London: A plant extract commonly used in Eastern Europe to help smokers kick the habit, appears to work much better than nicotine replacement patches and gums, scientists say.

Cytisine is an alkaloid extract from the laburnum or golden rain tree (Laburnum anagyroides), which grows all over Europe. It works by blocking nicotine’s access to the brain’s pleasure receptors. Like nicotine, cytisine is toxic when ingested in large amounts but is safe at low doses. It is produced commercially mainly in Bulgaria and Poland, and has been used as a quitting aid in eastern European countries since the 1960s. Researchers in New Zealand have conducted a fresh trial of cytisine. They recruited 1,310 smokers who intended to quit and gave exactly half of them cytisine as a course of tablets, taken daily in diminishing doses for 25 days.

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