Toking on a friend’s mint-infused joint inspired Zayaan Khan to launch Smokables, a new line of 100% tobacco-free, nicotine-free botanical herbs that you can smoke/vape as is, or infuse with your favourite flower.
She’s best-known as an artist, academic and activist who uses Story to explore the human connection to food, the land, our ancestral heritage and one another but now the inimitable Zayaan Khan is turning her attention to the fine art of growing, curing and blending artisanal herbs intended as a tobacco-free alternative mix for weed, or as a smooth smoke all on its own.
KushKush founder, Jo Hope, caught up with the founder of Smokables to find out more.
Jo Hope: Zayaan, we’re so excited to launch Smokables on KushKush, especially because your product is inspired by, and backed up by, your own academic research and artistic expression. Tell us, how did Smokables begin?
Zayaan Khan: It was actually a happy co-incidence. I was at an electronic music festival in 2014 and a friend mixed mint into his joint, which tasted delicious. I was blown away by the realisation that of course tobacco was not the only mix option. After that, I started working with plants intentionally, experimenting with blending. In the beginning, I just added everything together, which didn't work because different bodies react in different ways to plant smoke but six years – and many experiments later - the blends are expertly curated.
JH: So different strains resonate differently for different people – just like weed?
ZK: Exactly. Phytochemicals (plant compounds) respond differently to our individual makeup. Incinerating a plant and inhaling that smoke into your body causes different reactions in the body, much quicker than eating or using it topically as it goes straight into the bloodstream.
JH: Can you vape Smokables?
ZK: Absolutely, the same way you vape ganja flower. It's the same concept, and it works in the same way.
JH: How does Smokables tie in with your other work?
ZK: Smoking is an ancient cultural tradition from around the world but colonialism put the focus on tobacco as the plant to smoke for the past four or five centuries. Its toxicity and monopolisation of the industry gave smoking a bad reputation. Smokables was borne out of the socio-political viewpoint that you can still honour the age-old ritual of smoking but not damage your health.
JH: Why would the KushKush womxn choose Smokables?
ZK: Blending adds value to blunts and joints. Our blends are all 100% nicotine-free and tobacco-free; they’re food-grade and are carefully blended to a low humidity smoking sweet-spot, which results in a smoother smoke and amazing, pronounced flavours. You’ll taste liquorice and lobelia in the Bittersweet, spearmint and mielie silks in the Menthol, rose and marshmallow leaf in the Sweet and mullein flowers and sage in the Savoury. My repeat clients buy in bulk and our best seller is the Sweet because they rate smoking that blend as a semi-spiritual experience!
JH: Are there any side effects to smoking herbal blends?
ZK: Smoke is not as harsh as tobacco: it moves through the body swiftly so people don't wake up with that ugh feeling in the morning. Still, we do a lot of testing and ask customers to fill out a feedback questionnaire so we know that some people do experience mild effects, for instance, Menthol can stimulate the gut, so best only smoke it in the morning.
JH: Why is a low humidity important?
ZK: It allows for the flavour to develop to its full potential and results in a more pleasurable smoke. We soak the herbs in our own special secret sauce and this makes all the difference.
JH: What are your favourite strains of weed to blend Smokables with?
ZK: I’m loving Orange Kush. My friend and I recently smoked it on the beach and it was like being on mushrooms: an incredible aural experience where the world felt like an orchestra and we were witness to the perfection of the ocean at low tide.
JH: What about high-CBD cannabis?
ZK: Yes! I’m so excited to encourage a new aesthetic and this is what people are now growing more of around the world. Even though we’re at the beginning of our journey, we can learn so much from other countries.
JH: Has your relationship with cannabis changed since becoming a mother?
Definitely. I'd taken a break from it but was struggling during pregnancy because I was very nauseous and fatigued, and had lost my highly-tuned sense of smell and taste. And now postpartum, it helped me regain my appetite, and my foodie ‘superpowers but also has really helped me manage my mental health and soften the emotional distortion that I’ve felt. I have a powerful relationship with this plant, made better by the pauses in between.
JH: Yes! People often think you have to be a consistent user of cannabis but actually often it’s more like waves of interaction.
ZK: Exactly. As a teenager, I was consuming more than I was eating so I cut it out completely but when I came back to it again, I found it to be healing and grounding. It’s been a totally different experience.
JH: Any mistakes you’re happy to share in your Smokables business journey?
ZK: Luckily, I don’t think I made too many mistakes. I did have some struggles finding the right fit in a graphic designer as well as some issues with the packaging which made me wonder what I was resisting spiritually on the business-making side of things. I finally realised I had to relinquish control and just let it all happen.
Follow @byzayaankhan to find out more and shop Smokables on KushKush here