Herbal medicine is one of the oldest and most widespread forms of treatment for drinking problems. There are many plant origins of modern pharmaceuticals, such as digitalis (from the foxglove plant, quinine (from the cinchona tree), aspirin (from the willow tree), taxol (from the Pacific yew tree), artemisin (from the artemisia shrub), and both vincristine and vinblastine (from a species of the periwinkle plant). Until the last few decades, pharmaceutical research depended heavily on the search for pharmaceutically useful substances in plants.

The Chinese have long used roots of the Kudzu (a rapidly growing vine native to China) to treat alcohol abuse and also hangovers. Scientific research is currently underway to determine if any of the substances found in Kudzu (Pueraria lobata) are effective and the some of the results are promising. (Unfortunately, it also appears to increase the risk of developing cervical cancer by about 360% and possibly other cancers.) In addition, the Chinese have used milk thistle seeds to treat the liver and the Reishi mushroom to treat “fatty liver” due to alcohol abuse.

A number of plants including Iboga (Tabernanthe iboga), Asian ginseng(Panax ginseng), Red Sage (Salvia miltiorrhiza) and St. John’s wort (Hypericum perforatum) have shown promise for possible use in helping reduce alcohol consumption or drug use. A common feature among many such plants is that they may reduce alcohol absorption from the gastrointestinal system.

A wide variety of other herbals have been used in the treatment of alcoholics. They include:

  • American ginseng (Panax quinquefolius)
  • Angelica (Angelica archangelica)
  • Astragalus (Astragalus membranaceous)
  • Bupleurum (Radix bupleurum)
  • Cayenne pepper (Capsicum annuum)
  • Chamomile (Matricaria recutita)
  • Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale)
  • Evening Primrose (Cenothera biennis)
  • Ginkgo (Ginkgo biloba)
  • Goldenseal (Hydrastis canadensis)
  • Kava (Piper methysticum)
  • Kudzu (Pueraria lobata)
  • Milk thistle (Silybum marianum)
  • Passion flower (Passiflora incarnata)
  • Poison gooseberry (Withania somnifera)
  • Reishi mushroom (Ganoderma lucidum)
  • Siberian Ginseng (Eleutherococcus senticosus)
  • Skullcap (Scutellaria lateriflora)
  • Turmeric (Curcuma longa)
  • Valerian (Valeriana officinale)

Unfortunately, the herbal remedies being promoted on the internet and elsewhere are not regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Therefore, sellers routinely make completely unsubstantiated claims for their products. They also regularly fail to disclose any of the potential health risks posed by many herbals.

The good news is that there are many proven options for either reducing or eliminating alcohol consumption. Choices include Moderation Management, HAMS (Harm reduction, Abstinence, and Moderation Support), LifeRing, Women for Sobriety, SMART Recovery (Self-Management and Recovery Training), Rational Recovery, and the Life Process Program.

These programs are based on scientific principles and evidence-based methods instead of on philosophy or tradition.

Disclaimer: This website is informational only. It makes no suggestions or recommendations about alcohol, drinking, rehabs, programs, or any other matter and none should be inferred. Neither this website nor your host receives any compensation, directly or indirectly, from listing or describing any program. Such listing or description does not imply endorsement. [+]

References

  • Caral, M., Agabio, R., Bombardelli, E., Bourov, I., Gessa, G.L., Lobina, C., Morazzoni, P., Pani, M., Reali, R., Vacca, G., and Colombo, G. Potential use of medicinal plants in the treatment of alcoholism. Fitoterapia, 2000, 71, Suppl 1:S38-42.
  • Connors, Martha Schindler, and Altshuler, Larry. The Everything Guide to Herbal Remedies : an Easy-to-Use Reference for Natural Health Care. Avon, MA: Adams Media, 2009.
  • Cornell, Donna J. Alcohol Abuse Revolution : Complementary and Alternative Herbal Remedies from around the World to Reduce Alcohol Craving and Consumption and Prevent Alcoholism. Santa Rosa, CA: People Friendly Books, 2005.
  • Dasgupta, Amitava. Prescription or Poison?: the Benefits and Dangers of Herbal Remedies. Alameda, CA : Hunter House ; Berkeley, CA : Distributed by Publishers Group West, 2010.
  • Hanson, Dirk. The "Eight-Week Herbal Cure" for Alcoholism. thefix. 5/17/12. http://www.thefix.com/content/sobrexa-herbal-cure-alcoholism90118
  • Lukas, S.E., Penetar, D., Berko, J., Vicens, L., Palmer, C., Mallya, G., Macklin, E.A., and Lee. D.Y.  An extract of the Chinese herbal root kudzu reduces alcohol drinking by heavy drinkers in a naturalistic setting. Alcohol: Clinical and  Experimental Research, 2005, 29(5), 756-762.
  • Overstreet, D.H., Keung, W.M., Rezvani, A.H., Massi, M., and Lee, D.Y.Herbal remedies for alcoholism: promises and possible pitfalls. Alcohol: Clinical and Experimental Research, 2003, 27(2), 177-185.
  • Rezvani, A.H., Overstreet, D.H., Yang, Y., and Clark, E, Jr.Attenuation of alcohol intake by extract of Hypericum perforatum (St. John's Wort) in two different strains of alcohol-preferring rats. Alcohol and Alcoholism, 1999, 34(5), 699-705.

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