Alcohol use disorder currently affects millions of people across the United States alone. As one of the classical substances utilized for millennia by humans in order to achieve a state of inebriation, it has stood that test of time as becoming the most heavily abused substance known to man. Part of this is the simplicity associated with creating alcohol, while also its accessibility plays an important factor.
Symptoms of alcohol withdrawal can occur when someone who has a history of heavy drinking decides to suddenly quit or greatly cut back on how much they drink. Withdrawal from alcohol, like most drugs, typically comes with a host of emotional and physical symptoms that can be difficult to deal with.
There are many symptoms people often encounter when going through alcohol withdrawal.
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- High blood pressure
At its worse, alcohol withdrawal can cause hallucinations and seizures that are life-threatening. Given the possibility of such extreme symptoms during withdrawal, it is generally recommended not to try detoxing from alcohol on your own if you have been a heavy drinker for a long time. For people in this situation, it is important to detox under medical supervision.
This advice extends to people who have been struggling with any degree of alcohol abuse. Such substance abuse exhibits a pattern of drinking that can result in physical dependence. This means that withdrawal symptoms can be present during detox, and sometimes these symptoms can be very serious.
Some sources say people who are exhibiting less severe patterns of alcohol use and withdrawal symptoms, however, can detox at home on your own and utilize home remedies to manage your discomfort. If you are going to try detoxing at home, it is best to do so with a close friend or family member present, so that they can keep an eye on your symptoms and seek emergency medical care if necessary.
Again, detoxing at home is not recommended. It’s important to consult with a physician, as any degree of withdrawal from alcohol could involve serious symptoms. In some instances, these symptoms could be life-threatening.
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Milk thistle, an herb that can be purchased at your local grocery or health food store, is believed to promote recovery from alcoholism. The herb contains silymarin, which is an antioxidant that supports healthy liver function. It can potentially help to improve the health of the liver by stimulating regeneration of cells, as well as protect against liver damage that can be caused by drinking too much alcohol.
Taking milk thistle extract in capsule form, two to three times a day, is thought to be very beneficial to the liver, particularly during alcohol recovery. Milk thistle is believed to help improve additional liver diseases, such as cirrhosis, jaundice, and hepatitis.
Preliminary studies show that extracts from the kudzu plant may help to treat alcohol dependence. Kudzu belongs to the pea family of vines and has been used in traditional Chinese medicine practices for centuries. Practitioners of alternative medicine regularly use kudzu to help treat symptoms of many common ailments, including:
- Common cold
- Menopausal symptoms
A small 2005 study found that people who were given kudzu extract before drinking consumed about half as much alcohol as people who were only given a placebo.
More scientific research is needed to understand why kudzu reduces alcohol intake, but it does present promising findings for reducing alcohol cravings during withdrawal.
Understanding these different home remedies to alcohol use disorder can be a bit confusing and overwhelming, especially whilst trying to decipher which method may work best for you or your loved one.
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St. John’s Wort
St. John’s wort is a staple ingredient in alternative medicine. It is an herb that has been used for centuries to treat mild-to-moderate depression. It also has been recognized as an effective antiviral treatment, anti-inflammatory, nerve injury and pain treatment, and topical medication for wounds.
In recent years, researchers have identified an ingredient in St. John’s wort, called hyperforin, which may help decrease alcohol intake. Like kudzu extract, St. John’s wort may be helpful in curbing cravings to drink alcohol while you are trying to detox.
It’s important to note that St. John’s wort is known to interact with many different medications. If you are taking any medications, it would be smart to consult with your doctor before starting St. John’s wort to make sure you won’t experience any unintended side effects.
Nux vomica is a plant that can be used in herbal or homeopathic form. It’s typically not used in herbal remedies, as parts of the nux vomica seeds can be toxic. When used in homeopathic remedies, however, nux vomica has been purported to help alleviate many troublesome health conditions.
- Back pain
- The common cold
- Digestive problems
- Menstrual problems
In addition to the above conditions, nux vomica has been used to limit excessive alcohol consumption as well as smoking. In studies on rats, nux vomica has helped to reduce voluntary intake of alcohol.
While nux vomica shows potential for helping people reduce their alcohol intake, there are known potential side effects of taking the herb. Dizziness, muscle cramps, pain, exhaustion, respiratory problems, and convulsions are all signs of poisoning that can come from the nux vomica seed.
Vitamin B Supplements
B vitamins are essential for the healthy metabolism of cells in the body. They affect the interactions of cells within the entire body and play an essential role in the proper and healthy functioning of cells.
Alcohol, unfortunately, interacts with B vitamins and depletes the body’s store of them. Some studies have shown that a deficiency in B vitamins could cause cravings for alcohol. By taking a B-vitamin supplement, you may be able to naturally reduce cravings for alcohol that can be strong during the withdrawal period.
Acupuncture is another form of alternative medicine that has been used for thousands of years. It is used to treat many ailments, ranging from common backaches to symptoms related to cancer. Regarding alcohol addiction, acupuncture is often used to reduce cravings and relieve withdrawal symptoms. Symptoms of anxiety and depression could also potentially be relieved by acupuncture, for people withdrawing from alcohol or not.
Researchers who conducted a meta-analysis of the effectiveness of acupuncture in treating alcohol withdrawal symptoms found that acupuncture intervention leads to a reduction of symptoms and behaviors related to alcohol withdrawal.
Acupuncture offers a relatively safe and complementary form of treatment. It is not a sufficient treatment on its own, but it could play a role in reducing unwanted symptoms as you go through the withdrawal process.
Is It Safe to Withdraw From Alcohol on Your Own?
Ultimately, no. You need medical supervision. This may simply involve an initial consult with a doctor, or it may involve inpatient medical detox. It depends on many factors.
Your physical and mental health, the length and severity of alcohol use, and your social support system all influence the safety of attempting to withdraw from alcohol at home.
If your alcoholism is not severe and you have good supports in place at home, you might be able to take advantage of some home remedies to help you get through withdrawal. But again, this could only be done under advisement from a supervising physician.
It is important to remember that most alternative medicines and home remedies do not have a lot of scientifically backed research to support their efficacy in treating alcohol withdrawal symptoms and addiction. Alternative medicines certainly have their place in addiction recovery, however, as many have been recognized as complementary treatments.
The safest way to ensure a successful withdrawal from alcohol is to consult your doctor who can evaluate your current condition. Together, you can make a plan for how to achieve sobriety. Home remedies for alcohol withdrawal can be helpful for alleviating uncomfortable symptoms in some very mild cases, but they must be used with extreme caution.
(January 2017). Acupuncture for Alcohol Use Disorder: A Meta-Analysis. Hindawi: Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine from https://www.hindawi.com/journals/ecam/2017/7823278/
Addiction. British Homeopathic Association. from https://www.britishhomeopathic.org/charity/how-we-can-help/articles/conditions/a/addictive-personalities/
(April 2018). Alcohol Withdrawal Syndrome. Healthline. from https://www.healthline.com/health/alcoholism/withdrawal
(March 2018). Kudzu and St. John’s Wort Herbs and Alcohol Intake. Verywell Health from https://www.verywellhealth.com/kudzu-and-st-johns-wort-herbs-and-alcohol-intake-89569
(October 2018). Natural Remedies for Alcoholism Treatment. Verywell Health. from https://www.verywellhealth.com/natural-support-for-alcoholism-treatment-89263