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Cream of tartar to quit smoking: Too simple to be true

Have you heard that mixing cream of tartar with orange juice can help flush nicotine from your body and help you quit smoking faster? You are not alone… This story has been circulating for a few years now. Today we are here to bust some myths about cream of tartar and set the record straight!

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What is the original claim?

The claim that cream of tartar helps you quit smoking stems from the fact that it is high in potassium. 

The original claim is that the “Potassium encourages your adrenal glands to work in conjunction with the rest of your body and eliminate toxins…” (like nicotine). 

This claim makes the following assumptions:

  • Potassium levels are low in people who smoke
  • Due to these low levels, the adrenal glands don’t work sufficiently
  • The adrenal glands are responsible for metabolizing toxins like nicotine
  • When you have diarrhoea/ excessive fluid loss, toxins like nicotine are excreted

What exactly is cream of tartar?

Its chemical name is potassium bitartrate or potassium hydrogen tartrate. It occurs naturally as a byproduct of winemaking. Tartaric acid (or wine acid) mixes with potassium to form crystals that are commonly referred to as wine diamonds. These crystals are filtered out of the wine through a process called cold stabilization and then dried and ground to a fine powder. We then purchase it in this form to use. 

cream of tartar to quit smoking

What can we use it for?

Cream of tartar has a variety of uses, such as:

  • Stabilising egg whites and whipped cream
  • Prevent caking of dry ingredients in baking
  • Prevent sugar syrups from crystalizing
  • Used as a component of baking powder
  • Used to make homemade playdough
  • When mixed with an acid is used as a cleaning agent
  • A home remedy for constipation (i.e. as a laxative)

Why is potassium an important nutrient in the human body?

Potassium is an essential mineral. This means that the human body doesn’t make it on its own and that we need to consume it as part of a healthy diet. Most of the potassium that is stored in the body can be found intracellularly. This means that it is inside the cell. This is important because it works together with other minerals, like sodium, to maintain water balance through osmosis and also active transport. 

It also works together with calcium to regulate muscle contractions and is also vital for cellular growth. Due to the role it plays in muscle contractions, having very high or very low potassium levels (known in the medical world as hypo and hyperkalemia respectively) means that it can have a dramatic impact on your heart. After all, the heart is a muscle. 

Symptoms of hyperkalemia include muscle weakness, paralysis, respiratory failure and changes in heart rhythm (known as arrhythmias). It is highly unlikely that you will ‘overdose’ on potassium through natural food sources. Causes of hyperkalemia are more closely tied to clinical settings, or the over consumption of supplements. Potassium is mainly absorbed in the small intestine and most of it is excreted in the urine. 

Potassium Rich Foods
Potassium Rich Foods

How does smoking affect your micronutrient status?

Smoking increases your risk of disease through a number of mechanisms. One is through an increase in inflammation. Not only does smoking directly instigate inflammation, but it also decreases the levels of anti-inflammatory nutrients in the body (like vitamin C and beta carotene). This means that the body has less defence systems against the inflammatory attack of smoking. 

oranges vitamin C

A number of studies have been conducted to see how smoking affects other micronutrients in the body. When it comes to potassium, most of the research points to the fact that smoking increases levels of potassium in the blood. 

Currently, there is no evidence to suggest that smoking lowers potassium levels or leads to hypokalemia. 

Where do the adrenal glands fit in?

The adrenal glands located on top of each kidney are responsible for the secretion of a number of important hormones like adrenaline, cortisol and aldosterone (to name but a few). 

Aldosterone helps the kidneys to maintain fluid balance and blood pressure by regulating potassium, sodium and water levels. In other words, aldosterone tells your kidneys how much to concentrate or dilute your urine depending on what your body needs.

Potassium does not ‘activate’ the adrenal glands.

adrenal glands activated

What does cream of tartar do to our body if we consume it?

When you consume cream of tartar, it has a laxative effect pulling water into your bowels. This makes your stool soft. When consumed at higher levels, this can cause diarrhoea and subsequently you may lose excessive amounts of water and other important electrolytes. 

Many people assume that diarrhoea is a sign of the body ‘cleansing’ itself of toxins, which in this case is nicotine. There is no evidence that nicotine levels are lowered in patients that experience diarrhoea. 

How is nicotine excreted?

When you smoke, nicotine enters the lungs via the smoke particles. From your lungs it is deposited into the bloodstream where it is transported to various organs, including your brain. It is then rapidly metabolized by your liver. Once it has been metabolized in the liver, the broken down components are excreted in your urine. 

The rate at which urine is made does not affect how quickly the liver gets through the nicotine load, because urine is formed after the fact. 

Will flushing nicotine quickly help you quit smoking?

Nicotine is one of the chemicals in cigarettes that make them addictive. This home remedy proposes that if the nicotine is flushed from your system more rapidly, that you will be able to quit smoking more quickly. This is not necessarily true. 

If you speed up nicotine clearance, you will most likely suffer from more intense cravings, not fewer. 

Why do they mix the cream of tartar with orange juice?

This home remedy also encourages that you have orange juice with your cream of tartar. Their reasoning? Because you are “doing all this eliminating of waste”. As we have learned, smokers already have low levels of vitamin C in their blood. By using this home remedy, you may cause additional deficiencies. 

As a smoker, you should eat more vitamin C containing fruits and vegetables and possibly also take a vitamin C supplement to correct any deficiencies that you may have. 

orange juice vitamin C

The saving grace

Anecdotal evidence shows that adding cream of tartar to orange juice may alter your perception of taste, making your cigarette taste terrible. While some research does show that fruits and vegetables can help do this, there is no evidence to support that cream of tartar and orange juice have the same effects. 

What is the worst that could happen?

Many of you may be wondering, “well, what is the worst that could happen?”. This paper describes two instances where an excessive amount of cream of tartar was consumed as part of a ‘cleansing’ program. In both cases, 6 tablespoons were consumed in a short period of time. This is about 3.5 x the recommended intake. This quantity caused both patients to develop life threatening hyperkalemia (or very high potassium levels) and abnormal heart rhythms. Both patients received swift medical care and were able to be stabilized. Neither suffered long term damage and were discharged the following day. However, had they not received care, this amount of potassium could have resulted in life threatening consequences. 

We don’t know about you, but this risk seems too high for very low reward. 

Whilst cream of tartar is helpful in food production and to clean certain items, it is not meant to be consumed in large quantities. If you want to stop smoking, you should rather look to methods that support you and your subconscious mind in maintaining your commitment to stop your addiction. 

Quit: Hypnosis to Stop Smoking is the ideal app to help you dissolve your cravings for cigarettes. We are here to help protect your life and help you live a smoke free life. 

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