“It is impossible to understand addiction without asking what relief the addict finds, or hopes to find, in the drug or the addictive behavior...Not all addictions are rooted in abuse or trauma, but I do believe they can all be traced to a painful experience. Hurt is at the center of all addictive behaviors. It is present in the gambler, the internet addict, the compulsive shopper and the workaholic. The wound may not be as deep and the ache not as excruciating, and it may even be entirely hidden - but it’s there.”
Dr. Gabor Maté, Addiction Expert
Dealing with addiction is never easy. There is no one-size-fits-all recovery or rebalance protocol (even though there are ones out there that claim to be!). One of my goals as a Clinical Herbalist and Nutritionist is to help my clients discover which tools can be the most helpful on their path to recovery. Sometimes it takes a bit of trial and error, but finding balance in your addiction pattern is possible, and your practitioner or health team is here to help guide you through the process.
Here are a few of my top herbal therapeutics to support addiction recovery:
Mind Your Mind
As you may already be aware, our neurological processes play a big role in our ability to recover from addiction. Addiction has the ability to completely alter your brain function, affecting you on a psychological, physical, and emotional level. Depending on the nature of your addiction, the state of your brain and nervous system will vary.
Some herbal allies to help refocus mental attention, stimulate memory, and overall brain function include gotu kola (Centella asiatica), Ginkgo biloba (Ginkgo biloba), and bacopa (Bacopa monnieri). Rhodiola (Rhodiola rosea) and mucuna (Mucuna pruriens) are both known to help break the mental patterns of addiction and reduce cravings.
It is important to focus on nourishing and rebalancing your nervous system at the same time that you stabilize your brain function. Utilizing herbs like oats (Avena sativa), skullcap (Scutellaria lateriflora), St. John’s wort (Hypericum perforatum), and tulsi (Ocimum sanctum) are all beneficial allies to draw from.
Supporting healthy detoxification throughout the body is a crucial therapeutic for addiction recovery. Herbs that focus on the liver, our body’s “master filter” which helps clear out toxins from the body, are especially helpful during this time. Milk thistle (Silybum marianum), artichoke leaf (Cynara scolymus), dandelion root (Taraxacum officinale) and reishi (Ganoderma lucidum) are all fabulous herbs to help support detoxification of the liver.
Another key herbal therapeutic focus is detoxifying the lymphatic system. Ensuring that our lymphatic system is draining properly is a crucial part of the detox process since our lymph helps push toxins out of the body. Some herbs that are helpful for promoting the movement of lymph include red clover (Trifolium pratense), Calendula (Calendula officinalis), and burdock root (Arctium lappa).
Now, this may sound woo-woo for some people, but hear me out: flower essences can actually have a profound effect on shifting the tricky, addictive-patterns in our brain and emotional body. For those who are new to the therapeutic, flower essences are an energy-based practice where the vibrational pattern of a flower, picked at its peak bloom, is imprinted into water.
Depending on the nature, character, and environment of the flower, the effect of the flower essence is determined. Many of my clients and other practitioner’s clients I know exclaim that they do not understand how it works or why it works: but it worked. Some flower essences that have been particularly helpful for addiction are Nicotiana, teddy bear cholla, foothills palo verde, California valerian, and ocotillo among many others.
Everything In Between
Depending on the nature of the addiction, the withdrawal process can be somewhat inevitable and uncomfortable. Symptoms of withdrawal vary person-to-person and addiction-to-addiction. Utilizing herbal therapeutics can help ease the process of withdrawal and suffering. For instance, if you are dealing with insomnia, consider drawing from sedative herbs such as skullcap (Scutellaria lateriflora), valerian (Valeriana officinalis), passionflower (Passiflora incarnata), or hops (Humulus lupulus). Or if you are dealing with heightened anxiety, draw from relaxant and anxiety-soothing herbs such as Pulsatilla (Pulsatilla vulgaris), passionflower, and milky oats.
Before using any herbal therapeutic, be sure to cross-check for any possible interactions with a medication you may be on. With any health challenge, but especially if you or someone you know is dealing with a serious addiction to a dangerous substance, it is vital to seek professional help. A gentle reminder: no matter what size, shape, or fashion your addiction presents as, support is all around you if you need it and you are most definitely not alone.
If you are interested in learning more details on herbal therapeutics for specific types of addictions, message me or let me know in the comments below!