Medicinal Smoke

smudging_1024x1024_300x300The scientific paper entitled “Medicinal Smokes” and published in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology focuses a scientific lens on the practice, which is becoming more and more widely practiced, despite skepticism. 

It serves to play against the role that this activity has played in a culturally diverse range of religions and tribal beliefs.

The research study looked into herbal and non-herbal remedies that were administered by the burning of various matter.

The research included information from 50 countries over 5 continents and found that, predominantly, smoke administered medicinally is mostly used to aid lung, brain and skin function. In addition, it was revealed that passive fumes doubled as a sort of air purifier.

The purpose of the study was to see whether or not these medicinal smoke deliveries could be explored by western medicine, because “The advantages of smoke-based remedies are rapid delivery to the brain, more efficient absorption by the body and lower costs of production.”

A follow up paper published in the same periodical, “Medicinal smoke reduces airborne bacteria,” found that the research concluded that, in addition to health benefits, smudging was a powerful antiseptic.

“Despite skepticism”? I would have thought “despite abject fear and trembling” would be more like it.

For I think the main thing that struck me about this piece was that in our antismoking era, the very idea of “medicinal smoke” is a contradiction in terms. These days, smoke can never be “medicinal”. It is always dangerous. Think of all the thousands of chemicals – many of them carcinogenic – in the smoke! And doesn’t that photo look just like an enormous cigarette spewing out huge quantities of SHS? And the kind of thing that would have antismokers sprinting to the door, clutching their hands over their mouths?

We have been disabled from thinking of smoke as in any sense medicinal. And yet the use of medicinal, purifying smoke is of very great antiquity. Did the ancients get it all wrong – for thousands of years? Was incense killing people?

About Frank Davis

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7 Responses to Medicinal Smoke

  1. Harleyrider1978 says:

    Frank any smoke kills off germs and viruses I’ve got one study miss rose posted stating a room sterilized by medicinal smoke was 99% sterile even 7 days later! By removing smoking from indoors they increased the germs present besides the human and mildew smells of indoor areas that smoke masked for 100s of years. Then speaking of human breath and contagion spread lol besides the 3500 chemicals human breath emits day in day out! SHS was a positive step being in it for public health removing it upped contagion and bad smells!

  2. Rose says:

    Supporting evidence.

    Validation of smoke inhalation therapy to treat microbial infections.

    Braithwaite M, Van Vuuren
    “In traditional healing, the burning of selected indigenous medicinal plants and the inhalation of the liberated smoke are widely accepted and a practiced route of administration.
    This study elucidated the rationale behind this commonly practiced treatment by examining the antimicrobial activity for five indigenous South African medicinal plants commonly administered through inhalation (Artemisia afra, Heteropyxis natalensis, Myrothamnus flabellifolius, Pellaea calomelanos and Tarchonanthus camphoratus).

    An apparatus was designed to simulate the burning process that occurs in a traditional setting and the smoke fraction was captured for analysis and bioassay. Methanol and acetone extracts as well as the essential oil (for the aromatic species) were prepared and assayed in parallel with the smoke fraction.

    Antimicrobial data revealed that in most cases, the ‘smoke-extract’ obtained after burning had lower minimum inhibitory concentration (MIC) values than the corresponding solvent extracts and essential oils. The combustion, acetone and methanol extracts produced different chromatographic profiles as demonstrated for Pellaea calomelanos where several compounds noted in the smoke fraction were not present in the other extracts.

    These results suggest that the combustion process produces an ‘extract’ with superior antimicrobial activity and provides in vitro evidence for inhalation of medicinal smoke as an efficient mode of administration in traditional healing”

    Aromatherapy oils ‘kill superbug’

    “Essential oils could kill the deadly MRSA hospital ‘superbug’, scientists have claimed.
    University of Manchester researchers found three of the oils, usually used in aromatherapy, destroyed MRSA and E.coli bacteria in two minutes.

    They suggest the oils could be blended into soaps and shampoos which could be used in hospitals to stop the spread of the superbug.

    Hospital-acquired infections, such as MRSA, kill an estimated 5,000 a year.
    The Manchester study was triggered when complementary medicine specialists at Christie Cancer Hospital asked university researchers to test essential oils.”
    She said: “Our research shows a very practical application which could be of enormous benefit to the NHS and its patients.

    “The reason essential oils are so effective is because they are made up of a complex mixture of chemical compounds which the MRSA and other superbug bacteria finds difficult to resist.”

    Essential oils ‘combat superbug’

    “Tests of new machine at a hospital have found it could be effective in the battle against the superbug MRSA.

    Consultants at Wythenshawe Hospital found that using a vaporiser to spray essential oils into the atmosphere killed off micro-organisms.
    Airborne bacterial counts dropped by 90% and infections were reduced in a nine-month trial at the burns unit.

    The recipe of oils used in the machine was refined by microbiologists at Manchester Metropolitan University”

    “There were no MRSA infections in the burns unit while the machine was being used with the recipe of oils.
    In the final two months the natural essence blend was removed from the machines and MRSA levels in the air increased – and there was an MRSA outbreak in the ward”
    http: //

    However the chemical companies can’t package up and sell dried leaves and a charcoal burner and couldn’t patent them anyway being natural products, which is where the money lies.
    However, there is money to be made in a course of treatment for the ailment you just caught in the smokefree pub or other enclosed public space.

    I do wonder if, as appears to have happened after the ban, smokers individually shunning such places simultaneously was in part an instinctive reaction to the threat of breathing contaminated air. After all, with smoke, you can see the air quality, without, you haven’t a clue. It’s why I gave up flying.

  3. Roobeedoo2 says:

    I would imagine most people, when hearing the term, would associate ‘medicinal smoke’ with cannabis:

    The reasons it was banned in the first place:

  4. Rose says:

    We have been disabled from thinking of smoke as in any sense medicinal. And yet the use of medicinal, purifying smoke is of very great antiquity. Did the ancients get it all wrong – for thousands of years?

    Of course not, but they didn’t have global chemical industries to make medicines in those days, so bit by bit you have to be scared away from the foundations of medicine.

    Smoke and Alcohol.

    How to Make an Herbal Tincture

    “Tinctures are concentrated herbal extracts that are made using alcohol and chopped herbs. The tincture is especially effective in drawing out the essential compounds of plants, especially those that are fibrous or woody, and from roots and resins. Since this method ensures that the herbs and their nutrients can be preserved for a long time, it is often mentioned in herbal books and remedies as a preferred way of using herbs.

    In addition, many herbalists love tinctures for other beneficial reasons, such as their being easy to carry, their utility for long-term treatments, and their ability to be absorbed rapidly, as well as allowing for immediate dosage changes. As well, should the tincture prove bitter, it’s easily added to juice to disguise the flavor. Another benefit of tinctures is that they keep nutrients from the plants in a stable, soluble form and they retain the volatile and semi-volatile ingredients that are otherwise lost in heat-treatment and processing of dry herbal extracts.”

    EU herb ban technically starts today.
    1 May 2011

    Today is the day that the European Union’s regulatory noose on herbal products is pulled tight. The result? Thousands of herbal products technically become illegal, simply because they cannot negotiate the regulatory minefield built by the EU over the last 10 or so years. The full implementation of the EU Traditional Herbal Medicinal Products Directive (THMPD) today represents the most recently placed piece of this complex jigsaw that will impact the majority of the most useful and effective herbal products on the EU market. This includes the majority of herbal products associated with very long-standing non-European healthcare systems like traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), Tibetan medicine, Ayurveda, southern African, Amazonian and other traditions.”

    “So, which products benefit, and which products get locked out? The winners are mostly products derived from alcoholic extracts of single herbs that are common to the relatively recent European (and particularly Germanic) phytopharmaceutical tradition. The main losers are those products associated with world’s longest, most established and most evolved and holistic systems of healthcare, notably Ayurveda and TCM. Less familiar and less globalised traditions such as Tibetan, Korean, southern African and Amazonian traditions also fall victim.

    But it’s not just herbal medicines that fall victim to the EU regulatory minefield. Other categories of product also get caught, these including complex nutritional and herbal products associated with nutritional and functional medicine modalities. The problem here is as soon as a particular herbal ingredient is deemed as medicinal by a regulator, the whole product becomes illegal and cannot continue to be sold as a food supplement.”
    http: //

    Having heard about the intended Smoking Ban and the impending ban on herbal medicines at the same time, it was hard not to draw certain conclusions.

    Mind you having just read the “List of banned or restricted herbal ingredients for medicinal use –”, I’m not a bit surprised, some of those are legendary poisons including Mandrake.

    I think I’ll just stick to James Wong’s “Grow Your Own Drugs” if ever I feel the need, it was an excellent series.

  5. prog says:

    BT – Referendum poll

    80% Leave
    15% Remain
    3% Don’t Know

    Presumably 2% fractions of these

    • nisakiman says:

      That’s a massive majority in favour of Brexit. It will be interesting to see how that translates when people are actually in the polling booth. ‘Voter intention’ polls are notoriously inaccurate.

  6. Tom says:

    Smoking down, asthma up.
    Smoking down, cancer up.
    Smoking down, bed bugs up.
    Smoking down, airborne diseases up.
    Smoking down, allergies up.
    Smoking down, stenches up.
    Smoking down – the list goes on.
    You get the drift.
    Mainstream, not so much.

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