Alternative Therapies to Quit Smoking

Maybe you have tried the usual methods to quit smoking, like patches, gums, and medications, but still can't kick the habit. A less traditional approach may be right for you. Alternative methods, like hypnosis, acupuncture, and even yoga have been studied for their effectiveness.

Quitting With Hypnosis

You may have heard about hypnosis to help you quit smoking. Hypnosis helps you get into a deeply relaxed state where you are open to suggestions. Hypnosis for smoking cessation may include suggestions that can:

  • Increase your negative feelings toward cigarettes
  • Weaken your desire to smoke
  • Strengthen your desire to quit

Drifting away in a relaxed state while you are hypnotized to quit smoking may sound like the perfect way to kick the habit, but it may not be that easy. There have been several studies to determine if hypnosis really can help you quit. Unfortunately, nothing conclusive has been found. Reviews of randomized trials have shown mixed results.

However, that does not mean it will be ineffective for you. Hypnotherapy has helped some people quit in observational studies. How well hypnotherapy works is highly dependent on you. So, if you are highly motivated to quit and think hypnotherapy sounds like the right choice, try it.

Quitting With Acupuncture

Acupuncture is believed to work by triggering your body to release endorphins (natural pain relievers) that allow you to relax. Acupuncture done on the ear has been widely used for smoking cessation.

Studies with acupuncture have shown some positive results. In one review of studies, acupuncture helped people remain smoke free compared to sham acupuncture for up to 6 weeks, but not for longer. Another systematic review showed better success, with people quitting for up to one year by using acupuncture compared to sham acupuncture. However, it does not appear that acupuncture is any better than nicotine replacement therapy.

Other studies have shown that acupuncture could increase the effectiveness of smoking cessation education. Acupuncture combined with education was twice as effective as sham acupuncture combined with education and 4 times more effective than acupuncture alone in one study.

Acupuncture may be one piece of a larger effort that helps you quit. If you find it does not work the way you want it to, move on to something else.

Quitting With Exercise

One reason smokers often cite for not wanting to give up smoking is concern that they will gain weight. Gaining a few pounds after quitting is common, but a regular exercise routine can help you to feel better, stay motivated, and avoid weight gain. Exercise can even help you quit by reducing nicotine withdrawal symptoms and cravings. One study has shown that an exercise program doubles the likelihood that you will still be smoke-free after 12 months.

Yoga is of particular interest as a quitting method. Studies have shown that making yoga part of a regular exercise routine improves weight control and reduces stress. Yoga is made up of a few different elements, including regular breathing, asanas (yoga positions), and meditation. These can improve mood and promote relaxation—both of which have been linked to successfully quitting smoking. Yoga can be a great lifelong practice that will reinforce your smoke-free lifestyle.

Quitting With Herbs

If nicotine replacement gums and other medications are not appealing to you, you might be thinking about using herbal supplements to curb your cravings.

Lobelia is an herb that has been widely promoted. Some research has shown that it may have effects on the nervous system that make it helpful for treating addiction.

These herbs have been studied for their effectiveness in smoking cessation, though none shows much promise:

Other Ways to Quit

Other unique ways to quit include:

  • Participating in contests —Contests with monetary prizes and other incentives may be effective for the short-term, but they have not been shown to have lasting effects.
  • Cutting back before quitting —Gradually reducing the amount you smoke may not be any more effective than quitting cold turkey. As a result, you can choose which of the two methods will work best for you.
  • Transcranial stimulation —This therapy uses magnetic fields to stimulate nerves in the brain. While it is usually used to treat depression, it has been used to reduce cigarette cravings. Studies have had mixed results as to whether it is effective.

Whether you quit cold turkey, wear a patch, or visit your acupuncturist for help, quitting smoking is a great decision. After all, each cigarette you smoke takes 11 minutes off your life. So continue to find ways to stop smoking and keep the clock ticking. The most important thing is to not give up.


American Lung Association


Canadian Cancer Society


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Last reviewed April 2017 by Michael Woods, MD, FAAP
Last Updated: 4/18/2017

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