Drug and Alcohol Detoxification
Answered by: Robert Newman, L.Ac.
Question from:
Posted on: October 11, 2004

I was curious to what someone would use for drug and alcohol detoxification short term and long term drugs like meth, pot, and cocaine, etc.

An important concept which I have emphasized in several previous replies to other questions on the Richters Q&A Chinese herbs web page is the idea of working within holistic parameters when working with patients and I definitely want to mention something about this again for this question. To reiterate, this means examining, diagnosing and treating each person as an individual, different and unique from anyone else and different at this point in time than six months ago, and examining and treating the whole person -- mind, body and spirit -- as much as possible. What I’m getting at here is that even though there are some generalizations that can be made about what one would do to help with drug and alcohol detox, the most appropriate approach is to look at each person’s situation and case individually, addressing both the general issue of detox as well as the specific underlying constitutional and situational weaknesses and strengths of that person (both from a long-term and short-term/acute viewpoint). In this way, the treatment can be much more deeply-acting, profound and effective with less chance of undesirable effects (i.e., "side-effects"; I use this term in quotes here because I think this is basically a misnomer -- perhaps I will elaborate on this in a future reply). In order to work with someone in this manner, it is necessary for a practitioner to talk with someone in great detail about his/her health history, symptoms and complaints, reactivities in various circumstances, and dietary, exercise and lifestyle habits, and to do some type of observation of the person’s physical presentation (in traditional Chinese medicine [TCM], this can mean looking at the complexion, the skin and nails, the tongue, doing a detailed check of the pulse, listening to the voice quality, picking up any odors coming from the patient, etc.).

With that said above, alcohol is generally going to creat particular imbalances with the Liver and Gall Bladder. In Chinese medicine, we say that it will tend to create a combination of excessive dampness and heat, known together as damp-heat. Also, many drugs are metabolized and processed through the Liver, so the Liver can become toxic, excessively heated and congested from them. Furthermore, the Liver Blood can become weaker and deficient when the Liver is overburdened with toxicity and heat. As most people know, various drugs can have a definite and adverse impact on the nervous system. And a correlation can be made between aspects of the nervous system and the TCM functions of the Liver and Gall Bladder, so working with the Liver and Gall Bladder can be very useful for both alcohol and drug detoxification. The following formulas are ones that could be considered for use in helping to clear, open and/or nourish the Liver and Gall Bladder. Which formula(s) to use, however, is best determined by the patient going to a trained and licensed practitioner of Chinese medicine and having her/him do a thorough examination of the patient to come up with an accurate diagnosis of the patient’s constitutional and symptomatic issues (for a little more about this, see my posted replies, "Herbs to Heighten Ability to Have a Climax" and "Which Herbs Are Good for Cholesterol, Blood Sugar and Healthy Arteries?" also in the Q&A Chinese herbs section of Richters website):

Long Dan Xie Gan Wan ("lohng dawn shee-ay gone wahn") (take with Huo Xiang Zheng Qi Wan, "hwoh shee-ahng jung chee wahn," to prevent weakening of the digestive system--the digestive system is the "Spleen" and Stomach, in TCM -- due to the very cooling and bitter nature of the Long Dan Xie Gan Wan formula)(for more about the Chinese medicine idea of the function of the Spleen, see my posted replies, "Herbs and Other Approaches for Uterine Prolapse" and "Korean Ginseng and Some Advice About Weight Loss Herbs," also in the Q&A Chinese herbs section of Richters website)

Shu Gan Wan ("shoo gone wahn")

Chai Hu Shu Gan Wan ("chai hoo shoo gone wahn")

Yin Chen Hao Wan ("yin chen how wahn")

Xiao Yao Wan ("shee-ow yoww wahn")

Jia Wei Xiao Yao Wan (gee-ah way shee-ow yoww wahn")

Liu Wei Di Huang Wan ("lee-oh way dee hwahng wahn")(this formula is more nourishing for the Liver and can also nourish and strengthen the Kidneys’ functions, according to TCM)

Qi Ju Di Huang Wan ("chee joo dee hwahng wahn")(this formula is more nourishing for the Liver and can also nourish and strengthen the Kidneys’ functions, according to TCM)

Shou Wu Wan ("shoh woo wahn")(this formula is more nourishing for the Liver and can also nourish and strengthen the Kidneys’ functions, according to TCM)

Some additional single herbs to clear or nourish the Liver (some of these also nourish the Kidneys too) are:

Pu Gong Ying ("poo gohng yeeng"), Herba Taraxacum mongolicum, Mongolian Dandelion herb (clear heat, relieve toxin herb)

Han Lian Cao ("hawn lee-en tsoww"), Herba Eclipta alba, Eclipta herb (tonify Yin herb)

Nu Zhen Zi ("noo jen tzih"), Semen Ligustrum lucidum, Chinese Privet tree fruit (tonify Yin herb)

You will notice I’ve mentioned above that some of the above formulas and single herbs I’ve listed can also benefit the Kidneys. This can also be useful and relevant for addressing issues involving drug detox, because quite a few drugs can cause some damage to the Kidneys. Again, it would be best to have a practitioner make an appropriate TCM diagnosis to determine if there are imbalances present with the Kidneys and decide which formula(s) might be best if there are indeed any imbalances present within them.

Lastly, the Heart is said to contain or hold the mind and the Spirit ("Shen"), according to TCM. This means that the Heart is going to be significantly involved in emotional issues as well as the function and health of the mental state and the nervous system. So again, with this question about drug detox and helping someone with the resultant after-effects of taking drugs, herbs to help the patient remain calm with less cravings can involve treating the Heart. And strengthening and nourishing the Heart may also be important since some drugs actually can damage the Heart tissue. Calming formulas which will nourish the Heart and calm the nervous system and mind (this is known in TCM as calming the Spirit, or "Shen"):

Suan Zao Ren Tang ("swan tzoww ren tahng")

Chai Hu Long Gu Mu Li Wan ("chai hoo lohng goo moo lee wahn")

An Shen Bu Xin Wan ("awn shen boo shin wahn")

Tian Wang Bu Xin Dan ("tee-en wahng boo shin dawn")

Gui Pi Wan ("gway pee wahn")

Some additional single herbs to nourish, strengthen, calm and/or open the Heart are:

Bai He ("buy huh"), Bulbus Lilium brownii, Asian Lily bulb (tonify Yin herb)

Yu Jin ("yoo gin"), Tuber Curcuma longa/domestica, Turmeric root tuber (invigorate Blood herb)

Mai Men Dong ("my men dohng"), Tuber Ophiopogon japonicus, Mondo/Lilyturf Grass root tuber (tonify Yin herb)

Bai Zi Ren ("buy tzih wren"), Semen Biota orientalis, Oriental Biota tree seed (nourish the Heart, calm Spirit/Shen herb)

Xi Yang Shen ("shee yahng shen"), Radix Panax quinquefolius, American Ginseng root (tonify Yin herb)

Ren Shen ("wren shen"), Radix Panax ginseng, Asian Ginseng root (tonify Qi herb)

Getting acupuncture treatments, particularly frequent treatments which at least include ear acupuncture and/or the NADA protocol for detox ear acupuncture, can also be VERY helpful for many patients (for a reference about NADA and further information about acupuncture for detox, see my posted reply also on Richters Q&A webpage, "Albizzia 9, and Acupuncture, for Addiction Detox").

To reiterate what was stated above, you should see a local TCM practitioner for advice specific to your condition. He or she will advise how Chinese herbs should be taken and which herbs or formulas would be best for your con stitution and condition.

Richters sells seeds, plants, and dried herbs of some of the above-mentioned herbs if you are interested in growing your own herbs or making your own remedies.

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