January 2022

Kicking Bad Habits: Do Any Natural Medicines Help?

Improving overall health is a common goal for many people in the New Year. For some, that means losing weight. For others, moderating or quitting certain bad habits might be the focus. Talk to patients about different strategies and approaches they’re trying, including any natural medicines or therapies they might be interested in. It’s important to set patients up for success by giving them realistic expectations on which treatments will actually help. There’s no magic wand or pill for treating an addiction or shaking an unhealthy habit.

For those trying to stop smoking, supportive evidence for specific natural medicines is limited. Black pepper aromatherapy, cannabidiol (CBD), and St. John’s wort are all commonly recommended online, but there isn’t strong evidence backing up any of these claims. For those interested in hypnotherapy or mantra meditation, there’s no strong evidence supporting these practices either, but there’s also no reason to expect safety concerns if patients want to give them a try. For now, tell patients their best bet is to stick to standard smoking cessation therapies.

Curbing or quitting alcohol consumption is also a common New Year’s goal. Help patients find other coping mechanisms to address whatever may be driving them to reach for a drink, but not to replace one substance for another. Encourage patients to remove temptation by not keeping alcohol in the home. Exercise and meditation are also great options. If patients are looking for a replacement drink, suggest something else such as non-caffeinated lavender or passion flower teas, which might also help with anxiety, or sparkling waters.

Lastly, cannabis use disorder is more prevalent than ever. Increased social acceptance and access to cannabis products across the country has resulted in growing issues with dependence. About 47% of regular cannabis users experience withdrawal when they stop or reduce use. Help patients cope by explaining that these symptoms are temporary – research shows that symptoms tend to peak after 10 days. If patients ask about CBD, tell them it’s not clear if it helps. There’s also concern that some CBD products may contain THC, the main psychoactive ingredient in cannabis. Encourage patients to manage symptoms during this time – which often include irritability, nervousness, and difficulty sleeping. As with other addictions, exercise is a great option. 

Many natural products and alternative therapies have been studied for various addictions, but the evidence remains inconclusive. Check out our comparative effectiveness charts on alcohol use disorder, cannabis use disorder and smoking cessation to learn more.

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The information in this brief report is intended for informational purposes only, and is meant to help users better understand health concerns. This information should not be interpreted as specific medical advice. Users should consult with a qualified healthcare provider for specific questions regarding therapies, diagnosis and/or health conditions, prior to making therapeutic decisions. Copyright © 2024 NatMed. Commercial distribution or reproduction prohibited. NatMed is the leading provider of high-quality, evidence-based, clinically-relevant information on natural medicine, dietary supplements, herbs, vitamins, minerals, functional foods, diets, complementary practices, CAM modalities, exercises and medical conditions. Monograph sections include interactions with herbs, drugs, foods and labs, contraindications, depletions, dosing, toxicology, adverse effects, pregnancy and lactation data, synonyms, safety and effectiveness.