Natural methods for quitting have the benefit of helping to eliminate the physical addiction to nicotine without necessarily risk side effects. On the other hand, some are better than others at eliminating withdrawal symptoms.
Most ‘natural methods’ don’t in and of themselves deal with the psychological dependence related to smoking, but many of them can easily be paired with techniques that do.
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If you want to quit smoking gradually, you may want to consider a technique called nicotine fading. This may be the most natural way to quit smoking, since it doesn't introduce any chemicals, drugs, or even herbs into your body. However, it still manages to alleviate withdrawal symptoms substantially, which is why it is a commonly used technique in professional recovery programs.
Nicotine fading consists of a structured, time-limited procedure to gradually reduce the amount of nicotine that you take in until you are not taking in enough to sustain the physical nicotine addiction. At that point, quitting becomes primarily about dealing with the psychological dependence. (However, don't underestimate the task of eliminating the psychological dependence - this may be the most important part of quitting, and is why virtually every method to eliminate the physical addiction comes with the recommendation that you also include a behavioral/psychological component in your quitting strategy.)
Gradually reducing nicotine intake is a very effective way of reducing or eliminating the withdrawal symptoms associated with nicotine. In fact, this principle is the primary reason nicotine replacement therapies work - they allow you to gradually eliminate the nicotine in order to minimize withdrawal, and make quitting less unpleasant.
The most effective version of nicotine fading accomplishes a gradual nicotine reduction by using a schedule to gradually reduce the number of cigarettes you smoke, and a periodic brand-switching strategy to reduce the amount of nicotine per cigarette. These two factors are carefully calculated to accomplish a gradual nicotine reduction over a period of a couple of weeks, which helps minimize withdrawal symptoms. Like most techniques that are designed to eliminate nicotine addiction, success rates improve when you combine nicotine fading with a behavioral program that helps eliminate the psychological dependence, too.
Mechanism of Action
The basic mechanism of action is simple: A gradual reduction in an addictive substance allows the body to adjust to small changes, which results in fewer and more minor withdrawal symptoms. This is the same principle behind nicotine replacement therapy, but instead of replacing nicotine from cigarettes with nicotine from some other source, nicotine fading simply gradually reduces the nicotine intake from cigarettes.
If you want to quit smoking gradually, it is critical to created a structured and time-limited nicotine fading plan, and incorporate it into a behavioral plan to eliminate the psychological dependence. In simple terms, you need to calculate the amount of nicotine you are taking in now, decide how long you want to take to get down to zero (in other words, when you will quit smoking) and then chart out your nicotine reduction plan to get from where you are now down to zero in that period of time. You can quit smoking gradually by reducing your nicotine intake by smoking fewer cigarettes each day, and by switching to brands with lower nicotine content at specific intervals. I recommend a time period of 2-3 weeks, depending on your current nicotine intake. If you are a heavier smoker, you can make some substantial reductions in the beginning, and then taper more gradually for the last week or two.
By the way, don't mistake this technique for what people do when they say they are 'cutting back' on smoking. There are some very important differences. For instance, research shows that people cannot successfully reduce their nicotine intake over the long term. Most people who try end up creeping back up to their established addiction level. And since even relatively small amounts of nicotine are quite harmful, this is not a winning strategy. In contrast, nicotine fading is a structured and time-limited strategy to quit smoking gradually that is used to minimize nicotine withdrawal in the most natural way possible as you quit. The time limited part is important, because as long as you are still addicted to nicotine, your body will push you to meet your established addiction level. The structure is an important part of this natural way to quit smoking, because it is the gradual reduction of nicotine intake that helps to minimize withdrawal symptoms.
I highly recommend that you invest in a good behavioral program, as well. The nicotine fading strategy is a simple and effective one, but dealing with nicotine addiction itself is just ONE element of a successful quit smoking attempt. Like most products or techniques for eliminating nicotine addiction, it will work much better if it is coupled with techniques to eliminate the psychological dependence on smoking, too.
There are no side effects per se from nicotine fading as a technique, since you're not introducing any new substances into your body. However, if you decide to try to quit smoking gradually, keep in mind that no matter what product or technique you use, you will still likely have some withdrawal symptoms. Nicotine fading, if done properly will substantially reduce the withdrawal symptoms you would experience otherwise.
Pros and Cons
What are the pros and cons of using nicotine fading to quit smoking gradually?
There are no side effects to this technique, and done properly, it significantly reduces withdrawal symptoms.
The technique itself is free - no product to buy or pills to take. You may choose to pay for either an inpatient program or another type of program that uses this technique, but if you do, make sure that what you're paying for includes effective techniques for eliminating the psychological dependence, not just a nicotine fading schedule.
This is one off the most 'natural' of all of the techniques or products, since you're not introducing any additional chemicals or drugs into your body.
The primary 'con' to trying to quit smoking gradually is that it may be difficult to self-monitor - that is, people attempting to use nicotine fading outside of a structured program may end up just 'cutting down,' which isn't very effective over the long term.
Of all the 'natural' ways to quit smoking, I think this is one of the best options, provided it is incorporated into a larger plan for quitting. There are no side effects, since you're not introducing any new drugs into your system. And unlike cold turkey quitting, using a nicotine fading technique to quit smoking gradually is very effective at alleviating the worst of withdrawal symptoms. It's also an extremely flexible option - it can be incorporated into a variety of quitting strategies.
An added advantage of nicotine fading is that it can be combined with techniques designed to eliminate the psychological dependence on smoking, too. For the record, nicotine fading is one technique that I use in my proprietary program, The Complete Quit System, precisely because it is so effective.
If you decide you want to try this technique, be sure to write down your nicotine fading schedule (if you devise your own), and make a plan for eliminating the psychological dependence, too. If you want to check out my proprietary program which incorporates the nicotine fading technique into a step-by-step plan for eliminating the psychological dependence, you can get more information about that here.
Supporting your quit attempt with the best behavioral/psychological program you can find can dramatically increase your chances of success.