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Alcohol Addiction and Alternative Medicine – New Forms of Treatment That Show Promise
There are many traditional ways to deal with alcohol abuse, such as rehabilitation, medication, psychotherapy, and 12-step programs. Yet, given the limited success of these options, alternative medicine is receiving renewed attention. In fact, herbal supplements, also known as botanical medicine or phytotherapy, are the oldest form of health care 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 medicine actually comes from the old Dutch word droog, meaning “to dry” – as apothecaries, doctors and ancient healers often dried plants for medicinal use. Even today, about 25% of all prescription drugs are derived from trees, shrubs, or herbs. The World Health Organization notes that about 74% of the 119 herbal medicines are used in modern medicine in ways that are directly related to the use of indigenous cultures as traditional herbal medicines.
The earliest known texts with instructions for using herbs as medicine were written by the Chinese around 2800 BC. It is believed that Shen Nung wrote the Great Herb (Pen Ts’ao) at this time. In this text, he cites about 350 plants, many of which are still used today. In India, the first Sanskrit medical texts, Caraka Sambita and Sushrata Sambita, which are similar in age to Chinese texts, describe the use of 700 plants. Here are three primary herbs that have been studied in relation to alcohol addiction.
Many traditional medicines are also made from herbs such as aspirin, codeine, ephedrine, morphine and quinine. Even the birth control pill was originally derived from the Mexican yam. In total, there are an estimated 250,000 to 500,000 plants on Earth today, but only about 5,000 have been thoroughly studied for medicinal use.
One of the reasons for the lack of herbal medicine studies may be that herbs, by their very nature, are not patentable. Hence, drug companies cannot have exclusive rights to sell a particular drug, and consequently have no incentive to invest in testing or promoting it. Still, herbs are readily available everywhere and many have been studied for their effectiveness against alcohol addiction.
Kudzu (Pueraria Lobata) is an herb that is cooked with food in China and is also used in traditional Chinese medicine. Its use dates back to an ancient Chinese text called Ben Cho Gang Mu (Li, 1590–1596 AD). It is a naturally growing weed and its root contains three main isoflavones: puerarin, daidzin and daidzein. Kudzu was introduced to North America in 1876 in the southeastern United States. Initially used to prevent soil erosion, it quickly spread, overtaking farms and buildings.
Preliminary research suggests that heavy drinkers who take kudzu extract consume less beer when given the chance. So kudzu can minimize the chance of a slip resulting in a full relapse by reducing overall alcohol consumption and binge drinking. Still, kudzu doesn’t seem to reduce cravings for alcohol.
Women with hormone-sensitive conditions should avoid kudzu. Some of these conditions include breast cancer, uterine cancer, ovarian cancer, endometriosis, and uterine fibroids. Kudzu may increase the risk of bleeding when used with other antiplatelet or anticoagulation medications.
Another promising herb is milk thistle (Silybum marianum), which has been used in Europe for centuries to treat liver problems. This herb has a remarkable ability to protect the liver from damage caused by alcohol and other intoxications. Milk thistle protects the liver and stimulates the secretion of bile. It has been used to treat hepatitis and jaundice, and in conditions where the liver is under stress from infection, excessive alcohol, or chemotherapy.
Milk thistle is also known for its ability to cleanse and rejuvenate a damaged liver. It is widely used to treat alcoholic hepatitis, alcoholic fatty liver, liver cirrhosis, liver poisoning and viral hepatitis, as well as to protect the liver from the effects of hepatotoxic drugs.
The active ingredient of milk thistle is silymarin, a substance found in the seeds. Clinical research suggests that taken by mouth, milk thistle may be beneficial in reducing mortality and improving liver function tests in patients with alcoholic liver disease. Silymarin successfully counteracted alcoholic liver cirrhosis in baboons and was effective against various liver injuries in rodents. Silymarin has been studied in primates under controlled conditions and found to counteract alcohol-induced oxidative stress and delay alcohol-induced liver fibrosis.
Controlled studies of silymarin in human patients with alcoholic liver disease have shown beneficial effects, such as improved survival. Silymarin has been studied most extensively in alcohol-induced liver disease. All-cause mortality was lower in silymarin-treated patients than in placebo-treated patients. Therefore, it can be useful as an adjuvant in the therapy of alcoholic liver disease.
Milk thistle can cause an allergic reaction in people who are sensitive to ragweed, chrysanthemums, marigolds and daisies. Women with hormone-sensitive conditions such as breast cancer, uterine cancer, ovarian cancer, endometriosis, and uterine fibroids should avoid it. Milk thistle should not be taken with glucuronidated drugs such as acetaminophen (Tylenol), atorvastatin (Lipitor), diazepam (Valium), digoxin, entacapone (Comtan), irinotecan (Camptosar), lamotrigine (Lamictal), lorazepam (Ativan), lovastatin. Mevacor), meprobamate, morphine, and oxazepam (Serax).
Passionflower (Passiflora incarnata) is a woody, hairy, climbing vine. The European world only knew about it after the Spanish conquest of America. In 1569, Spanish explorers discovered the passion flower in Peru and named it granadilla (small pomegranate). The flowers were thought to represent the passion of Christ. Native Americans used them primarily as a mild sedative and knew these plants by various names, such as maracock. The sedative and sleep-inducing effect of passionflower was already described in the 17th century. The first reports of the pain-relieving effect of passionflower came from North America in 1867.
Although several species have been used for their sedative effects, including Passiflora quadrangularis, only Passiflora incarnata is processed into medicines and teas on a large, economic scale. It is commonly used for insomnia, anxious or irritable gastrointestinal disorders, 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 alertness.
In a study on passionflower and anxiety, the drug Oxazepam showed significantly more problems with impaired work performance than passionflower. The results suggest that passionflower is an effective agent in the treatment of GAD, and the low incidence of work performance impairment compared to oxazepam is a distinct advantage. Therefore, passion flower shows promise as a treatment for 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, the German Committee E approved passionflower as an over-the-counter medicine for nervous restlessness. Its worldwide clinical applications are evident in the inclusion of Passiflora incarnata as an official herbal medicine in the British Herbal Pharmacopoeia 1983, the United States Homeopathic Pharmacopoeia 1981, the Indian Homeopathic Pharmacopoeia 1974, and the pharmacopoeias of Egypt, France, Germany, and Germany. Switzerland. In the United States, passionflower is listed as generally recognized as safe (GRAS) by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition (CFSAN).
Another therapeutic drug, clonidine, has been used for several years as the main protocol for opiate detoxification. Still, clonidine has limitations, including lack of efficacy for mental symptoms. However, recent studies have shown that clonidine and passionflower together are significantly better than clonidine alone in treating mental symptoms. These findings suggest that passionflower may be an effective agent in the treatment of opiate withdrawal.
Overall, recent findings regarding the effectiveness of herbal supplements in the treatment of alcohol dependence are promising. Ultimately, a holistic approach to healing—including traditional medicine and non-traditional techniques—offers the best chance for a full recovery. Considering the lack of successful alcohol treatment programs available, every viable option should be used to help the millions of sufferers worldwide.
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