Herbal Alternatives to Alcohol
If you’re like a lot of people, you probably want to wind down and relax at the end of the day. Often, this leads to having a glass of wine or a couple of beers. If you’re looking to eliminate the extra calories or avoid alcohol all together, consider some of these botanical options.
Alcohol Use in America
More than half (54.9%) of American adults report drinking alcohol in the last month, according to the 2019 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH).
In 2019, 25.8 percent of American adults reported that they engaged in binge drinking in the past month, and 6.3 percent reported that they engaged in heavy alcohol use in the past month.
In addition, 14.5 million people ages 12 and older had alcohol use disorder (AUD). This number includes 9 million men (6.8 percent of men in this age group) and 5.5 million women (3.9 percent of women in this age group).
Thankfully, interest in plant medicine has grown exponentially in the last decade. People are discovering the health benefits and stress-relieving qualities of traditional herbs, such as kratom, and as a result, many have moved away from more dangerous substances such as alcohol.
Kava: Helps with Stress-Induced Insomnia
Kava is a tall evergreen shrub in the pepper family native to the South Pacific Islands. Traditionally, kava has been used as a ceremonial drink, consumed to bring about a state of relaxation during rituals and social gatherings. These rituals were said to strengthen ties among groups, reaffirm status and enhance interaction with spirits.
Kava may help with insomnia, often with fewer side effects than pharmaceutical drugs or over-the-counter sleep enhancers. It is believed that a specific type of kavalactone, called kevain, may be behind kava’s sedative effect.
In a pilot study of 24 patients struggling with stress-induced insomnia , researchers looked at the effectiveness of kava and valerian separately. Stress was measured in three areas: social, personal and life events. Insomnia was measured in three areas also: time to fall asleep, hours slept and waking mood.
According to the findings, total stress severity was significantly relieved by both compounds individually, with no significant differences between them. There was also improvement with the combination, significantly in the case of insomnia.
“These results are considered to be extremely promising but further studies may be required to determine the relative roles of the two compounds for such indications,” write the authors.
Many people report that kava helps with anxiety. In a double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled study, researchers looked at the effectiveness of kava on patients with generalized anxiety disorder (GAD). A total of 75 participants were enrolled in a 6-week trial of a kava extract versus placebo. The findings revealed a significant reduction in anxiety for the kava group compared with the placebo group.
For many people, the mood-boosting and stress-reducing effects of kratom are quite conducive to social interaction without all the messiness and regrets of alcohol. This comes as no surprise, as the rural folk in Southeast Asia have used kratom in social and religious gatherings for centuries.
Kratom was used as a household remedy for various ailments, as a recreational drink (primarily among men), and in some Thai villages, it was consumed during religious ceremonies.
Farmers, fishermen and other manual laborers in Southeast Asia would also chew the fresh or dried leaves to combat fatigue and improve work productivity. The leaves could also be smoked or brewed or steeped into tea.
Rural populations would ingest kratom leaves to treat common medical problems, such as diarrhea, fever, cough, anxiety and pain and even used it as a wound poultice. Kratom is still popular in Asian village communities during social gatherings.
Unlike drug or alcohol users in these villages, kratom users, particularly males, haven’t faced any stigma. This is because kratom is widely accepted in these areas as an aid for hard work to support one’s family. In fact, village kratom users are typically seen as hard-working individuals, while those who consume alcohol, cannabis or tobacco have experienced a certain level of stigma.
Which Kratom Strain Should I Use?
First, decide what kind of effects you’re looking for and let it guide your choice of which kratom powder to use. Are you looking for energy or mental alertness? Relaxation? A mood boost? For most kratom drinkers, white vein gives a unique energy boost, green offers a feeling of mild euphoria and red vein is great for relaxing and is also used by some for its pain-killing attributes.
Mixing the veins is quite popular as well. So if you want a little euphoria and a little relaxation, combine green and red — or you can try yellow kratom which offers similar effects. Mix and match and decide on which type or combo works best for you.
Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera), also known as Indian ginseng or winter cherry, belongs to a class of medicinal herbs known as adaptogens and has been used for more than 3,000 years to help reduce stress, improve stamina and increase concentration levels.
Many of ashwagandha’s health benefits are attributed to its high levels of withanolides, hormone precursors that can convert into human physiological hormones to help bring balance to the body.
Studies have shown that ashwagandha can help improve sleep and reduce stress. In one review, published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, ashwagandha was shown to outperform psychotherapy by reducing anxiety in a group of subjects by 56.5% compared to only 30.5% in the psychotherapy group.
In an overview of ashwagandha in the African Journal of Traditional. Complementary and Alternative Medicines, the authors write, “Being a powerful adaptogen, it enhances the body’s resilience to stress. Ashwagandha improves the body’s defense against disease by improving the cell-mediated immunity. It also possesses potent antioxidant properties that help protect against cellular damage caused by free radicals.”
Organic Holy Basil (Tulsi)
Holy basil (Ocimum tenuiflorum), or tulsi, is an aromatic perennial plant in the family Lamiaceae. It is native to the Indian subcontinent and widespread as a cultivated plant throughout the Southeast Asian tropics. Tulsi is cultivated for religious and traditional medicine purposes, and for its essential oil. It is widely used as an herbal tea and has a place within the Vaishnava tradition of Hinduism, in which devotees perform worship involving holy basil plants or leaves. Many people consume holy basil as a stress reliever. Holy basil has antibacterial, antifungal, antiviral and anti-inflammatory properties.
Hundreds of scientific studies in vitro, animal and human experiments have shown that tulsi exerts a unique combination of actions that include antimicrobial, anti-diarrheal, antioxidant, anticataract, anti-inflammatory, neuro-protective, cardio-protective, anti-diabetic, memory enhancement, anti-asthmatic, anti-arthritic, adaptogenic and anti-stress activities.