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THIS JUST IN! Cannabis is a great herb to smoke—one of the best. I know that’s a fairly bold statement, but trust me, it’s tremendous. And here’s another revelation that may rock you to your very foundation: There are other herbs and plants you can smoke or vape that are also great, and safe. I know, because I got some people to do so recently, and no one went bonkers.

A few weeks ago, I was invited to be a guest at the Panacea dispensary to perform a vaporizer demonstration as part of an ongoing series they’re holding called “Converse with a Nurse.” Rebecca White—an herbalist, registered nurse, and cancer survivor—hosts the series, and she’s available for conversations about health and how cannabis might be of value.

I had experimented with smoking blends of non-cannabis herbs years ago when my regular weed connection moved, and I was without a dealer for a brief (but still too long) period of time. I didn’t get much more than a head rush from what I tried, and the herbs made me cough.

This time, I had a list of herbs that White recommended, so I hit up the aptly named Fettle Botanic Supply & Counsel on SE Hawthorne. The staff filled my order, save for a couple herbs that were out of stock, but made some great recommendations for substitutes. When I explained what the herbs were intended for, they were nonplussed. “We frequently get people that buy certain herbs to mix with their cannabis,” said the woman who helped me.

And why wouldn’t they? Cannabis is a flowering plant rich with aromatic essential oils. That holds true for many other herbs as well, so pairing cannabis with another plant that supports its effects makes perfect sense.

The herbs I brought in for the demo were a collection of common ones (sage, lavender, catnip) and less so (damiana). I also brought in a couple Herbalizer vaporizers—my desktop vape of choice—and the customers and I tried them all out in Panacea’s waiting room. (We did NOT vape any cannabis. It’s illegal to do that in a dispensary. Much in the same way that you can’t sample a beer at a bottle shop before you buy it. Wait, what do you mean that’s not the case?)

We played around with different temperature settings, starting low and gradually raising the heat. We began with the catnip, and after determining that no one had a substantially increased desire to chase around a ball of yarn, we moved through the collection of others I’d brought in.

The verdict? While cannabis was still what we all wished the Herbalizer was packed with, there were noticeable effects for everyone. “I feel... better,” said one. “Not high or stoned, just... pleasant, and a little more relaxed,” volunteered another. No one got the munchies, and everyone felt clearheaded enough to operate a motor vehicle or power saw.

You can try the same thing at home. While we used a vaporizer, you can smoke non-cannabis herbs in a joint, bong, or pipe. You can also mix herbs in with your weed, like a form of Cannabis Helper—I recently added some relaxing lavender to a heavy indica I vaped before bed, and crashed hard. Some herbs are motivating, some are for chilling out, and some are even reportedly aphrodisiacs. But my mom reads this, so I’m not going to offer any research here on that last category.

Always buy organic and local. Everything we tried was sold in bulk, and absurdly cheap—$8 covered the tab for my six one-ounce bags of different herbs, about what you would pay for a single gram of mid-level cannabis. (Why so cheap? Perhaps because there wasn’t a 25 percent tax on them, the growers weren’t required to pay outrageous testing fees, and no one in the federal government is equating catnip with heroin... but I digress.)

Try these:

Lavender for reducing feelings of anxiety and promoting peaceful sleep patterns.

Damiana for an energetic euphoria and a libido enhancer.

Garden sage to boost one’s mood and ease digestive upset.

Catnip for its calming effect, to ease anxiety and respiratory congestion.

Raspberry leaf as a mood lifter, and for musculoskeletal relaxation; it’s particularly good at easing effects of menses.

Avoid salvia, as it’s a powerful hallucinogenic. And by all means, ask your herbalist for suggestions. They know much more than I do.