The coronavirus pandemic has seen an increase in recreational cannabis use perhaps due to lockdown boredom, anxiety, loneliness or lack of stimulation. This increase in use of the substance has inspired people to become more creative with what they smoke it with. It seems social media platforms, such as TikTok, are playing a key role in shifting users away from tobacco and towards herbs and dried plants.
Rolling tobacco is a popular complimentary substance used by cannabis smokers all over the world, particularly in the UK. I spoke to several cannabis smokers, many of whom stated that their preference for smoking is with tobacco due to the ease of burn, taste and nicotine rush that accompanies it. Studies have shown that cannabis users are more reluctant to admit to the nicotine addiction that comes with smoking. Many view cannabis as a mitigating factor to the tobacco.
However, with increased leisure time and greater access to information on the internet, some cannabis smokers are starting to experiment with tobacco alternatives as they want to save money and explore health benefits. When I asked cannabis users on Instagram how much they spent per month on cannabis, some smokers said that they sometimes spend upwards of £700.
Some of the cannabis smokers that I spoke to stated that they felt that tobacco was draining their body and that they ‘low-key formed a nicotine addiction despite not smoking cigarettes’. It is because of this that many cannabis smokers are ‘keen to try tobacco alternatives’ to see if it would change their relationship with smoking.
Here are some of the most popular answers that were given and how they impacted the smoking experience of these users:
This abundant and medicinal herb is easily available and is found in many gardens worldwide. In part, the magnificent scents derived from this species are due to the presence of linalool terpene, also present across many different cannabis strains.
‘I like smoking with lavender because it adds a calming effect to the smoking experience.’
Teyana uses lavender when smoking with her boyfriend, she said that the aroma of the flower ‘adds zen’ to the experience. According to Sensiseeds, Lavender has a calming effect as it contains the terpene linalool, which is known for its effects on reducing anxiety. Lavender is also said to reduce insomnia and relieve headaches, painful muscles and act as a painkiller. This makes lavender a desirable complimentary herb to smoke alongside cannabis as it enhances the calming effect of the cannabis itself.
Similarly, rose petals are being used by smokers to compliment cannabis in their joints. Some smokers use rose petals alone with cannabis, others use it as a complimentary flavour enhancer alongside both cannabis and tobacco.
Rob has been smoking cannabis since 2018, he has recently started incorporating rose petals into his joints as a flavour enhancer, which he claims adds a sweetening taste, and improves the overall experience. Rob smokes four to five joints a day on average, and has been using tobacco with his joints since 2018. He says that while he has no intention of quitting his tobacco use, he is interested in trying new blends to smoke as after three years of smoking, he would like to experiment.
‘Rose petals, once dried and grinded, were actually fairly easy to roll in with joints and that’s why I liked adding it. It’s very complimentary and adds a sweet taste which I appreciate.’
Bill started smoking regularly over the March 2020 national lockdown. He was opposed to smoking with tobacco due to cigarette smoking causing family deaths in the past.
‘I was spending too much money on just weed, and it was slowly getting out of hand because I’d smoke at least twice a day, every day. I saw people on TikTok use rose petals as a complimentary herb to smoke with cannabis, so I ordered a pack from Amazon. I’ve been saving so much money as a result and have slowly started rebuilding my tolerance.’
Rose petals are also known for their ability to assist people who are trying to quit smoking nicotine-filled cigarettes. Smoking rose petals is also said to alleviate the symptoms of depression and enhance mood. Smoking rose petals decrease the symptoms associated with nicotine-withdrawals effectively.
Rose petals are often mixed with the herbs mugwort and damiana, two herbs which have become increasingly popular to blend into joints by cannabis users recently.
Damiana is regarded as an aphrodisiac in its native Mexico. It is also reported to have mood enhancing, calming and helps low libido. It was originally utilised by the Aztecs as a remedy for impotence and is also used around the world to treat headaches, depression, bedwetting, and constipation Damiana leaves contain terpenes, caffeine, tannin and resins. Its taste and odour range from sweet to bitter.
Rina, takes antidepressants which lower her libido and impact her mood. She smokes cannabis with damiana leaf and claims it has increased her libido, and helps her to feel calm.
“Maybe I’m self medicating, but I find that it works for me. I usually smoke the blend when I’m with my boyfriend because it helps increase my libido and increases my stamina during sex, something that my medication usually stops.”
Mugwort has been used by humankind for centuries and is central to ancient rituals in cultures across the world.Some Chinese poems and songs mention it as far back as 3 BC. Its mild hallucinogenic properties make it a perfect complimentary substance to cannabis. Sold as a dried leaf in the UK, Mugwort has grown popular on TikTok.
Smokers who blend mugwort into their spliffs have claimed that it enhances the flavour of cannabis and creates a mellowing effect.
Ellie has been a casual cannabis smoker for several years and has recently been trying to reconfigure her relationship with cannabis.
“I’ve recently been re-evaluating my relationship with weed, smoking too much of it purely was damaging my mental health, and I was in so much denial. But I saw on TikTok that people were mixing herbal teas into their spliffs, including mugwort tea, and I wanted to give it a try. Now I smoke much less and when I do, I try and smoke with herbal tea blends including mugwort because it feels more like self care that way.”
Rosemary contains a range of substances which are antimicrobial, antibacterial, and anti-inflammatory. Rosemary has long been used in Europe to help boost memory.When smoked, rosemary’s most notable feature is its fresh aroma.
Similarly to other users, Tobias has been wanting to try something different to tobacco and opted for Rosemary due to its convenience.
“My housemate had some dried rosemary and thyme in her cupboard and we joked about how if it was grinded up and sold to teenagers as weed, they wouldn’t be able to tell the difference. That got me thinking about trying to smoke it with weed to see if it did anything, I ended up really liking it and still use it if it is available. Definitely think people should try experimenting more with things they have in their cupboard.”
This herb is often used for digestive purposes and is now commonly used with cannabis due how easy it is to smoke. Similarly to the damiana leaf, it makes a good base to any herbal mixture.
Carys smokes regularly with marshmallow leaf. She has asthma and therefore does not like smoking with tobacco due to its harshness.
“It feels less harsh on my lungs, I tried damiana but alone it was quite harsh! But I haven’t used tobacco in my smokes in over a year because it feels too heavy and I hate the taste of it. I now smoke more often than I used to, I just find smoking really relaxing and I want to feel more at ease when I can, especially during this pandemic.”
Many of the cannabis smokers that I had spoken to said that they have been smoking more over the pandemic period as a way to cope with the stress of the situation and for something to cure their lockdown boredom. In these unprecedented times, it is undeniable that we will continue to see a shift in how recreational drugs are used. Much as there is no ‘best’ cannabis strain for all users, various types of smokers will be drawn to these herbs. There are several great alternatives to rolling a ‘spliff’ with tobacco, whether used as a recreational additive or holistic adjunct.
This piece was written by Aneesa Ahmed, contact her on Twitter and Instagram: @missaneesaahmed