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Alcohol Addiction and Alternative Medicine – New Forms of Treatment That Show Promise
There are many traditional methods for dealing with alcohol abuse, such as rehabilitation, medication, psychotherapy, and 12-step programs. Yet, given the limited success of these alternatives, alternative medicine is receiving renewed attention. Indeed, herbal supplements, also known as botanical medicine or phytotherapy, are one of the oldest forms of healthcare known to mankind. In fact, herbs have been used as an integral part of medicine and healing in almost every culture throughout history.
The word drug actually comes from the Old Dutch word droog meaning ”to dry” – pharmacists, physicians and ancient healers often dried plants for medicinal use. Even today, about 25% of all prescription drugs are still derived from trees, shrubs, or herbs. The World Health Organization notes that about 74% of 119 plant-derived pharmaceuticals are used in modern medicine in ways that are directly related to their traditional uses as plant medicines by indigenous cultures.
The earliest texts were written by the Chinese in 2800 BC with instructions on how to use herbs as medicine. Shen Nung is believed to have written The Great Herbal (Pen Tsao) around this time. In this text he mentions about 350 plants, many of which are still used today. The first Sanskrit medical texts in India, Karaka Sambita and Susrata Sambita, like Chinese texts, describe the use of 700 plants. Listed here are the three primary herbs that have been studied in relation to alcoholism.
Many traditional medicines are also prepared from herbs such as aspirin, codeine, ephedrine, morphine and quinine. The birth control pill was also originally made from the Mexican yam. Overall, there are approximately 250,000 to 500,000 plants on Earth today but only about 5,000 plants have been extensively studied for their medicinal uses.
One reason for the lack of herbal medical studies may be that herbs, by their very nature, cannot be patented. Therefore, pharmaceutical companies may not have the exclusive right to sell certain products and consequently have no incentive to invest in testing or promoting them. Still, herbs are readily available everywhere and many have been studied for their effectiveness in alcohol addiction.
Kudzu (Pueria lobata) is a herb that is cooked with food in China and is also used in traditional Chinese medicine. It is used in an ancient Chinese text called Ben Cho Gang Mu (Li, 1590–1596 AD). It is a naturally growing weed and its root contains three major isoflavones: puerine, daidzein and daidzein. Kudzu was introduced to North America in 1876 in the southeastern United States. It was initially used to prevent soil erosion and spread rapidly, overtaking fields and buildings.
Preliminary research suggests that heavy drinkers who take kudzu extract consume less beer when given the opportunity to drink. Kudzu may therefore reduce the likelihood of relapse to the effects of the slip by reducing total alcohol consumption and heavy drinking patterns. However, kudzu does not appear to reduce alcohol cravings.
Women with hormone sensitive conditions should avoid kudzu. Some of these conditions include breast cancer, ovarian cancer, uterine cancer, endometriosis, and uterine fibroids. Using kudzu with other drugs with antiplatelet or anticoagulant effects may increase the risk of bleeding.
Another promising herb is milk thistle (Silybum marianum), which has been used for centuries in Europe as a remedy for liver problems. This herb has a remarkable ability to protect the liver from damage caused by alcohol and other toxins. Milk thistle protects the liver and stimulates bile secretion. It is used in the treatment of hepatitis and jaundice, as well as in cases where the liver is stressed by infection, excessive alcohol or chemotherapy.
Milk thistle is also known for its ability to cleanse and revitalize a damaged liver. It is widely used in alcoholic hepatitis, alcoholic fatty liver, liver cirrhosis, liver poisoning and viral hepatitis, as well as protecting the liver from the effects of hepatotoxic drugs.
The active ingredient in milk thistle is silymarin, a substance contained in the seeds. Clinical research suggests that when taken orally, milk thistle may be beneficial in reducing mortality and improving liver function tests in patients with alcoholic liver disease. Silymarin has successfully counteracted alcoholic cirrhosis in baboons and has been found to be effective against various liver lesions in rats. Silymarin was studied under controlled conditions in primates and found to antagonize alcohol-induced oxidative stress and prevent the development of alcohol-induced liver fibrosis.
In human patients with alcoholic liver disease, controlled trials of silymarin showed beneficial effects such as improved survival. Silymarin has been most extensively studied in alcohol-induced liver diseases. Overall mortality was lower in silymarin-treated patients compared with those receiving placebo. It may therefore be useful as an adjunct in the therapy of alcoholic liver disease.
Milk thistle may cause an allergic reaction in people sensitive to ragweed, chrysanthemums, marigolds and daisies. Women with hormone-sensitive conditions such as breast cancer, ovarian cancer, ovarian cancer, endometriosis, and uterine fibroids should avoid it. Milk thistle should not be taken with glucuronidated medications such as acetaminophen (Tylenol), atorvastatin (Lipitor), diazepam (Valium), digoxin, entacapone (Comton), irinotecan (Camtosar), lamotrigine (Lamectal), lorazepam (Ativan), lorazepam Mevacor), meprobamate , morphine and oxazepam (Serax).
Passionflower (Passiflora incarnata) is a woody, hairy, climbing vine. After Spain’s conquest of America, the European world knew nothing about it. In 1569, Spanish explorers discovered passionflowers in Peru and called them granadillas (small pomegranates). They believed that flowers symbolized the passion of Christ. Native Americans used them primarily as mild sedatives and knew these plants by various names such as maracock. The sedative and soporific effects of passionflower were described as early as the 17th century. The first report of passionflower’s analgesic effects came from North America in 1867.
Although many species are used for its sedative effects, including Passiflora quadrangularis, only Passiflora incarnate is processed on a wide, economic scale into medicinals and teas. It is commonly used for insomnia, gastrointestinal upset associated with anxiety or restlessness, generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), and opiate withdrawal symptoms. GAD is the most common anxiety disorder. Its primary symptoms are anxiety, motor tension, autonomic hyperactivity and cognitive vigilance.
In a study on passionflower and anxiety, the drug oxazepam showed more problems associated with impaired job performance than passionflower. The results suggest that passionflower is an effective agent for the management of GAD and has a lower incidence of job performance impairment compared to oxazepam, a distinct advantage. Passionflower therefore shows promise as an aid to anxiety associated with alcohol recovery.
More than 500 species of passionflower have been identified and more than 400 artificial hybrids have been created. In 1995, Germany’s Commission E approved passionflower as an over-the-counter medicine for anxiety disorders. Its worldwide clinical applications are evident that Passiflora incarnata is cited as an official herbal medicine in British Herbal Pharmacopoeia 1983, United States Homeopathic Pharmacopoeia 1981, Homeopathic Pharmacopoeia of India 1974 and Pharmacopoeia, France and Germany, Egypt and German medicine. Switzerland. In the US, passionflower is on the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition’s (CFSAN) Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS) list.
Another therapy drug, clonidine, has been used as the main protocol for opiate detoxification for many years. However, clonidine has some limitations, including a lack of efficacy on psychotic symptoms. However, recent studies have shown that clonidine and passionflower combined are significantly superior to clonidine in the management of psychotic symptoms. These findings suggest that passionflower may be an effective agent in the management of opiate addiction.
Overall, recent findings on the effectiveness of herbal supplements in treating alcohol addiction are promising. Ultimately, a comprehensive approach to recovery — including traditional medicine and non-traditional techniques — offers the greatest chance for a full recovery. When you consider the lack of successful alcohol recovery programs available, all viable options must be used to help the millions of people suffering worldwide.
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