Mountain Views News     Logo: MVNews     Saturday, April 23, 2011

MVNews this week:  Page 17


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 Mountain Views News Saturday, April 23, 2011 



by Christopher Nyerges 


 Have you ever had to fill out some 
sort of form, maybe for a job or some 
sort of poll, and they want to know 
if you are a smoker? I always check 
“no.” I am not a smoker, and always 
sit in the no-smoking sections of 
restaurants. (Well, I used to anyway, 
back when you could smoke in 
restaurants). I have long maintained 
that the real culprit in commercial 
cigarettes are the chemicals added to 
the tobacco and paper, things such as 
moisturizers, flavors, things to keep 
the cigarette burning, etc. etc. There 
are anywhere from 70 to 250 such 
chemicals, depending on who you 
believe. If the tobacco companies 
had to list all the ingredients on the 
label, there’d be no room on cigarette 

 Let’s just assume that “the 
government,” in its ultimate wisdom 
of knowing what is best for us, 
decided to put all the tobacco 
companies out of business and you 
could no longer buy tobacco at 
your corner market. Guess what? 
Various species of tobacco grow wild 
throughout the country. 

 All that said, though I have 
smoked tobaccos in the past 
(commercial and wild), today I 
prefer to make my own non-nicotine 
smoking mixes for those times 
when I sit out back and think about 
important things.

 My blend varies from season to 
season, depending on what wild 
leaves I have picked and dried. 

 The blend will typically have some 
dried peppermint and/or white sage 
(Salvia apiana). This gives a sweet 
flavor to the smoke, somewhat like 
menthol in cigarettes. Any of the 
sages and mints would do -- even 
those growing in your garden. This 
should be no more than 1/5 of your 

 Horehound (Marrubium vulgare) 
is a European medicinal herb that 
can now be found throughout most 
of North America and the world. It 
has a long history of use for treating 
coughs and sore throats when used 
as a hot tea or candy. I learned 
recently that it can also be blended 
into your smoking mixes and there 
still may be some good effect from 
the horehound, even if you smoke 
it. It is a true mint, after all, and it 
smokes well, though it doesn’t add 
that menthol-like quality to your 
smoking mix as do the other mints.

 I often add dried manzanita leaves 
(Arcostaphylos sps.), which were 
used by American Indians of the 
Southwest in their smoking blends. 
This smokes very well, though there 
is little taste or flavor. The most 
commonly known variety is the 
kinnikinnik, or Arcostaphylos uva-
ursi, which is not a bush or tree like 
the other manzanitas but is a trailing 
vine. Regardless which variety I use, I 
let them air dry, and then crush them 
into small pieces. The manzanita 
leaves are all somewhat tough and 
leathery so it will be necessary to 
break them into small bits so they can 
smoke. I have heard that the flavor 
of this particular leaf is improved a 
bit if it is aged, and if it is allowed 
to slightly ferment, in much the 
same way that one might age certain 
tobaccos. However, I have never 
taken the time to experiment with 
this, since the dried and crumbled 
leaves smoke quite well.

 I sometimes add dried and 
pulverized willow bark (Salix sps.), 
usually red or arroyo willow. This 
adds a pleasant flavor, and was 
apparently used in traditional 
American Indian smoking blends. A 
tea from the willow bark has effects 
similar to aspirin, and can be drunk 
or applied to wounds to relieve pain. 
In fact, the original aspirin came 
from the inner bark of willows, which 
contains salicin. We have heard some 
folks say that smoking the willow 
bark in their mixes also provides 
some pain-relieving qualities. That’s 
not been my experience, but you can 
try it and see what you experience.

 I add the dried leaves of mullein. 
Mullein (Verbascum thapsus) is now 
a common weed in the U.S., though 
it’s a European native. Of the many 
virtues of mullein, it is good in a 
tea for breathing problems, even 
asthma. Interestingly, mullein has 
long been smoked to improve the 
breathing passages. If you’re going 
to smoke, you really ought to include 
mullein in your mix. The large 
leaves of mullein have the texture of 
flannel. I generally pick leaves from 
the first year growth. Mullein lives 
for two years, and in the second year 
it sends up a tall flower spike and 
produces smaller leaves. (By the way, 
these fresh leaves make pretty good 
toilet paper). Mullein is common 
throughout the country in fields and 
along streams.

 I usually add a little bit of mugwort 
to my mix -- no more than about 
1/5 of the mix -- since it produces a 
very pleasant aroma when burned. 
Mugwort (Artemisia sps.) is found 
along streams and the dried leaves, 
rolled into a cigar shape, were 
used by early Native American in 
Southern California as punks for 
transporting coals. When I collect 
mugwort for smoking, I typically 
just collect the leaves from the lower 
stalk of the plant that have dried 
on the plant. On the other hand, if 
I am collecting the leaves for their 
medicinal values, I would collect the 
leaves green, clean them, and then 
dry them for storage. 

 There are other herbs that I 
sometimes add in various amounts. 
I like the leaves of passionflower 
(Passiflora sps.), a somewhat 
common vining plant throughout 
much of the west, the south, Europe, 
Mexico, and even the Hawaiian 
islands. The leaves have a sweet odor 
and don’t seem to irritate the throat 
or mouth. Medicinally, the tea from 
passionflower is drunk in cases 
of insomnia or nervousness. The 
flowers are used medicinally also, 
but I usually only smoke the leaves. 

 I also add a small amount of 
Damiana leaves to the blend which I 
buy from the health food store. This 
is a plant which supposedly grows in 
the wild around, but it is a plant I do 
not know and haven’t encountered it. 
It makes a delicious tea, and a very 
pleasant smoke. Damiana leaves were 
also smoked by the ancient Aztecs. I 
have long enjoyed the fragrance of 
the damiana tea, and it does create a 
pleasant aroma when smoked. 

 When I have it, I add a few 
pulverized pieces of sweetgrass 
braids to the smoking blend.

 Yerba Santa (Eriodictyon sps.) 
is a common southwestern herb 
found in dry and desert-like places. 
It is very fragrant, and usually 
sticky. There are several varieties, 
and all have a history of being used 
as a tea for breathing and bronchial 
problems. It is sometimes added 
to smoking mixes for its fragrance, 
and apparently because some folks 
believe that the beneficial effects on 
the lungs and bronchial tract still 
carryover when you smoke it.

 Interestingly, you’ll notice that 
many of the herbs I have listed are 
frequently used as the primary 
remedy for coughs, sore throats, 
asthmatic conditions, etc. At the very 
least, there is the presumption that 
by smoking herbs that are generally 
beneficial to the throat and lungs, 
you will be somewhat counteracting 
the harmful effects of the smoke. 
Whether this has any real scientific 
basis is uncertain.

 Coltsfoot is an herb commonly 
found along roadside ditches and 
wet areas in the eastern parts of the 
United States. It is a two year plant, 
and the large first year leaves are the 
ones typically gathered for smoking. 
Coltsfoot has been used as a smoke 
for at least a few centuries, and there 
is the belief that it can actually be 
good for a sore throat to smoke 

 You can make your own blends 
and determine what you like. 

 I don’t smoke a lot – I might sit 
out back maybe once a month or 
so and smoke my hand-made elder 
pipe. I’m not addicted to it, like 
the person who can’t stop chain 
smoking commercial cigarettes. I 
simply likes to smoke occasionally, at 
special times, while thinking about a 
particular subject. 

 I am quick to reiterate that I am 
neither encouraging nor endorsing 
smoking of any sort. I certainly 
do not advocate the use of regular 
commercial tobacco, since its use 
is related to a host of diseases. But 
perhaps the use of wild nicotine-free 
herbs can help you cut down on the 
harmful tobacco. If you do choose to 
smoke, moderation is the key. 

 If you want to try some of these 
smoking mixes, but have no desire 
to collect the herbs yourself in 
the wild, you can purchase small 
amounts by going to Store at www. 

[Nyerges is the author of “How 
To Survive Anywhere.” He can be 
reached at Box 41834, Eagle Rock, CA 
90041, or www.ChristopherNyerges.

RICH Johnson

 Last year a 
friend of mine upgraded 
from GirlFriend 1.0 to 
Wife 1.0. He quickly 
discovered Wife 1.0 
took up a lot more 
memory than GirlFriend 
1.0. Additionally, Wife 
1.0 installs a security 
subroutine that constantly monitors all other 
computer activities. My friend is finding 
that some applications such as PokerNight 
10.3, BeerBash 2.5, and PubNight 7.0 are no 
longer able to run through the system at all, 
crashing the system when selected (even 
though they always worked fine before). 

 My friend also cautioned that Wife 1.0 
automatically installs undesired plug-
ins such as MotherInLaw 55.8, and 
BrotherInLaw Beta Release. The manual 
also warns users that any attempt to 
uninstall Wife 1.0 will result in a total 
computer crash and complete loss of 
memory cache. He has recommended to 
the software manufacturer that in Wife 2.0 
they add a “don’t remind me again” button, 
and a “minimize” button. 

 My other close friend decided to avoid 
all of the headaches associated with Wife 
1.0 by sticking with Girlfriend 2.0. Even 
there, my friend found many problems. 
Apparently you cannot install Girlfriend 
2.0 on top of Girlfriend 1.0. You must 
uninstall Girlfriend 1.0 first. User blogs say 
this is a long-standing bug of which users 
should be aware. Another problem with all 
versions of Girlfriend is continuous popup 
annoying messages about the advantages of 
upgrading to Wife 1.0.

 BUG ALERT: Wife 1.0 has an 
undocumented bug. If you try to install 
Mistress 1.1 before uninstalling Wife 1.0, 
Wife 1.0 will delete MSMoney or Quickbook 
files before doing the uninstall itself. Then 
Mistress 1.1 will refuse to install, claiming 
insufficient resources.

 My good friend Mary from Starbucks 
sent me a link to an extraordinary website: Christian artist 
Jon McNaughton has created beautiful 
paintings of Christ in very interesting 
situations. Be aware that it has a distinct 
conservative flavor to it. Nevertheless the 
artwork is magnificent. A lot of effort has 
gone into Mr. McNaughton’s work and 
whether you agree with his politics or not, 
the artwork can be enjoyed.

 I saw Mel Gibson’s movie “The Passion of 
the Christ” this last week for the first time. 
I didn’t want to see it just to see it. I wanted 
to wait for the right moment. That right 
moment was in the home of my friends 
Chuck and Lisa. I choose to believe it was 
a divine appointment to experience this 
extraordinary film. 

La Salle Honors Karen and John 
McAlister at the 12th Annual Crystal Ball

Pasadena, CA. - La Salle High School held it’s 12th Annual Crystal Ball entitled “Behind 
the Great Wall: A Night of Mystery and Wonder,” on April 15 at the Langham Huntington 
Hotel and Spa in Pasadena. The 2011 honorees and recipients of the Lasallian Volunteer 
of the Year Award were Mr. and Mrs. John McAlister P’08,’11,’14.


Our silent auction was held in the theme decorated Langham Ballroom foyer followed 
by the exciting live auction, award presentations and dinner in the beautifully decorated 
ballroom. Crystal Ball Chair, Liz Kwong P’12,’14, chose the theme for a magical night in 
China to share good fortune and delicious Asian delicacies in a celebration that provides 
an opportunity for our community to come together and enjoy the company of friends 
in an exotic setting, as well as support the programs and activities La Salle High School 
provides for its students.

The Crystal Ball is La Salle’s largest fundraiser of the year, with proceeds from the evening 
supporting our academic, athletic, student life, arts and financial aid programs. 

These funds most significantly support the San Miguel Scholarship Program as La Salle 
enrolls 5% of each entering freshman class into a need-based, tuition-free program for 
low-income families.

Generosity is a universal quality that brings blessings to all, including the giver. As a 
Chinese Proverb says, “If you always give, you will always have.”

La Salle Principal, Patrick Bonacci, AFSC and La Salle President, Dr. Richard 
Gray flank the 2011 Lasallian Volunteer on the Year Award recipients, Karen and 
John McAlister.