This is the 1st of a 2-part series explaining herbal strategies that I use and prescribe to patients in clinic to allow for a full long-term recovery from opioid dependency. Part 2 explains how Chinese herbs are used for brain damage due to opiate use. Types of herbs used for opioid withdrawal are linked here. This blog addresses herbs that bring emotional and physical balance through deep, organ-level healing utilizing tonic herbs and adaptogenic herbs.
Tonic herbs are a specific classification of herbs used in Chinese medicine that rebuild the actual structural tissues of the brain and organ systems, boost the immune system, and restore vital energy. The effects of tonic herbs are not immediate and they must be taken consistantly for a number of months to affect deep healing and to have long-term results. Those taking opioids-opiates often have a reduced appetite and do not nourish their bodies well for an extended period of time. Additionally, those who have become addicted to opioids develop a lowered immune response. Examples of tonic herbs include astragalus (huang qi), ginseng (ren shen), and fo-ti (he shou wu).
Adaptogen herbs, like tonic herbs, are used for many months. Many people are familiar with using echinacea for a cold and getting immediate results, but tonic herbs and adaptogens are different. A cold is an acute condition that comes on quickly and is resolved quickly. Health imbalances that have affected the body/mind at a deeper level and/or have developed over a longer spans of time are considered chronic in nature and require a longer course of herbal treatment. Following several months of use, adaptogens allow for the body and mind to adapt to stress better. If you think about it, some people freak out with the least bit of stress while others stay calm. Those recovering from opioid use are often emotionally hypersensitive and stress plays a role in relapses. Adaptogens also help the physical body to adapt to changing environmental changes, such as cold weather. Those going through opioid recovery have to deal with many radical changes and adjustments since they often loose homes, jobs, and family connections. Adaptogens help to cope with these upheavals without extreme feeling of stress and panic. Adaptogenic herbs include eluethro (ci wu jia), rhodiold (hong jing tian), and ashwaganda.