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Herbs to help stop drinking alcohol

Some herbs can help reduce candid bacteria and the urge to drink. Photo Credit Stockbyte/Stockbyte/Getty Images
An overgrowth of a bacteria naturally found in the intestine, candida, are fed and intensified by alcohol consumption, according to the University of Kentucky's Stephen C. Byrnes, N.D. This bacteria can overpopulate and cause a host of problematic symptoms, including alcohol cravings. This condition, which may contribute to alcoholism, is generally called candidiasis. Herbs can treat this disorder and diminish alcohol cravings, making it easier to stop drinking alcohol.

According to the University of Michigan Health System, the practice of traditional Chinese medicine has enlisted kudzu's starchy root tubers to treat headaches, hangovers and alcohol dependency for at least 1,300 years. Kudzu is a wild vine whose tubers contain a chemical compound called daidzin, which is used in modern herbal medicine to suppress alcoholic cravings and diminish the effects of alcohol withdrawal.

Goldenseal's effectiveness to fight alcohol sugar cravings lies in its ability to kill the bacteria, candida, that overpopulate in the intestine and may be the cause of alcohol sugar cravings. Goldenseal's antiviral and antifungal properties are enhanced by the bitter taste, which can be a powerful deterrent in the fight against alcoholic cravings. Goldenseal has an extremely bitter taste and is therefore most easily taken in capsule form.

Milk Thistle
Milk thistle has long been used to assist with detoxification and to strengthen the liver's ability to remove alcohol from the blood. The University of Maryland's Health Center reports that some studies looking at milk thistle to treat alcoholic liver disease have found significant improvements in liver function. Although the herb does not appear to be effective for those with severe liver disease, mild disorders or occasional occurrences such as hangovers can be aided by milk thistle's support.

Alcoholism Treatment to Break Addiction and to Detox

Alcohol addiction can run the gamut from the nightly case of beer, to the once a week drunk, and even include those who absolutely need that one cocktail each night when they get home from work. Alcoholism is a personal thing, and addiction can have many meanings, but addiction treatment is an increasingly well-understood area of healthcare with therapies that work for just about everyone if they're ready to kick their addiction.

Effective treatment for alcohol abuse should first begin with a firm commitment from the alcoholic to escape their addiction. This is one of the principle lessons of most 12-step programs for alcohol treatment. Likewise, a support system of friends, family, other recovering alcoholics, and in some cases medical professionals is also necessary. The latter group is particularly necessary for those with severe alcoholism, as withdrawal symptoms from alcohol dependency can elevate to a condition called delirium tremens, a potentially life-threatening mix of shaking, hallucinations, and confusion that can be controlled with sedatives and medical detox.

Home remedies for alcohol treatment include simple multivitamins including especially omega 3 fatty acids; Vitamins A, B, and C; magnesium; and zinc. The amino acid supplement l-glutamine also shows promise as a mood enhancer that helps to break the addiction cycle.1 Other alternative treatments for alcoholism include hypnotherapy for addiction, energy healing, acupuncture,3 and exercise to release endorphins no longer provided by alcohol-intake.


Advies Dr. Weil
What does Dr. Weil recommend for those who now drink alcohol?
There are infinite gradations between abstinence and alcoholism. An intermediate stage that is often considered benign is social drinking, in which the person is in no sense addicted - he or she uses alcohol infrequently, in moderation, and only in the company of others. Much further down the continuum are alcohol abuse and functional alcoholism, in which the person finds compulsive alcohol intake interfering or competing with home, work or school responsibilities, but retains some ability to set limits on frequency and quantity of drinking. Here is Dr. Weil’s advice for people in these intermediate states:

The best way to protect yourself from the hazards of alcohol is not to use it every day. People who drink wine with dinner every night or have a beer every day or a mixed drink or two after work should give themselves two or three alcohol-free days a week.
Do not rely on alcohol as your main method of relaxation. Learn to relax using your own resources through breath control, yoga, meditation, or another technique that you enjoy and find effective.
Do not use alcohol at all if you have liver disease, urinary problems, prostate trouble, ulcers or other problems of the upper digestive tract (esophagus, stomach, duodenum), or any nervous or mental disease.
Never drink alcohol on an empty stomach. It is highly irritating to the lining of that organ.
Alcohol burns up B-vitamins, especially vitamin B-1 (thiamin). If you drink, take a B-complex vitamin supplement plus extra thiamin (100 mg) on days you use alcohol. This will help protect your nervous system and potentially avoid the nerve damage seen in alcoholics as the result of thiamin deficiency.
Alcoholic beverages, which are exempted from labeling requirements, may contain harmful additives. Wines frequently have sulfite preservatives and other allergens that can precipitate attacks of asthma, migraine, and various allergic reactions. The best beers are made only from barley malt, water, yeast, and hops, but many beers on the market have dozens of other ingredients. Liqueurs may be dyed with artificial colors. Try to buy quality brands of alcoholic beverages that advertise the purity of their composition.
Alcohol has calories. They behave like carbohydrate calories, but the body cannot store their energy. It must burn them immediately. As a result, the calories of food you eat at the same time will more readily end up as fat, because the body will tend to store them. If you are trying to lose weight, cutting out alcohol will make the job much easier.
If you find you cannot control your use of alcohol, get help from Alcoholics Anonymous or a professional counselor who specializes in substance abuse.

What therapies does Dr. Weil recommend for alcoholism?
In addition to conventional treatments and complete abstinence, Dr. Weil recommends the following two supplements to people coping with alcohol dependence.

B vitamins:Research suggests that alcoholic cravings are due to a deficiency in B vitamins and that supplements may lessen the desire to drink. But these findings, most of which are more than 20 years old, haven't been substantiated over time. Still, because alcohol abuse does deplete B vitamins in general and thiamin in particular, consider taking a B-100 B-complex vitamin supplement, plus extra thiamin.
L-glutamine: Research in both animals and humans suggests that this amino acid can reduce both cravings and the anxiety that accompanies alcohol withdrawal. The study in humans was done in 1957. Participants took either a placebo or one gram of L-glutamine in divided doses, with meals. Results were published in the Quarterly Journal of Studies on Alcohol.
Milk thistle (Silybum marianum): Extract of the seeds of this flowering plant in the daisy family have been shown in European research to stimulate regeneration of liver cells and protect them from toxic injury. It is found in most health food stores as "milk thistle," "silybum," or "silymarin." Take two capsules of an extract standardized to 70-80 percent silymarin) two or three times daily as the label directs. You can stay on it indefinitely.

J Addict Res Ther. 2013 Jul 2;4(3). pii: 153. Declinol, a Complex Containing Kudzu, Bitter Herbs (Gentian, Tangerine Peel) and Bupleurum, Significantly Reduced Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test (AUDIT) Scores in Moderate to Heavy Drinkers: A Pilot Study.
Kushner S1, Han D, Oscar-Berman M, William Downs B, Madigan MA, Giordano J, Beley T, Jones S, Barh D, Simpatico T, Dushaj K, Lohmann R, Braverman ER, Schoenthaler S, Ellison D, Blum K.

It is well established that inherited human aldehyde dehydrogenase 2 (ALDH-2) deficiency reduces the risk for alcoholism. Kudzu plants and extracts have been used for 1,000 years in traditional Chinese medicine to treat alcoholism. Kudzu contains daidzin, which inhibits ALDH-2 and suppresses heavy drinking in rodents. Decreased drinking due to ALDH-2 inhibition is attributed to aversive properties of acetaldehyde accumulated during alcohol consumption. However not all of the anti-alcohol properties of diadzin are due to inhibition of ALDH-2. This is in agreement with our earlier work showing significant interaction effects of both pyrozole (ALDH-2 inhibitor) and methyl-pyrozole (non-inhibitor) and ethanol's depressant effects. Moreover, it has been suggested that selective ALDH 2 inhibitors reduce craving for alcohol by increasing dopamine in the nucleus accumbens (NAc). In addition there is significant evidence related to the role of the genetics of bitter receptors (TAS2R) and its stimulation as an aversive mechanism against alcohol intake. The inclusion of bitters such as Gentian & Tangerine Peel in Declinol provides stimulation of gut TAS2R receptors which is potentially synergistic with the effects of Kudzu. Finally the addition of Radix Bupleuri in the Declinol formula may have some protective benefits not only in terms of ethanol induced liver toxicity but neurochemical actions involving endorphins, dopamine and epinephrine. With this information as a rationale, we report herein that this combination significantly reduced Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test (AUDIT) scores administered to ten heavy drinkers (M=8, F=2; 43.2 ± 14.6 years) attending a recovery program. Specifically, from the pre-post comparison of the AUD scores, it was found that the score of every participant decreased after the intervention which ranged from 1 to 31. The decrease in the scores was found to be statistically significant with the p-value of 0.00298 (two-sided paired test; p-value = 0.00149 for one-sided test). Albeit this being a small pilot, we are encouraged about these significant results, and caution any interpretation until larger controlled studies are executed.

Indian J Med Res. 2008 May;127(5):460-6.Pharmacodynamics & toxicological profile of PartySmart, a herbal preparation for alcohol hangover in Wistar rats.Venkataranganna MV1, Gopumadhavan S, Sundaram R, Peer G, Mitra SK.

PartySmart is a herbal preparation intended for the management of alcohol hangover and other related toxic effects in clinical situation. The present study was designed to investigate the pharmacodynamics and oral toxicity of PartySmart, a herbal formulation in rats. (Chicory (Kasani) exhibits anti-inflammatory activity and protects the gastric mucosa from alcohol-induced disturbances. Dates (Kharjura) possess potent antioxidant property, which inhibits oxidative damage caused by superoxide and hydroxyl radicals, thus helps in relieving the after effects of alcohol consumption).

Effect of PartySmart on blood acetaldehyde and alcohol levels was evaluated at doses of 125, 250 and 500 mg/kg b.wt. in rats. Acute toxicity study was conducted with PartySmart at a limit test dose of 2000 mg/kg b.wt., p.o. In repeated dose 90 day study, PartySmart was administered at doses of 500 and 1000 mg/kg b.wt. once-a-day, orally throughout the study period.
PartySmart dose-dependently decreased blood ethanol and acetaldehyde levels as compared to control. PartySmart at a dose of 500 mg/kg b.wt. significantly reduced the area under curve (AUC) of ethanol and acetaldehyde levels. It increased the hepatic alcohol dehydrogenase (ADH) at 500 mg/kg b.wt. and aldehyde dehydrogenase (ALDH) activities at doses of 250 and 500 mg/kg b.w. significantly. Acute toxicity study showed no clinical signs and pre-terminal deaths. The LD(50) of PartySmart was found to be greater than 2000 mg/kg b.wt. No significant differences in PartySmart-treated groups were observed on body weight, food intake, haematological and clinical chemistry, and organ weight ratios as compared to control group in the repeated dose study. Histopathological examination of all target organs showed no evidence of lesions attributing to drug toxicity.
PartySmart enhanced acetaldehyde metabolism by increasing ADH and ALDH activity without any side effects. These findings indicate that PartySmart may exert beneficial role in the management of alcohol hangover without any toxicity.

Alcohol. 2007 Nov;41(7):469-78.Pueraria lobata (Kudzu root) hangover remedies and acetaldehyde-associated neoplasm risk.
McGregor NR.
Recent introduction of several commercial Kudzu root (Pueraria lobata) containing hangover remedies has occurred in western countries. The available data is reviewed to assess if there are any potential concerns in relationship to the development of neoplasm if these products are used chronically. The herb Pueraria has two components that are used as traditional therapies; Pueraria lobata, the root based herb and Pueraria flos, the flower based herb. Both of these herbal components have different traditional claims and constituents. Pueraria flos, which enhances acetaldehyde removal, is the traditional hangover remedy. Conversely, Pueraria lobata is a known inhibitor of mitochondrial aldehyde dehydrogenase (ALDH2) and increases acetaldehyde. Pueraria lobata is being investigated for use as an aversion therapy for alcoholics due to these characteristics. Pueraria lobata is not a traditional hangover therapy yet has been accepted as the registered active component in many of these hangover products. The risk of development of acetaldehyde pathology, including neoplasms, is associated with genetic polymorphism with enhanced alcohol dehydrogenase (ADH) or reduced ALDH activity leading to increased acetaldehyde levels in the tissues. The chronic usage of Pueraria lobata at times of high ethanol consumption, such as in hangover remedies, may predispose subjects to an increased risk of acetaldehyde-related neoplasm and pathology. The guidelines for Disulfiram, an ALDH2 inhibitor, provide a set of guidelines for use with the herb Pueraria lobata. Pueraria lobata appears to be an inappropriate herb for use in herbal hangover remedies as it is an inhibitor of ALDH2. The recommendations for its use should be similar to those for the ALDH2 inhibitor, Disulfiram.

Alcohol Clin Exp Res. 1996 Jun;20(4):659-63. Isoflavonoid compounds extracted from Pueraria lobata suppress alcohol preference in a pharmacogenetic rat model of alcoholism. Lin RC1, Guthrie S, Xie CY, Mai K, Lee DY, Lumeng L, Li TK.
The extract from an edible vine, Pueraria lobata, has long been used in China to lessen alcohol intoxication. We have previously shown that daidzin, one of the major components from this plant extract, is efficacious in lowering blood alcohol levels and shortens sleep time induced by alcohol ingestion. This study was conducted to test the antidipsotropic effect of daidzin and two other major isoflavonoids, daidzein and puerarin, from Pueraria lobata administered by the oral route. An alcohol-preferring rat model, the selectively-bred P line of rats, was used for the study. All three isoflavonoid compounds were effective in suppressing voluntary alcohol consumption by the P rats. When given orally to P rats at a dose of 100 mg/kg/day, daidzein, daidzin, and puerarin decreased ethanol intake by 75%, 50%, and 40%, respectively. The decrease in alcohol consumption was accompanied by an increase in water intake, so that the total fluid volume consumed daily remained unchanged. The effects of these isoflavonoid compounds on alcohol and water intake were reversible. Suppression of alcohol consumption was evident after 1 day of administration and became maximal after 2 days. Similarly, alcohol preference returned to baseline levels 2 days after discontinuation of the isoflavonoids. Rats receiving the herbal extracts ate the same amounts of food as control animals, and they gained weight normally during the experiments. When administered orally, none of these compounds affected the activities of liver alcohol dehydrogenase and aldehyde dehydrogenase. Therefore, the reversal of alcohol preference produced by these compounds may be mediated via the CNS. Data demonstrate that isoflavonoid compounds extracted from Pueraria lobata is effective in suppressing the appetite for alcohol when taken orally, raising the possibility that other constituents of edible plants may exert similar and more potent actions.

Am J Clin Nutr. 1998 Dec;68(6 Suppl):1512S-1515S. Effects of isoflavones on alcohol pharmacokinetics and alcohol-drinking behavior in rats.
Lin RC1, Li TK.
Puerarin, daidzin, and daidzein are 3 major isoflavonoid compounds isolated from Pueraria lobata, an edible vine used widely in China for various medicinal purposes. We studied the antiinebriation and the antidipsotropic effects of these antioxidants in rats. Daidzin and daidzein shortened alcohol-induced sleep time (loss of righting reflex) in rats that were given ethanol intragastrically but not in those given ethanol intraperitoneally. When daidzin was given to animals intragastrically with the ethanol solution, the blood alcohol concentration (BAC) was found to peak later and be lower than in control rats that were given only the ethanol solution. BACs also receded more slowly if daidzin was fed to the animals. None of the 3 isoflavonoid compounds administered orally affected liver alcohol dehydrogenase or aldehyde dehydrogenase activities, as was reported for intraperitoneal administration. Further experiments indicated that the suppression of the BAC by daidzin was due mainly to delay of stomach emptying. All 3 compounds suppressed voluntary alcohol consumption in alcohol-preferring rats. The decrease in alcohol consumption was accompanied by an increase in water intake, so that the total volume of liquid consumed daily remained unchanged. Daily food consumption and body weight gain were not affected. Alcohol preference returned to baseline levels after the isoflavonoids were discontinued. We postulate that the suppression of alcohol reinforcement produced by these compounds is mediated centrally in the brain reward pathway.


This study, reported in November 1993 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, produced quite a stir, when compounds from Radix puerariae, a popular Chinese medicine, were found to suppress ethyl alcohol intake in hamsters. The medicinal root, Pueraria lobata, known in the Southern United States as the nuisance weed, kudzu, has long been used in traditional Chinese medicine for the management of alcohol abuse. The hamster study, performed at Harvard Medical School, showed that Pueraria does indeed suppress ethanol intake, and also identified two major chemical compounds responsible for this action. In the experiment, mice were given a free choice of ethanol or water and tested to see if the pueraria extract would affect their choice of fluid intake. Without medication, the Golden hamster will normally increase its intake of alcohol and decrease its consumption of water to levels detrimental to its health. Some humans have also been known to exhibit such behavior. A crude extract of Radix puerariae effectively reduced alcohol intake and increased water intake, both during and after treatment, to a significant extent. To document the validity of the Golden hamster in assessing this anti-alcohol treatment, the hamsters were tested with other anti-alcoholism drugs. "The results clearly indicate that the suppression of free-choice ethanol in the Golden hamster is completely consistent with the beneficial effects of these agents as observed in alcohol-dependent humans."
Radix puerariae was described in the Pen-t'sao, one of the earliest Chinese Materia Medica publications around 200 B.C. Its use in treating alcohol-related diseases was first documented in the Chinese Pharmacopoeia of 600 A.D.

The chemical compounds responsible for the anti-alcohol effects were daidzein and daidzin, which are isoflavones. Isoflavones are known for various other effects, including fever treatment, antispasmodic, anti-hypertensive, and antiarrhythmia agents. This is the first investigation of isoflavones in ethanol drinking behavior. "Results from these studies...will also provide a rationale for the design of much-needed, safe therapeutic agents for alcoholism/alcohol abuse." [Keung, W. M., and Vallee, B. L., "Daidzin and daidzein suppress free-choice ethanol intake by Syrian golden hamsters," Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA. Vol. 90, November 1993, pp. 10008-10012]

The Chinese herbal medicine Xing-Jiu-Ling (XJL), which contains six plants, including Purearia, is traditionally used for reducing human alcohol inebriation. This effect was recently tested in "alcohol-preferring rats" at the University of North Carolina's Bio-Medical Research Laboratory. The traditional medicine dramatically reduced alcohol intake by over 50% in one group of rats, and by 100% in another. The authors note that recent unpublished data show that XJL can also counteract both the hypnotic (sleeptime) and discoordinating effects of alcohol in animals. There was no significant effect on food or water intake, nor any toxicity noted, and the animals did not develop a tolerance to the anti-alcohol effects. The authors conclude, "These findings clearly show that XJL reduced alcohol consumption in alcohol-preferring rats, suggesting there might be some potential for this medicine reducing craving in alcohol abusers." [Overstreet, D. H., Lee, Y. W., Rezvani, A. H., Criswell , H. E., Skipper Bowles Center for Alcohol Studies, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, NC 27514-7175, Research Society on Alcoholism Symposium 1993]