Natural Remedies for Alcohol Use Disorder

Alcoholism is another term for alcohol use disorder (AUD). Recovering from AUD can be hard. It usually calls for a lot of steady support.

It's not a good idea to rely only on alternative remedies for AUD. Still, meditation, acupuncture, and herbs may enhance your well-being as you recover.

This article describes some natural treatments to help with alcohol use disorder. It also explains why it's important to find effective treatments. Whatever treatments you choose, make sure to discuss the benefits and risks with your healthcare team.

Close up of an acupuncture procedure
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Acupuncture

Acupuncture uses tiny, sterile needles placed in targeted spots on your body. It's used in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) to help reduce alcohol cravings and ease withdrawal symptoms.

Some people also use it to treat the anxiety and depression that go along with with alcohol addiction. Research on how best to use this treatment is ongoing.

A 2017 research review found that acupuncture helped with alcohol cravings and withdrawal.

In one of the studies in the review, researchers compared a real acupuncture treatment to a fake one. In the real treatment, researchers placed needles into zones linked to alcohol-related behaviors. In the sham treatment, they placed needles into other areas of the body.

The results? The alcohol-targeted acupuncture cut down on cravings and withdrawal symptoms better than the sham treatment. However, the effect was weak.

The National Acupuncture Detoxification Program (NADA) focuses on treating addiction. It includes ear acupuncture.

NADA specialists say acupuncture should be used along with medical care, counseling, and other kinds of support.

Meditation and Mindfulness

Mindfulness therapies have been used to keep people from relapsing. Relapse is when someone resumes drinking in unhealthy ways after a period of recovery.

These programs usually include meditation. They train you to be aware of your thoughts, feelings, and cravings rather than simply reacting to them.

Some studies report that mindfulness led to better outcomes than typical 12-step programs.

Not all studies had the same results, however. A 2017 research review did not find that this therapy was more effective than other forms of relapse prevention.

Kudzu

Kudzu extract has shown some promise in helping people avoid binge drinking. Binge drinking is when someone has more than four or five drinks in two hours.

Kudzu may also help heavy drinkers cut the amount of alcohol they consume, even if they are not being treated for AUD.

Kudzu flower is the chief ingredient in ge hai jie cheng tang TCM formula. That's the blend often used to treat intoxication and hangover.

It has several effects. One is that it raises your blood alcohol levels faster, which means you may feel intoxicated sooner.

It may also slow down your body's ability to break down acetaldehyde. That's a chemical in alcohol that creates harsh side effects when you drink. Antabuse (disulfiram), a drug used to treat AUD, has a similar effect.

In short, kudzu may make you feel worse if you drink.

In one study, people who binge drink took either kudzu extract or a placebo before a 90-minute session of drinking beer. A placebo is a treatment with no real medication in it.

The people who received a dose of kudzu extract drank significantly less beer than they usually did. They also drank less than people who had taken the placebo. They drank more slowly, too.

A study of heavy drinkers who were not in a treatment program found that taking kudzu had no effect on their alcohol cravings. But it did reduce the number of drinks they had each week by a third to a half.

It also cut the number of heavy drinking days and increased the number of days they didn't drink at all.

Ashwagandha

Ashwagandha is an herbal supplement made from the Withania somnifera plant. It is used in Ayurvedic medicine, which originated in India.

Ashwagandha is sometimes used for alcohol withdrawal and cravings. In studies with alcohol-addicted mice, ashwagandha seemed to relieve anxiety. More studies would be needed to see if it works the same way in humans.

Milk Thistle

Milk thistle (Silybum marianum) is an herb rich in the antioxidant silymarin. It is often touted as a means of restoring liver health and protecting against liver damage from too much alcohol.

Some research shows that milk thistle may help those looking to treat alcohol-related liver disease. It's important to note that more studies are needed to confirm that the herb enhances liver health.

The Importance of AUD Treatment

Alcohol use disorder can lead to social and emotional problems as well as serious health issues. That's why it's crucial to seek treatment if you experience symptoms like these:

  • A strong urge to drink
  • An inability to limit how much alcohol you drink
  • Cravings
  • Loss of control
  • Physical dependence, including nausea and sweating when you don't drink
  • Tolerance, or a need to drink more alcohol to feel the same effects

Without treatment, you could have complications like these:

Alcohol use disorder has also been linked to a higher risk of several cancers, including colon, breast, oral, liver, and throat cancers.

It's important to seek AUD treatment only from a qualified healthcare professional or facility.

Treatment often starts with detoxification. That's a period where you don't drink so your body can begin recovering.

Some programs offer you a chance to live in a facility where you can have more intense treatment. With other programs, you live at home but visit a treatment center daily.

Natural solutions may be useful additions to these traditional programs, but it's something to discuss with your care team.

Summary

Recovering from alcohol use disorder isn't easy. People who are successful usually have lots of support. Natural therapies could help reduce cravings and ease withdrawal symptoms.

There's some evidence that acupuncture, mindfulness, and meditation help during AUD treatment. Some herbal remedies, including kudzu, ashwagandha, and milk thistle, could support your recovery, too.

Research on natural remedies for AUD is limited. For that reason, it's a good idea to talk to your doctor about the role they should play in your treatment.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • How else can alcohol withdrawal symptoms be eased naturally?

    While you're recovering, you'll need a supportive environment with minimal stimulation. You'll also need proper nutrition and lots of water to help your body adjust during the process.

  • Can I do a natural alcohol detox at home?

    An at-home detox may be right for some people, but you'll need to work with a doctor to be sure you're doing it safely. The process should not depend on natural solutions alone.

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