Alternatively Speaking: A healthy addiction

Alternative medicine expert Natalie Marx answers your questions: Are there any herbs which can help overcome addiction?

August 20, 2012 12:25

Alcohol 370. (photo credit: Wikicommons)

Q. Dear Natalie, although I have managed to keep it a secret from my friends and family, I think that I may have an alcohol addiction. I have started seeing a counselor but I wondered if you can recommend any herbs that can help my cravings?

There are indeed certain herbs which can help to treat the effects of alcoholism on the liver, therefore easing the withdrawal symptoms helping to curb alcohol cravings. A wonderful liver tonic for those fighting alcoholism is Milk Thistle. Taking milk thistle helps to treat alcohol-induced liver damage and eases the withdrawal symptoms by improving liver function. Milk thistle is most beneficial for people with mild alcohol-related liver damage. Milk thistle helps regenerate damaged liver cells and also prevents harmful toxins from entering the cells.

Taking dandelion herb also helps to protect your liver from the effects of alcohol dependency. It is frequently used in traditional medicine to treat liver problems and is often taken together with milk thistle. Dandelion will also help to ease the symptoms of alcohol withdrawal.

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Passionflower is a common herbal treatment for anxiety and drug addiction including those battling with alcoholism. Passionflower can help to ease both the physical and emotional symptoms of alcohol withdrawal.

The traditional Chinese herb kudzu may also reduce your cravings for alcohol. Take 3 to 5 g per day of kudzu root extract each day or I recommend between 3 to 4 ml of tincture three times daily.

Q. Dear Natalie, I am totally addicted to coffee! I drink between 4-5 cups daily. Each time I try to reduce my intake I suffer from headaches, irritability and cravings for coffee! Are there any herbs which can help overcome my addiction?

Several different herbs offer relief for caffeine withdrawal, many of which are available in local natural health food stores. Panax Ginseng is an effective herbal therapy for symptoms of caffeine withdrawal (sometimes referred to as Chinese or Korean Ginseng). It works as an adaptogen, by helping to offset the negative physical effects of stress, which are often increased during caffeine withdrawal. It has mild stimulant properties which can create feelings of focus and alertness, without the negative side effects of coffee such as nervousness and insomnia.

Taking ginseng will enhance your energy and cognitive functioning as the herb works to raise blood pressure. If you have high blood pressure or other cardiovascular conditions you should consult a doctor before using panax ginseng.

The root of the Dandelion flower is often roasted and brewed into a coffee-like beverage. Use this as a coffee substitute since it is similar both in appearance and flavor to coffee. It contains no caffeine or stimulants; however it has diuretic and laxative effects similar to those of caffeine. I also use dandelion root as a popular ingredient in many detoxification and liver-cleansing prescriptions, which in this case may help speed the elimination of caffeine from your body with less chance of headaches occurring.

A wonderful Indian remedy called Sidacordifolia can be a very effective remedy for the fatigue and headache of caffeine withdrawal. It contains stimulants which have properties similar to those of caffeine, increasing both energy and alertness. Since it constricts blood vessels, Sidacordifolia has anti-inflammatory properties and may help relieve headaches associated with caffeine withdrawal. If you suffer from cardiovascular conditions avoid using Sidacordifolia. Side effects may be increased when the herb is taken with other stimulants like caffeine or amphetamines. It is a good idea to brew Sidacordifolia into a tea.

Q. Dear Natalie, is it possible to beat a sugar addiction with herbs? I find it impossible to resist my sugar cravings.

A. Fortunately, there are several medicinal herbs which can help to address sugar cravings with few or no side effects. Both American and Asian ginsengs assist the body to deal with stress without fluctuations in appetite, mood or energy levels. According to The National Institutes of Health, there is good scientific evidence that Ginseng is a good treatment for high blood sugar levels. Those who crave sugar during times of stress will benefit from regular ginseng supplementation. It can therefore help reduce the risk of unhealthy blood sugar fluctuations.

In Ayurvedic medicine, gymnema has been used for centuries as a treatment for sugar cravings and diabetes. A study made in 1992 in the medical journal Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition proved that compounds in gymnema temporarily fill the mouth with a sweet flavor and after chewing gymnema, the subjects experience a decreased response to sugar. Gymnema works by making sweet foods less satisfying, that way curbing the body's craving. As a substitute when you have a sugar craving, try chewing the mild sweet tasting fenugreek seeds or leaves.

Probably the most popular substitute for sugar today is stevia. Unlike artificial sweeteners, stevia actually increases insulin production and slightly reduces blood sugar. Try using stevia powder as a sweetener in drinks and desserts.

This column is brought to you as general information only and unless stated otherwise is not medical advice nor is it based on medical experiments. This column is not a substitute for medical advice or treatment for specific medical conditions. For more information about specific problems, please contact a doctor.

Natalie runs a clinic both in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem offering a wide range of natural treatment, including a women’s clinic every Wednesday. Healing is achieved using homeopathy, reflexology, massage, flower remedies and nutritional wisdom.

To make an appointment please email [email protected].

Ask Natalie: If you have a health query and would like an alternative answer then email Natalie with your question at [email protected].

Someone Once Said: "Every worthwhile accomplishment, big or little, has its stages of drudgery and triumph; a beginning, a struggle and a victory."

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