Experts are praising a chemical that may be more effective than nicotine when it comes to helping people quit smoking. Cytisine, found in seeds from the golden rain tree, is cheap and natural, but only sold in a few Eastern and Central European countries. Researchers are hoping to change that after a study found 40% of smokers who took cytisine pills for 25 days said they hadn't smoked at all a month later, HealthDay News reports. Just 31% who used nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) for two months said they hadn't resumed the habit. A major appeal for low- and middle-income countries: Cytisine costs $20 to $30 per 25-day treatment compared to $100 to $700 per eight-week course of NRT, New Scientist reports.
Like nicotine, cytisine "alleviate[s] any urges to smoke and reduces the severity of nicotine withdrawal symptoms," a researcher says. "Plus, if you do smoke while using cytisine, it will be less satisfying—making quitting easier." The "old medication"—used since the 1960s and produced mainly in Bulgaria and Poland—was also more effective than NRT in helping smokers refrain from smoking in the first week, and after two and six months. However, "three out of every 10 people who used cytisine had a side effect, compared to two out of every 10 that used nicotine patches, gum and/or lozenges," an expert says. The side effects, including nausea and sleep disturbances, weren't serious and most sufferers said they would recommend cytisine anyway. (Guys, here's one good reason not to smoke.)