Herbal Therapy

Herbs are natural plant substances that have a variety of effects on the body. Many herbs have long been used in detoxification. Kudzu has the potential for moderating alcohol abuse. Kava and valerian can be used to treat the insomnia that accompanies withdrawal. Milk thistle has been shown to improve liver function.

The use of herbs in the recovery process may be most effective when combined with other strategies that support the whole person including nutrition, bodywork, acupuncture, relaxation and exercise.

Click here to learn more about herbal medicine from the University of Maryland.

Medline Plus (www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/druginfo/herb_All.html)
MedlinePlus, developed by the National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health, offers a section on 103 commonly used Herbs and Supplements covering background, evidence, dosing, safety, and interactions.

The University of Maryland Herbal Database (umm.edu/health/medical/altmed)
You can search by herb and learn about its uses, how to take it, side effects and possible interactions on 64 of the most commonly used herbs.

Withdrawal-Ease.com (withdrawal-ease.com)
This web site is dedicated to helping people manage their addiction to opiate pain killers. It offers an organic herbal/vitamin supplement designed to help relieve withdrawal symptoms, a blog on opiate addiction and the top ten reasons to stop taking pain killers.

Nutrition supplements, vitamins and herbs can be purchased online through various web sites such as Whole Health Products at www.wholehealthproducts.com, Integrative Therapeutics at www.integrativeinc.com and Vitamin Shoppe at www.vitaminshoppe.com.

RESEARCH: Takahashi M, Toduyama S. “Pharmacological and physiological effects of ginseng on actions induced by opioids and psychostimulants.” Methods & Findings in Experimental & Clinical Pharmacology. 20(1): 77-84, 1998.

This review summarizes studies that looked at the effects of ginseng on the actions of opioids and psychostimulants. Among the findings, ginseng was able to block the analgesic effects of opioids and inhibit tolerance to and dependence on morphine. Findings provide evidence that ginseng may be useful clinically for the prevention and treatment of morphine, cocaine, and methamphetamine dependence.

Akhondzadeh S. Kashani L, et al. "Passionflower in the treatment of opiates withdrawal: a double-blind randomized controlled trial." Journal of Clinical Pharmacy & Therapeutics. 26(5):369-73, 2001.

Clonidine-based therapies are used to treat the physical symptoms of withdrawal during opiate detoxification, but have not effectively addressed associated mental symptoms such as anxiety. The herbal extract Passionflower has been successfully used in the management of anxiety, and in this study the use of a daily dose of 60 drops of passionflower extract with a maximum daily dose of 0.8 mg of clonidine showed a significant superiority over clonidine alone in the management of mental symptoms associated with detoxification.

Lu L, Liu Y, Zhu W, et al. Traditional medicine in the treatment of drug addiction. Am J Drug Alcohol Abuse. 2009;35(1):1-11.

This review was prepared by the National Institute on Drug Dependence, Peking University, China. Clinical trials were rare for herbal remedies. Radix Puerariae showed the most promising level of effectiveness for alcoholism. Ginseng and Kava lack efficacy data in addictions, and Kava can be toxic for the liver. Thunbergia laurifolia can protect against alcoholic liver toxicity. Withania somnifera and Salvia miltiorrhiza have no data on effectiveness, but can reduce morphine tolerance and alcohol intake in animal models. Traditional herbal treatments can complement western drug therapies for drug withdrawal and possibly relapse prevention. However, herbal treatments need testing as additional therapies to reduce doses and durations of standard drug therapies.

Herbal therapy may be most effective when used in conjunction with other strategies that support the whole person including nutrition, bodywork, acupuncture, relaxation and exercise.

Updated February 22, 2017