Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Herbal & Natural Treatments of Alcoholism

Excerpted from the University of Maryland Medical Center's website, thanks gang, this is some excellent information. Check their website for some of the best all-encompassing, mostly unbiased medical knowledge I've found.

Herbs

The use of herbs is a time-honored approach to strengthening the body and treating disease. Herbs, however, contain active substances that can trigger side effects and interact with other herbs, supplements, or medications. For these reasons, herbs should be taken with care and only under the supervision of a practitioner knowledgeable in the field of herbal medicine.

Luckily this isn't a problem if you aren't on anything else! Ha! Take that Western Medicine! I haven't had any of your silly pills in six years! Anyway, moving on...

Evening Primrose (Oenothera biennis)

Although more conclusive research is needed, there is some evidence to suggest that this herb may lessen cravings for alcohol. Evening primrose is often used as an oil extracted from the seed of this herb. This is commonly called EPO. The main active ingredient of EPO is gamma-linolenic acid (GLA), an omega-6 fatty acid that can also be found in borage and black currant oils.

Ginseng

American and Asian ginseng (Panax quinquefolium and Panax ginseng respectively) may help treat alcohol intoxication because each of these herbs speed up the metabolism (break down) of alcohol. Faster break down clears alcohol from your body more quickly. In addition, animal research suggests that Asian ginseng may reduce the amount of alcohol that is absorbed from the stomach.

Milk Thistle (Silybum marianum)

Some studies evaluating milk thistle for the treatment of alcoholic liver disease have found significant improvements in liver function with use of this herb. People with the mildest form of alcohol-related liver damage seem to improve the most. Milk thistle is less effective for those with severe liver disease such as cirrhosis. (Cirrhosis is characterized by scarring and permanent, non-reversible damage to the liver. It is often referred to as end-stage liver disease.)

St. John's Wort (Hypericum perforatum)

Those with depression and alcoholism share certain similarities in brain chemical activity. In addition, some people (especially men) who are depressed may mask their feelings or try to cope with their low mood by drinking alcohol. For these reasons, researchers have considered whether St. John's Wort, often used to treat depression, may help reduce alcohol consumption. Animal studies suggest that this may prove to be an appropriate use of this herb. St. John's Wort interacts with many different medications. It is particularly important, therefore, that you check with your doctor before using.

Others

Additional herbs that an herbal specialist might consider to support you while undergoing treatment for alcoholism include:

* Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale): Traditionally used for liver-related problems and as a nutritional support because it is rich in vitamins and minerals. Tends to work well with milk thistle.
* Skullcap (Scutellaria lateriflora): Traditionally used for tension and anxiety, this herb may help ease the withdrawal process.

Homeopathy

There have been few studies examining the effectiveness of specific homeopathic remedies. Professional homeopaths, however, may recommend a treatment for alcoholism based on their knowledge and clinical experience. Before prescribing a remedy, homeopaths take into account a person's constitutional type. In homeopathic terms, a person's constitution is his or her physical, emotional, and intellectual makeup. An experienced homeopath assesses all of these factors when determining the most appropriate remedy for a particular individual. The following are a few examples of remedies that an experienced homeopath might consider for symptoms related to alcohol abuse or withdrawal:

* Arsenicum album for anxiety and compulsiveness, with nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea
* Nux vomica for irritability and compulsiveness with constipation, nausea, and vomiting
* Lachesis for cravings for alcohol, headaches, and difficulty swallowing
* Staphysagria for angry individuals who tend to suppress their emotions and may have been abused physically, sexually, or psychologically in the past

Mind/Body Medicine

Cognitive-behavioral therapy with a psychologist or psychiatrist is a very effective treatment approach for alcohol addiction. This type of therapy, which is geared toward restructuring your beliefs and thought process about drinking, can help you cope with stress and control your behavior. Talk to your health care provider about finding a qualified cognitive-behavioral therapist.
Acupuncture

Acupuncture has shown potential as an effective treatment for addiction, according to a 1997 Consensus Statement by the National Institutes of Health. While some but not all studies of acupuncture for the treatment of alcohol abuse have shown benefit, many addiction programs that currently offer acupuncture report that people appear to "like acupuncture" and, in many cases, want to continue with their detox program for longer periods of time when acupuncture is provided as a treatment option. This is very important since attendance is essential for the success of treatment.

Acupuncturists treat people with alcoholism based on an individualized assessment of the excesses and deficiencies of qi located in various meridians. In the case of alcoholism, a qi deficiency is usually detected in the liver meridian, while the gallbladder meridian tends to contain excess qi. In addition to performing needling treatment, acupuncturists may employ other methods such as moxibustion (a technique in which the herb mugwort is burned over specific acupuncture points). Although not all studies agree, auricular acupuncture may be particularly beneficial.
Traditional Chinese Medicine

Kudzu (Pueraria lobata)

Although a modern day scientific study suggests that this Chinese herb does not reduce cravings for alcohol or improve one's chances of staying sober, traditional use does include treatment of alcoholism. This one study was quite small; therefore, this traditional use of kudzu requires more thorough research to determine whether it is safe and effective or not.

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