Herbs Useful in the Treatment of Alcohol Dependency
We know that when someone abuses alcohol, the liver takes a beating. Although herbs cannot stop alcohol abuse or grow a new liver, there are herbs that support liver functioning, protect the liver from damage and may curb cravings for alcohol.
Herbs may be effective as a primary therapy, but in the West they are most often used in supporting roles alongside conventional therapies. If you are in treatment for alcohol dependency or take medications, always consult your doctor or other treatment provider before adding herbs to your regimen.
If you are not in treatment and are interested in using herbs, it is always wise to consult a knowledgeable herbalist about useful things such as preparation and proper dosages.
Herbs Used for Alcohol Dependency
Milk thistle is an herb known for its liver-protecting qualities. The seeds of milk thistle contain silymarin, which helps the liver eliminate toxins, including alcohol, and viruses. Whole milk thistle seeds, or tinctures made from the seeds, are currently used in the in U.S. and Europe for liver protection and regeneration.
Recovering alcoholics, frequent drinkers, or people using harsh prescription or illicit drugs can benefit from taking milk thistle extract daily.
Reishi mushrooms and extracts have been part of Chinese and Japanese medicine for thousands of years. It is considered a tonic that benefits Qi, or our vital life energy, and is thought to promote longevity. Western researchers are interested in the mushroom’s anti-tumor and immune system boosting properties.
Reishi will treat high blood pressure, anxiety, insomnia, bronchitis and asthma, but it is especially valued as a treatment for hepatitis and other liver diseases. It benefits frequent drinkers by helping to prevent cirrhosis and “fatty-liver” that can result from alcohol abuse.
The starchy root of the perennial vine kudzu has been used in East Asia to balance the acidic property of many foods and is known for cooling “overheated” digestive tracts. Powdered kudzu is used in Asian cooking to thicken sauces.
Medicinally, kudzu reduces muscle pain and stiffness and promotes healthy blood circulation. It contains a beta-blocking compound that will slow a racing pulse and a compound that blocks estrogen from stimulating breast cancer cells.
Research indicates that Kudzu benefits alcohol abusers by decreasing the alcohol an individual consumes and it also helps prevent hangovers. The active ingredient responsible for these effects is daidzin, a plant estrogen and antioxidant. Daidzin is known to inhibit an enzyme called ALDH2 (mitochondrial aldehyde dehydrogenase) which is associated with alcoholism.
Tabernanthe iboga, a central African shrub, contains ibogaine, a psychoactive alkaloid used to treat drug and alcohol addiction. Ibogaine works by parking itself on dopamine, serotonin and opioid brain receptors, and this reduces cravings. Taking too much natural iboga is toxic, though an ibogaine analog has been manufactured and has no toxic side effects.
St. John’s Wort
Most of us know of St. John’s wort (Hypericum perforatum) as a remedy for depression. This herb is also able to dampen an individual’s desire for alcohol, and research using animals confirmed this herbal attribute. St. John’s wort may prove helpful in alcohol dependency treatment, preventing relapse and relieving withdrawal symptoms.