit should also include:</p><ul><li>Detailed information including contact information for you, your vet, and other emergency contacts;</li><li>A list with phone numbers and addresses of potential destinations, including pet-friendly hotels and emergency boarding facilities near your planned evacuation routes, plus friends or relatives in other areas who might be willing to host you or your pet;</li><li>Medical information including vaccine records and a current rabies vaccination tag;</li><li>Feeding notes including portions and sizes in case you need to leave your pet in someone else's care;</li><li>A photo of you and your pet for identification purposes.</li></ul>
5. Be Ready to Evacuate at Any Time<p>It's always wise to be prepared, but stay especially vigilant in high-risk periods during fire or hurricane season. Practice evacuating at different times of day. Make sure your grab-and-go kit is up to date and in a convenient location, and keep leashes and carriers by the exit door. You might even stow a thick pillowcase under your bed for middle-of-the-night, dash-out emergencies when you don't have time to coax an anxious pet into a carrier. If forecasters warn of potential wildfire, a hurricane, or other dangerous conditions, bring outdoor pets inside so you can keep a close eye on them.</p><p>As with any emergency, the key is to be prepared. As the American Kennel Club points out, "If you panic, it will agitate your dog. Therefore, <a href="https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/home-living/create-emergency-evacuation-plan-dog/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">pet disaster preparedness</a> will not only reduce your anxiety but will help reduce your pet's anxiety too."</p>
Evacuating Horses and Other Farm Animals<p>The same basic principles apply for evacuating horses and most other livestock. Provide each with some form of identification. Ensure that adequate food, water, and medicine are available. And develop a clear plan on where to go and how to get there.</p><p>Sheltering and transporting farm animals requires careful coordination, from identifying potential shelter space at fairgrounds, racetracks, or pastures, to ensuring enough space is available in vehicles and trailers – not to mention handlers and drivers on hand to support the effort.</p><p>For most farm animals, the Red Cross advises that you consider precautionary evacuation when a threat seems imminent but evacuation orders haven't yet been announced. The American Veterinary Medical Association has <a href="https://www.avma.org/resources/pet-owners/emergencycare/large-animals-and-livestock-disasters" target="_blank">more information</a>.</p>
Bottom Line: If You Need to Evacuate, So Do Your Pets<p>As the Humane Society warns, pets left behind in a disaster can easily be injured, lost, or killed. Plan ahead to make sure you can safely evacuate your entire household – furry members included.</p>
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