It seems second nature for humans to try smoking the plants around them. For centuries, we’ve sparked up hundreds of botanicals-discovering medicinal benefits, bad trips, and pleasant buzzes as we explored the expanses of the plant world.
Cannabis may be the herb of the moment, but the normalization of weed and alternative wellness journeys in general has ushered in a broader herbal renaissance that’s bringing a variety of plants into pipes and papers everywhere. Herbal smoking blends peppered with rose petals and lavender buds are in style right now.
Looking at the content of today’s wellness trends, it makes sense: Aesthetically, herbal remedies are prime for social media content-not to mention more welcome on social media than cannabis-and smoking them is less intoxicating, allowing for those with lower tolerances the ability to enjoy a proper, botanically rich smoke sesh without losing the rest of their day to a streaming platform.
None of the following herbs are going to feel as strong as cannabis. When we say intoxicating, it’s very slight. But when combined together by knowledgeable herbalists, these herbs can have a harmonious effect that creates a more potent impact.
There is much research to be done in this space-and even more herbs being smoked than the 37 listed here-and although the anecdotal data for many of these ancient herbs has been amassed over multiple decades and continents, most herbs have not had studies conducted in regards to smoking them. While this list sheds some light on how these herbs can affect our bodies and our smoke seshes, it’s best to do your own research before embarking on new herbal adventures.
It’s a powerful thing to seek out alternative wellness and recreation ingredients that work with one’s unique body, and with great power comes great responsibility. Smoke safely.
This blue water lily, also known as Egyptian Lotus, has a mildly sedating effect that ancient civilizations discovered long ago, featuring it in rituals and as well as using it as a tool to lucid dream. You’d have to smoke much more of this plant than is typically sprinkled in smoking blends to experience significant psychoactive effects, but it’s a great addition for sleepier or more spiritual smoke seshes. Find it in: Barbari Airplane Mode Herbal Blend & More Fya Sacred Ceremony Herbal Smoke Blend
An herb in traditional Chinese medicine, this spearheaded wildflower can quiet the mind, reduce stress and boost mood when smoked. It’s shown to have a positive impact on those dealing with depression. Find it in: Miss Grass Hemp + Herb Minis For Sleep
Also known as marigold flowers, calendula has been consumed recreationally as far back as the ancient Mayans. It has a smooth floral and citrus taste when smoked, and those citrusy terpenes can result in an uplifting mood boost. Find it in: Bear Blend Original Ceremonial Blend
Considered an aphrodisiac by some ancient civilizations, this tropical yellow flower lends a smooth, slight hickory-flavoured hint to any smoke blend. It may help get one’s mojo back, or it may just provide a gentle mood lift. Find it in: Ouid Arouse Herbal Blend
This leafy plant has long been used as a medicinal herb for its stimulating mental effects when steeped or smoked. A useful addition for any mood-boosting, anti-depressive blends. Find it in: Enlite Social Smoking Blend
A flowering tree that almost looks like cherry blossoms, hawthorne has been consumed to support heart health for hundreds of years. It’s unclear if those properties are transferred when smoked, but eating the plant’s berries can provide a sense of balance and counteract insomnia. Find it in: The Herb Shoppe Sacred Smoke Blend
When consumed in moderation, hibiscus can be a soothing, flavorful smoke that promotes both healthy digestion and libido. The tropical blooms are packed with antioxidants and tied to a wealth of other positive impacts on our health. Find it in: Elle’s Elixir No. 2
Also known as tulsi, this ayurvedic herb is packed with adaptogens and considered a true super plant of nature. When smoked, the full-bodied flavour almost has a menthol effect and can provide a calming sensation afterwards. Find it in: Miss Grass Hemp + Herb Minis For Pleasure
With an herbal, slightly floral flavour and a smooth pull, linden is a frequently called upon ingredient for conventional herbal cigarettes. Linden teas are a popular option for a relaxing, end-of-the-day readjustment, so smoking it could have similar effects. Find it in: Rituals + Ceremony Heart Blend
A common ingredient in throat-soothing herbal teas of today, this ancient herb is revered for a variety of medicinal purposes. The sweet flavour and smoother smoke are ideal for those seeking herbs to help them wean off cigarettes. Find it in: Good Grief Harvest Moon Blend
Also known as “the dream herb,” mugwort has had a multifaceted relationship with humans for many generations. From supporting lucid dreams to key applications in traditional Chinese medicine and relaxing the mind and body when smoked, you’ll find the wonder herb across the alternative wellness spectrum. Find it in: Ouid’s Relax Herbal Blend
There is a reason menthols have been a popular cigarette varietal for over a century. Mint tastes delicious, freshening up your breath and your mind when smoked, lending an invigorating addition to any blend. It can be a dominating flavour, so if you’re rolling your own blends and don’t want to overpower the other herbals, sprinkle lightly. Find it in: Good Smoke Peppermint Blend
Rose is one of those magical plants-not unlike cannabis-with an endless list of applications in our lives. Concentrated rose oil has analgesic and moisturizing effects on our skin; rosewater is a nutritious and delicious ingredient in food and drinks; and smoking dried rose petals can imbue a calming, slightly euphoric sensation alongside its subtly sweet flavour. Find it in: High Sun Low Moon God Leaf Blend
This essential cooking herb also happens to make a great, mildly flavoured smoking herb, often called upon in blends and for those seeking tobacco alternatives. Just be careful about the varieties-salvia officinalis or “common sage” has no significant psychological effects, but salvia divinorum is what they used to make salvia, that intense, short-lived psychedelic substance formerly sold at head shops. Find it in: Barbari Herbal Blends & The Herb Shoppe Smoking Blends
Also known as Bearberry and Kinnikinnick in First Nations communities, which translates to “smoking mixture,” this berry shrub beloved by bears has been smoked for centuries. Some hold that it can soothe headaches when smoked, as well as create slightly intoxicating effects. Find it in: Good Grief Time Warp Blend
Despite being a fundamental ingredient in absinthe, smoking wormwood won’t bring about significant psychedelic effects. It may do something to calm the nerves and offer pain relief, though, and it’s a smooth, pleasant smoke when combusted. Find it in: Puff Herbals Signature Smoke Blend
Like the dainty sweet, floral flavour it lends to desserts, violet makes for a subtle yet visually splashy ingredient in a smoking blend. Based on the effects of violet tea, it’s possible smoking violet can relieve menstrual and digestive discomfort. Find it in: What Was Smoking Blend
An herb found throughout traditional medicinal practices, yarrow leaves can be smoked to reduce inflammation and anxiety, and in some can cases have an analgesic effect on oral pain. It’s a good herb for daytime seshes, with more stimulating effects. Find it in: The Spiceworks Twilight Herbal Blend
Editor’s Note: Any cannabis products referenced above are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. The writer is not a medical doctor, and their experience is based on personal use, the results of which may not be typical or intended. The legality of cannabis products varies by state, and readers are encouraged to check their local laws before purchasing and using cannabis products. Possessing, using, distributing, and/or selling marijuana or marijuana-based products is illegal under federal law as of the writing of this article, regardless of any conflicting state laws. Compliance with the laws of a particular state in no way ensures compliance with federal law, and there is a risk that conflicting federal and/or other state laws may be enforced in the future. Nothing in this article should be construed as advice regarding the legal status of cannabis products.
I grew up with a makrut lime tree in my backyard, admiring the double leaves and dimpled citrus fruit that frequently made their way into our family dinners. Makrut limes, which are sometimes referred to kaffir limes (although the term is controversial and has been widely retired), are native to Southeast Asia, but somehow my mom willed a tree to grow in our Southern California home with great success.
To me, makrut meant savoury Thai food: steamed fish curry wrapped in banana leaves and sprinkled with chiffonade makrut, simmering tom kha gai with floating bits of the hand-torn citrus leaves, and glistening green curry accentuated by the plant’s aroma.
But to others, makrut is an ideal ingredient in cocktails and other drinks. Such is the case for Fish Cheeks, a Thai restaurant in Manhattan known for its seafood dishes and eclectic, complementary cocktail menu. Beverage director Beau Fontano knew he had to include makrut in his creations, especially because the ingredient is so prominent on the food menu. Makrut lime finds its way in several drinks, most notably as a garnish atop the Thank You Kha, a riff on the acidic coconut stew tom kha gai, and the Manao Mao, a rum-based drink that uses makrut lime bitters.
“I don’t love using the word tiki, but if you think of those tiki rum cocktails, makrut definitely works well in those,” Fontano says. “But I also love it in martinis-there’s something really clean about it. And with makrut lime, if you’re just using the leaves, you can do a lot of rapid infusions.”
Fontano only uses the leaves, because the rinds and juice of makrut limes are famously bitter. “Regular lime has a little bit more sugar content, so that’s why it’s much more approachable in cocktails. Makrut limes tend to be more dry,” he explains. “But when you use the leaves in cocktails, you just smack it to wake it up a little bit and it gets that nice citrusy, refreshing aroma which is really fun.”
The leaves are cut fresh, so each drink has the scent of makrut lime leaves wafting off of them. “I’m sure at one point I will get around to it and try to figure out how to use the juice,” he laughs.
Further north at Paper Tiger in Portland, Maine, makrut lime leaves are also prevalent in a cocktail called Something Scandalous, a tequila-based drink intended to be, in the words of bartender Nick Reevy, “crushed easily.”
“I went with tequila, specifically, because in Maine it’s 80 degrees and humid pretty much all summer,” Reevy explains. “So I made something you kick back easily. Agave has a really nice softness that elevates the makrut lime, and the main flavour in that drink is the Thai basil.”
The drink is an alluring shade of green and is rounded out by cinnamon syrup and falernum. “Makrut lime is really herbal and bright in a way no other citrus is,” Reevy adds. “It’s interchangeable with other limes, but it just adds this whole other depth of flavour.”Makrut lime has even made its way into hard seltzer, albeit a limited edition drop from Lunar. Founder Kevin Wong knew he wanted to add another citrus drink to his rotation as he witnessed the successes of hard lemonades, but already had a yuzu iteration. Makrut lime seemed like a natural follow-up.
“It has a very intense citrus fragrance, almost perfumey or soapy,” Wong ponders. “Like I could see Le Labo putting out a makrut lime fragrance. It has such a commanding presence and body.”
To tamper down some of the boldness of the makrut lime, the hard seltzer uses makrut lime leaf extract, lime juice, and cane sugar. The aromatics of the lime are present without too much bitterness; instead, the seltzer is grassy, acidic, and dry. Wong recommends pairing the can with spicy foods, especially Szechuan dry pot.
The makrut lime seltzer is currently sold out, and Wong is unsure whether or not another batch is in the works. “I feel like makrut lime is the greatest secret unknown to the Western world,” he says. “It’s in medicine, candy, herbal drinks, cosmetics and aromatherapy. I think we did the seltzer too early, and I don’t know if the world is ready for us to bring it back yet. Maybe in a couple of years.”
But judging by the growing popularity of makrut lime in beverage menus, the comeback might be sooner than he expects.