Tobacco has received a lot of bad press in recent years because of the damaging effect it has on the health of those who smoke and chew it. There is no denying that as a substance to ingest or inhale, tobacco is a no go thanks to the toxic cocktail of chemicals it contains and the tar and carbon monoxide it produces when smoked. However, it does seem to have been demonised in the media as a murderous fiend determined to cause addictions and pollute lungs when in fact, it is but a plant that people have processed into the monster we are familiar with today.
Now, this is not to say that we condone the smoking or chewing of tobacco; we don’t for the simple reason that we know the negative health effects associated with it, but we do believe that tobacco is somewhat misunderstood these days.
The tobacco plant is as much a part of nature as the grass in your front garden. It grows, flowers and ends its lifecycle in the same way as any other plant or tree. The cigarette filling we know it to be now is a processed product, discovered and developed by man. Long before it became an addictive substance though, tobacco had other less sinister uses.
So read on to learn more about the uses of tobacco in its pre-monster days.
Tobacco: What is it good for?
Native Americans had long used tobacco before European settlers arrived on the continent. They didn’t use it for trade and recreation, but rather as a medicine. In a time prior to knowledge of tobacco’s nicotine content and the development of modern medicinal practices, the plant was used for its pain relief properties. After crushing the leaves into a tobacco paste, they would place them on the affected areas to soothe and cure ailments like:
• Skin rashes, inflammation, eczema and rheumatism
• Rattlesnake and insect bites
• Colds and coughs
Tobacco water is traditionally used as an organic insecticide for domestic gardens. It is effective at controlling nuisance populations of aphids, peach tree borers, leaf rollers, garden centipedes and spiders as well as larger pests like moles. Tobacco not only eases stings from bees, wasps and hornets (as above), it also acts as an insect repellent. For more details on how to use tobacco depending on which pest you have a problem with, click here.
This may not sound like an overly appealing use for tobacco, but the plant was once used as a way of treating gut pain, hernias and resuscitating near-drowned individuals. The tobacco smoke enema was originally an American Indian practice that became popular with European physicians between the 17th and 19th centuries. Eventually the practice fell into decline because of 19th century discoveries regarding the toxicity of certain chemicals found in tobacco, like nicotine. It may not have been a pretty practice, nor an overly safe one, but it was considered a popular and reliable use of tobacco.
And what is tobacco not good for? The people who smoke it
That’s right, tobacco is not the epitome of all evil we assume it is. It has other, genuinely useful applications. Yes, it is dangerous to your health and that is why there are tobacco-less and smokeless alternatives available, like herbal cigarettes and e cigarettes. However, past the stigma that surrounds the plant, there is more to tobacco than meets the eye. So whilst you shouldn’t smoke or chew it, you shouldn’t wholly condemn it either.