Tobacco gets a bad rap. That’s partly why celebrated Colorado Cannabis Chamber of Commerce president and former alcohol lobbyist Tyler Henson is leaving the cannabis industry and heading to save the cigar industry. If you love spliffs but don’t like the addictive properties of nicotine, or just want to try something different, perhaps another vice is right. From mildly to wildly enhancing, these natural tobacco substitutes have some interesting synergies with cannabis.
Cannabis and hops, like the hops in your beer, are very closely related. In fact, cannabis and hops are both from the Cannabaceae family, and those unexpected sedative effects you feel after just one potent brewski may stem largely from a compound found in both plants: myrcene. Myrcene is a terpene, or essential oil, known for its relaxant and anti-anxiety properties. Essential oils are the basis of aromatherapy, and whether you’re smoking or inhaling them, our minds and bodies respond largely to their effects. Lupulin glands, or hop trichomes, are a familiar powdery pollen and crafty folks are sifting it like kief and making hops hash. They’re extracting hop oils, too.
That’s right, nearly everything we’re doing to cannabis, we’re doing to hops, and then some. But don’t get too crazy. Mostly, these extractions should be used for brewing beer. Smoking hops can be harsh and possibly dangerous at high temps, but vaporizing hops and cannabis at low-temps together can be as tasty and excellent as one might expect.
Kratom is a tropical evergreen in the coffee family found primarily in Southeast Asia. Since at least the 19th century, Kratom has been used in traditional medicinal practices for its opiate- and stimulant-like properties, and has been used as a healthier and less addictive opium and morphine substitute around the world.
Smoked or vaporized on its own, the effects of kratom aren’t usually noticeable. However, it turns out that kratom and cannabis are highly synergistic, and together they are an indulgence revered by many. Effects depend largely on the ratio of kratom to cannabis and range from subtle buzzing to deeply narcotic-like sedation and pain relief. As with all of these suggestions, start small—the combo can be powerful and cause nausea for some.
As it turns out, ’nip’s not just for cats. Catnip, also known as Nepeta cataria, is a member of the mint family known to ease respiratory congestion and alleviate anxiety. When smoked, the feline-friendly herb warms the body, oftentimes producing a mild euphoria and sense of sedation mingled with giddiness.
When consumed alone, no visionary effects occur. But when smoked with dream-enhancing herbal aphrodisiacs like valerian or damiana, one may feel a little frisky before nodding off to vivid imagery. When smoked with cannabis, it’s a great way to extend an expensive stash and mellow out the intense potency of a buzz.
Often used in landscaping, don’t be surprised if you find Salvia divinorum, a member of the sage family, growing in your front yard. A psychoactive plant religiously used by Mazatec shamans to induce visionary states and spiritual “out of body” experiences, users report synesthesia, hysterical laughter, visions of fractal patterns, memories from childhood, being pulled in a direction, and feelings of melding into objects for brief periods of time; anywhere from five minutes to half an hour.
Combined with cannabis, some users report an intensified and extended trip while others suggested an exaggerated case of the giggles. Since sensations can be strong under the influence, this plant is to not be taken lightly. First-timers may benefit from having a chaperone nearby in case the trip is too intense. Be sure to take a seat before inhaling. Then, prepare for blastoff. Note: While salvia is federally legal, some states have banned it.
Portland-based Reiki master and herbalist Alyssa Joy Wildrick recommends mixing several different herbs, depending on mood and taste. “My most favorite smoking herbs are coltsfoot for respiratory ailments, California poppy for anti-anxiety and focus, plus a light sprinkle of peppermint for taste. Mullein always seems to find its way into my smoke blends, even with cannabis, as it burns well and helps to keep the lungs clear and open,” says Wildrick. “I keep a daytime and evening herbal blend mixed up at all times so I can quickly throw that into my cannabis. My daytime blend consists of mullein, rose, peppermint, and coltsfoot. My evening blend has damiana, chamomile, passion flower, and California poppy. I find it hard to smoke cannabis without them anymore. Yet, they are equally as enjoyable on their own.”