Herbal Therapy

Herbs are natural plant substances that have a variety of effects on the body and the mind. 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.  All herbs can have side effects and possible interactions with other medications so it is best to speak with a health professional who is knowledgeable about herbs before taking them.

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 on these sites to learn more about herbal medicines: The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health at the NIH. and Medline Plus from the National Library of Medicine.

Medline Plus (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.

Natural Products Foundation (naturalproductsinfo.org)
Under Health Conditions A-Z select alcohol withdrawal, anxiety, depression, insomnia, or stress – and then click on supplements for an overview and research that has been done.  Under Vitamins & Herbs A-Z you can look up a specific vitamin, mineral or herb to find out more information on their uses and research.

Nutrition supplements, vitamins and herbs can be purchased online through various web sites such as Vitacost.com, iHerb.com, swansonvitaomins.com, Luckyvitamin.com, evitamins.com and Vitamin Shoppe.

RESEARCH: 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 12, 2019