Herbal Medicine for Alcoholism Treatment: Effectiveness

Is herbal medicine for alcoholism useful? Herbal medicine is one of the oldest and most widespread forms of treatment for drinking problems.


I.   Herbal Medicine for Alcoholism

II.  Other Plants for Alcoholism

III. Things to Keep in Mind

IV.  Resources

There are many plant origins of modern pharmaceuticals.

    • Aspirin (from the willow tree).
    • Digitalis (from the foxglove plant).
    • Quinine (from the cinchona tree).
    • Taxol (from the Pacific yew tree).
    • Artemisin (from the artemisia shrub).
    • Vincristine and vinblastine (from a species of the periwinkle plant).

Until the last few decades, pharma research depended heavily on the search for medically useful substances in plants.

I. Herbal Medicine for Alcoholism

herbal medicine for alcoholism

The Chinese have long used roots of the Kudzu vine as herbal medicine for alcoholism. (Kudzu is a fast growing vine native to China.) It’s also been used to treat hangovers. Research is now studying if any of the substances found in Kudzu (Pueraria lobata) are effective.

(But it also appears to increase the risk of cervical cancer by about 360% and possibly other cancers.) The Chinese have also used milk thistle seeds to treat the liver. In addition, they used the Reishi mushroom to treat “fatty liver” due to alcohol abuse.

A number of plants have shown promise as herbal medicine for alcoholism. They include Iboga (Tabernanthe iboga). Asian ginseng ( Panax ginseng). Red Sage (Salvia miltiorrhiza). And St. John’s wort (Hypericum perforatum). A common feature of these plants is that they may reduce alcohol absorption in the body.

II. Other Plants for Alcoholism

Many other plants have been used as herbal medicine for alcoholism. Here are some.

American ginseng.
Cayenne pepper.
Evening Primrose.
Reishi mushroom.
Milk thistle.
Passion flower.
Poison gooseberry.
Reishi mushroom.
Siberian Ginseng.

But the U.S. Food and Drug Administration  (FDA) doesn’t regulate the herbal remedies. Therefore, sellers routinely make completely false claims. They also regularly fail to disclose any of the potential health risks posed by many herbals.

III. Things to Keep in Mind

herbal medicine for alcoholismHere are some things to keep in mind about herbal products.

    • Just because something is natural doesn’t mean that it’s safe or effective. Snake venom, tuberculosis, and many other things are natural but may not be safe or effective in promoting health.
    • There is no legal requirement that herbals be either safe or effective.
    • They are unregulated.
    • Always tell your doctor about any and all herbals or supplements that you are taking.
    • Herbal strength or potency depends on many factors. They include what part of the plant is used. The time of the year it is harvested. Also the region and soil in which it is grown. The particulars of the growing season. The processing methods. And many others.
    • Testing shows that many herbal products do not contain the ingredients listed. Some contain only powdered rice, miscellaneous vegetation, or other substances.
    • Proprietary herbal products do not list their ingredients.
    • Some herbals often have different names. This makes clear identification difficult.
    • Customers generally don’t know the interactions of herbals. For example, St. John’s wort is widely used as an anti-depressant. But it “interacts with many drugs that are used to treat heart disease, depression, seizures, certain cancers, as well as drugs that prevent transplant rejection and pregnancy.”1
    • Customers usually don’t know the side effects of herbals. For example, oristolochia, commonly found in Chinese herbal products, is causes cancer. Many countries ban it. Garlic, ginko biloba and ginsing can all cause blood thinning.
    • When buying herbals, it’s a case of buyer beware.

IV. Resources on Herbal Medicine for Alcoholism


American Botanical Council.

British Herbal Medicine Association.

International Herb Association.

Naturopaths and Herbalists Association of Australia.

Footnote for Herbal Medicine for Alcoholism

    1. Price, C. Vitamania. NY: Penguin, 2015. p. 165.


Benzie, I. Herbal Medicine. Boca Raton, FL: CRC, 2011.

Caral, M., et al. Potential use of medicinal plants in the treatment of alcoholism. Fitoterapia, 2000, 71, Suppl 1:S38-42.

Connors, M. and Altshuler, L. The Everything Guide to Herbal Remedies. Avon, MA: Adams, 2009.

Cornell, D. Alcohol Abuse Revolution. Complementary and Alternative Herbal Remedies. Santa Rosa, CA: People Friendly Books, 2005.

Dasgupta, A. Prescription or Poison? The Benefits and Dangers of Herbal Remedies. Alameda, CA: Hunter, 2010.

Lukas, S., et al. An extract of the Chinese herbal root kudzu reduces alcohol drinking. Alc Clin Exper Res, 2005, 29(5), 756-762.

Overstreet, D., et al. Herbal remedies for alcoholism. Alc Clin Exper Res, 2003, 27(2), 177-185.

Rezvani, A., et al. Attenuation of alcohol intake by extract of Hypericum perforatum.  Alc Alc, 1999, 34(5), 699-705.


This site gives no advice. Please see a doctor for that.