Natural Approach to Addiction Recovery



Cheryl Hoard



There are so many things to which we can become addicted. As is often the case with a natural approach, the same herbs and essential oils can be helpful for the various difficult moments associated with recovery from all kinds of addictions. Addictions to cigarettes, alcohol, caffeine, sugar, unhealthy food, drugs or sex are sometimes well-known, popular topics. But I think we can also be addicted to negative thinking and negative behavior which I think can lead to eating disorders, other kinds of disorders, compulsions, obsessions and depression. Even in these cases, the same herbs and essential oils can assist in the therapy for recovery. You may need to choose which of the suggestions below will best apply to your particular goals and ignore those which don’t. Even if what is suggested is not conventional advice for the particular addiction you are trying to shed you might be surprised to realize the other advice given just might be of use to you as well.




Regarding the human mind and the physical body, anything is possible. It is possible to live, be happy and be healthier without the addictive substance or behavior. You have to see your new way of life in your mind first. Remember anything is possible.




There’s certainly no harm done by saying affirmative words to yourself regarding what you want. Make your phrases be broad and general but still very pertinent to you. Don’t worry if you can’t see the exact detail of how you can achieve what you want. It’s amazing to watch what can shift and take place around you when you move forward in your minute-by-minute, daily actions in a positive manner. Repetition helps. Say your positive phrases to yourself several times a day or at least once or twice. Say them even if you’re not convinced you believe change can happen. Say them anyway.




Saying these words is action. Action is doing things. Action means the body is moving. Sometimes you have to go through the motions whether you believe or not and whether you want to or not. Physical motion, like activities you do with your hands or whole body influences the state of your mind. The mind-body or body-mind connection works both ways. Thinking your way out of life patterns may not be enough. Involving the body is a more wholesome, wholistic and possibly more successful approach.


There are traditional, seemingly old fashioned, activities and habits that have been a part of family life for centuries. These customs have been a valued way of life around the world throughout history. Maybe partly what are considered family values? Even if you don’t presently live in a family household you might consider including some of these activities if your life now. Eat meals at regular times. Cook and eat at home. Take a walk after dinner. Establish consistent times to be with people who are understanding and supportive. Volunteer to help others. Do things with your hands and mind like crafts, art, music, cooking, sewing, gardening, cleaning, mechanical projects, carpentry, puzzles and games. These customs and activities were highly valued as necessary to a way of life. Any of these can be positive motion in your life now to help achieve new patterns. Some of these can also be distractions. Healthy distractions can be extremely helpful for transition or therapy periods.


If it were as simple as taking medications, herbal products or just getting counseling then nobody would have difficulty in living without addictions. You need to do as much positive for yourself as is possible to have a chance at success.




Whatever you are trying to accomplish will be made easier by increasing the amount of vegetables in your daily diet. We, here in America, typically do not eat enough of the right kind of vegetables to maintain basic health. The government dietary guidelines are not enough and many of us don’t even eat that minimum amount anyway. The kind of vegetables we really need more of are the leafy, dark greens. These are the hearty greens you need to cook slightly like Swiss Chard, Kale, Collard Greens, Mustard Greens, etc. You really can feel and see the difference when you eat these on a regular basis. Your skin and eyes look better and most importantly you feel more energetic, at ease and satisfied. Our bodies are crying out for this kind of nutrition and fiber which I do not believe you can adequately get from supplements. You need to eat these things especially if you are trying to make changes in your life or are going through challenging times. It will all be made easier if you nourish your body.




Since there aren’t many herbs indicated specifically for addiction it makes sense to utilize the ones that restore comfort during certain key situations. Sometimes a person might need an energy lift or help concentrating and sometimes relaxation, soothing tension and anxiety is what is needed. Here are some specific herbs and essential oils that can be of use in a variety of ways.




Lobelia is one of the few herbs mentioned in historical and more recent herbal literature for addiction. It is supposed to help with withdrawal from nicotine. The extract could be taken internally or a tea can be made from the dried herb. Large doses cause vomiting but it is easily and comfortably used in small to moderate amounts. The ability to cause vomiting is not a bad or dangerous side effect. Lobelia has historical use as a remedy for lung problems especially asthma. The larger doses were administered sometimes to cease a life threatening asthma attack. The person would throw up and also expel excess mucous and the asthma attack would be over. If it were me I would take a half-dropperful of the extract two or three times a day if I was in the process of quitting smoking. Alternatively I might drink half cup of the tea two or three times a day.


Indigenous people from all parts of the world have always smoked herbs to correct respiratory problems and to reduce headaches. Lobelia is often an ingredient in old-fashioned herbal smoke mixtures. Herbal in this case meaning no tobacco therefore no nicotine. I don’t know if smoking Lobelia will help with nicotine withdrawal but it might be worth a try.

Black Pepper extract was used in a study where participants inhaled dummy cigarettes impregnated with Black Pepper extract, some with mint extract and some were plain. Participants inhaling ones with Black Pepper extract reported their craving for cigarettes was significantly reduced. Black Pepper extract is not a commonly found product but inhaling Black Pepper essential oil might be worth a try.




There are mentions in older herb books of Thyme and Quassia being useful for reducing the desire to drink alcohol. I know a person who was a practicing alcoholic and had attempted to quit drinking several times. The knowledge of the need to quit and the desire to quit was present but attempts had failed. This person tried one more time and drank a few cups of Thyme tea daily and was successful and has been alcohol-free for nearly 15 years now.




Relaxing agents and nervous system tonics are abundant in the herbal pharmacy. Inhaling essential oils and taking herbal extracts or teas can be very effective for soothing tense moments and reducing anxiety. You can easily find an extract or essential oil that suits you perfectly.


Extracts used singly or in combination are easy to take and carry with you to use on an as needed basis. If you are going through a particularly rough time you could take regular doses throughout the day and evening. For example you could take one dropperful in the morning, afternoon and evening for a few weeks and then evaluate whether you need to continue like that or maybe take less or stop entirely. Alternatively you can just carry the extract bottle with you at all times so you can take big, aggressive doses whenever you have a bad moment. Even if you are taking it on a regular daily schedule you could still supplement with an extra dose when you need it.


Examples of relaxing herbs are Valerian, Scullcap, Hops, Passion Flower, Kava Kava and Melissa (Lemon Balm). Many of these are most famous for successfully promoting sleep. What is a lesser-known fact is they are also wonderful stress busters during the daytime. They don’t make you feel drowsy when you are going about your normal activities. They help you to feel sleepy when you are trying to go to sleep like when you lie down or get comfortable in an easy chair. During your active times they relax your muscles and nervous system which helps you cope with upsetting moments and a high stress lifestyle.


If you want to drink tea instead of taking liquid extracts then a cup of tea is one dose and you could have several cups a day if needed. Your doses can be on a regular schedule or on an as needed basis. I often make a quantity of tea the day before I need it or make a few days worth at a time. When ready the tea is strained and kept in the fridge. I put it in empty water bottles or a thermos, hot or cold depending on the season and take plenty with me to work or wherever I’m going. At home it’s easily available in the fridge to drink hot or cold as I wish. You can sweeten herb tea or add milk or fruit juice to taste good to you.


The use of essential oils, called aromatherapy, is quite a serious healing modality and not just scented body care products. Essential oils can affect your mind, mood, emotions and concentration as well as be used to heal the physical body.


Essential oils can be inhaled by simply smelling the opened bottle or by using a diffuser to scent the air of a room, house or even your car. You can also just spray them in the air instead of using a diffuser. For this method mix essential oil with water in a spray bottle and shake each time before using.


Other methods of use include placing a drop or two on the skin undiluted like perfume or placing several drops on your shirt or pillow as you sleep. You can also place several drops on a tissue or handkerchief and bring that up to your nose whenever needed.


Essential oils are applied to larger areas of the body like lotions and gels but they must be diluted first and the skin irritating oils like Peppermint are avoided. The same skin irritating cautions apply if essential oils are used in the bath.

You should find single essential oils or combinations that appeal to your nose. There are so many oils from which to choose. The job of selecting your favorites is usually quite fun. The citrus oils like Orange, Grapefruit and Lime are very uplifting and good for dispelling irritability. The relaxing oils come in all kinds of scents that can be spicy, floral, sweet, herbaceous, woody, musky or earthy. Just find what you like. These relaxing oils are also famous for a grounding, centering effect and are often used to instill courage and fortitude to carry on with your personal journey.




Herbs and essential oils offer a variety of assistance for moments when you experience difficulty feeling alert enough or just need more energy. Several herbs are effective for this and can be used in the extract or tea form. My favorite is a medicinal-grade Guarana powder for making tea. Guarana extract is available as well but I find the effect of drinking the tea outstanding. If I am home it’s easy to make a cup of tea but when I’m out and know in advance that I might need a little help with focus, concentration or energy I bring my tea with me in a water bottle or thermos. It makes a great iced tea too. Other herbs that are popular to use in extract form for this purpose would be Ginseng, Gotu Kola and Ginkgo. Green tea has less caffeine than coffee or black tea and is healthy alternative drink to consider as well. Yerba Mate is a very popular, healthy energy tea right now that is delicious but does not contain caffeine.


Rosemary, Basil, Peppermint essential oils are good examples of aromatherapy for mental function. They typically come in small brown bottles and are so easy to carry with you. Find ones that smell good to you and either take a whiff direct from the bottle or place several drops on a tissue or handkerchief and bring that to you nose whenever needed. See the section above about tension and anxiety for more suggestions of how to use essential oils.




Most of us could use a little liver support these days. We all experience some toxins in our modern daily life. Our water, air and food are not as pure as they used to be. The health of our liver impacts many other aspects of our health. If we have had dietary or other habits in the past that were not healthy then take comfort in the fact that there are excellent herbs for liver function. Herb books always describe these as blood and liver purifiers and describe their actions as being rejuvenating and detoxifying. Milk Thistle may be the premier choice because of its gentleness and effectiveness. Other good choices would include Red Clover, Yellow Dock, Burdock and Dandelion. Extracts and teas would be the preparations to use. Think in terms of using a dropperful two or three times daily for defined periods of time like two or three weeks or a month or two. Take a break after that and use them again periodically throughout the year.




Our immune system takes a beating when we are under stress or extreme situations. This system is vital to our existence and unfortunately in our current lifestyles we undergo quite a lot of stress. Good immune tonics are Lapacho, Astragalus, Eleuthro (Siberian Ginseng) and there are many excellent combinations of these types of herbs. When I go through stressful times I take a dropperful twice a day to prevent illness.




The herbal pharmacy offers a unique approach to balancing hormones. These particular herbs to not contain hormones like testosterone, estrogen and progesterone but they work with the body, encouraging and helping it to produce the correct amounts of hormones for you at this time of your life. Their effect is subtle but when taken regularly over a period of time can definitely balance you in an overall way. Some of the famous herbs for men include Ginseng, Saw Palmetto and Sarsaparilla and for ladies, Black Cohosh, Chaste Tree (Vitex) and Dong Quai. One or two doses of extract a day is usually enough for most people.




Oral aids can be helpful in at least a few different ways. There is an herb from the country of India called Gymnema Sylvestre that is used to reduce cravings for sugar. You have to taste the herb for this purpose. It makes an acceptable tasting tea that can be swished in the mouth and swallowed throughout the day. The herb is also used for diabetes.


There are herbal smoke mixes that are only a mixture of herbs without tobacco. These are successfully smoked in rolling papers or a pipe to transition away from cigarettes. The addition of Lobelia to the herbal smoke mix might be worth a try. One of the old common names for Lobelia was Indian Tobacco.


I find making a point to drink pleasant tasting herb tea really keeps me on track with continuing healthier eating habits. I feel good when I drink them which makes me less likely to reach for that junk item or drink that is pure comfort food and void of anything truly nutritious or healthy. When we don’t feel good or are unhappy we are much more likely to reach for comfort foods that are not good for us. I have always suspected that drinking herb teas alter the taste buds in my mouth for the better as another explanation as to why they seem to keep me on track. Maybe just the act of making them, drinking them and even carrying them around with me is a reminder of my goals and that alone might make me think twice about veering off my chosen path.


Cinnamon chips, Clove buds or pieces of crystallized Ginger are other herbal items that can be held and rolled around in the mouth all day to keep up a level of distraction and satisfaction.




Whatever natural things you do for yourself know that these actions snowball into an increased momentum and motivation to keep going on your path. You may feel your situation is so difficult or complex that these simple ideas couldn’t possibly help enough to make a difference. Begin with only one or two of these suggestions that seem easier for you to do and stick with them for a while. You might be amazed at the momentum that is created and you might find yourself considering a few more changes. Baby steps at the beginning might seem like your only option but those baby steps often lead to big changes later. Choosing natural methods is an outward expression of the healing energy you are choosing to utilize inside of you. Inside of you is a powerful healing ability that is ignited by natural helpers like the vegetables you eat and the herbs and essential oils you use. It’s pretty obvious to me that nature intended these things to be exactly what the body needs to be whole, happy, comfortable and healthy. Good luck on your journey and I know from my own experience perseverance pays off!



Astragalus Root – Immune system support

Safe to consume when used appropriately.


Bergamot Essential Oil – Uplifting, Stress reducing Aroma: rich, exotic, fresh, sweet, sharp, fruity, citrus with spicy floral undertones, green and slightly floral

Tested non-toxic at low levels. Phototoxic. Possible carcinogenic. Slight possible skin irritant.


Black Cohosh Root – Hormone balance for women

Avoid when pregnant or nursing, limit use to 6 months.


Black Pepper Essential Oil – Focus, Concentration, Energy, Nicotine withdrawal Aroma: peppery, musky, fresh, very sharp, dry-woody, warm with herbaceous undertones, spicy

Tested non-toxic at low levels. Possible skin irritant. Large levels may damage kidneys.


Burdock Root – Liver support

Safe to consume when used appropriately.


Catuaba Bark – Relaxing, stress reducing

No safety information available


Cedarwood (Atlas) Essential Oil – Relaxing, Stress reducing, Grounding Aroma: warm and woody, slightly camphoraceous with a sweet balsamic undertone

Tested non-toxic at low levels. Avoid when pregnant. Potentially irritating at high levels


Chamomile (Roman) Essential Oil – Relaxing, Stress reducing, Sleep aid Aroma: warm, sweet, fruity, fresh, herbaceous, apple-like

Tested non-toxic at low levels. Avoid in early pregnancy.


Chaste Tree Berry (Vitex) – Hormone balance for women

Avoid during pregnancy. May counteract effectiveness of birth control


Cinnamon Chips Oral aid

Avoid during pregnancy. Not for long term use; do not exceed recommended dose.


Clary Sage Essential Oil – Uplifting, Stress reducing Aroma: nutty-herbaceous, spicy, sweet, hay-like, sharp

Tested non-toxic at low levels. Avoid when pregnant. Potentially sensitizing. Sedative.


Clove Bud – Oral aid

Safe to consume when used appropriately.


Dandelion Root – Liver support

Avoid during blockage of the bile ducts, acute gallbladder inflammation, and intestinal blockage. In case of gallstones, consult physician before use


Dong Quai Root – Hormone balance for women

Avoid during pregnancy.


Eleuthro Root (Siberian Ginseng) – Immune system support

Safe to consume when used appropriately. Avoid during hypertension but some authorities disagree with this caution.


Eucalyptus Essential Oil – Focus, Concentration, Energy, Respiratory Health Aroma: Strong, Clean, Fresh, Medicinal, Camphoraceous, Balsamic, Slightly Sweet, Woody, Faint peppermint undertones

Tested non-toxic at low levels. Avoid with high blood pressure and epilepsy. Not for small children.


Frankincense Essential Oil – Relaxing, Stress reducing, Grounding, Respiratory Health Aroma: fresh, exotic, spicy,green, warm, rich with sweet -balsamic undertone yet dry and resinous

Tested non-toxic at low levels. Avoid when pregnant.


Ginger (Crystallized) – Oral aid

Safe to consume when used appropriately


Ginkgo Leaf – Focus, Concentration, Energy

Safe to consume when used appropriately, possible concern with ingestion of blood thinning medications but inconclusive.


Ginseng Root (USA) – Focus, Concentration, Energy, Hormone balance for men

Avoid during hypertension but some authorities disagree with this caution.


Gotu Kola Herb – Focus, Concentration, Energy

Safe to consume when used appropriately.


Grapefruit Essential Oil – Uplifting, Stress reducing Aroma: citrusy, sweet, sharp, refreshing, clean, fresh, bitter

Potential skin irritant, sensitizing. Possibly mildly phototoxic.


Guarana Seed – Focus, Concentration, Energy

Not recommended for excessive or long-term use.


Gymnema Sylvestre Leaf – Sugar craving reduction, Oral aid


Hops Flower- Relaxing, Stress reducing, Sleep aid

Safe to consume when used appropriately but some authorities say avoid with depression.


Kava Kava Root – Relaxing, Stress reducing

Avoid during pregnancy, nursing and some kinds of depression. Not recommended for more than 3 months without medical advice. It could increase the effect of alcohol, barbiturates and some drugs used for psychological treatment and has the potential to affect motor reflexes and judgment when driving or operating heavy machinery.


Lapacho Bark – Immune system support

Safe to consume when used appropriately


Lavender Essential Oil – Relaxing, Stress reducing, Sleep aid Aroma: fresh, floral, sweet, herbaceous, delicate, delightful

Tested non-toxic at low levels.


Lime Essential Oil – Uplifting, Stress reducing Aroma: fresh, sharp, bitter-sweet, tart, lively, citrus-peel odor Should not be used when pregnant or by children. Phototoxic. Possible skin irritation.


Lobelia Herb – Respiratory health, Nicotine withdrawal

Avoid during pregnancy. Avoid large doses. May cause nausea and vomiting.


Marjoram Essential Oil – Relaxing, Stress reducing, Sleep aid Aroma: Fresh, herbaceous, warm, camphoraceous, sweet, slightly woody, spicy

Tested non-toxic at low levels. Avoid when pregnant, with asthma, low blood pressure, depression. Sedative.


Melissa (Lemon Balm) Herb – Relaxing, Stress reducing, Sleep aid

Safe to consume when used appropriately Milk Thistle Seed – Liver support Safe to consume when used appropriately


Orange Essential Oil – Uplifting, Stress reducing Aroma: Warm, Fresh, Citrus, Fruity, Tangy, Sweet, Sunny Tested non-toxic at low levels. Potentially sensitizing, phototoxic


Passion Flower Herb – Relaxing, Stress reducing, Sleep aid

Safe to consume when used appropriately


Patchouli Essential Oil – Relaxing, Uplifting, Grounding, Stress reducing Aroma: earthy, rich, sweet-balsamic, exotic yet sweet & spicy, woody undertones, strong, musty, dry

Tested non-toxic at low levels.


Peppermint Essential Oil – Focus, Concentration, Energy, Respiratory Health Aroma: fresh, menthol, clean, cool, strong, sharp, refreshing, camphoraceous, minty

Tested non-toxic at low levels. Avoid when pregnant, lactating. Skin irritant. Keep away from infants.


Red Clover Blossom – Liver support

Avoid during pregnancy.


Rosemary Essential Oil – Focus, Concentration, Energy Aroma: Fresh, strong, vibrant, herbaceous, camphoraceous, woody, powerful

Tested non-toxic at low levels


Sarsaparilla Root – Hormone balance for men

Safe to consume when used appropriately. Some authorities warn it leads to gastric irritation and temp-orary kidney impairment and advise of potential drug interactions with hypnotics, digitalis glycosides, and bismuth.


Saw Palmetto Berry – Hormone balance for men

Safe to consume when used appropriately. Regular consultation with a physician is advised when using this herb for treatment of enlarged prostate.


Scullcap Herb– Relaxing, Stress reducing, Sleep aid

Safe to consume when used appropriately.


Thyme Leaf – Respiratory health, Alcohol (reduce desire for)

Safe to consume when used appropriately.


Valerian Root – Relaxing, Stress reducing, Sleep aid

Safe to consume when used appropriately


Vetivert Essential Oil – Relaxing, Stress reducing, Grounding Aroma: Heavy, deep, musky, rich, warm, woody, sweet, spicy and earthy with lemony overtones

Tested non-toxic at low levels.


Yellow Dock Root – Liver support

Caution is advised for individuals with a history of kidney stones.


Yerba Mate Leaf – Focus, Concentration, Energy

Not recommended for excessive or long-term use. May be irritating to the digestive system.


Ylang Ylang Essential Oil – Relaxing, Stress reducing Aroma: Floral, Sweet, Balsamic, Heady, Slightly Spicy, Voluptuous, Intense Indonesia

Tested non-toxic at low levels. Potentially sensitizing. Do not use on inflamed skin. Excess may cause headache, nausea.



Alcohol (reduce desire for)




Black Pepper EO, Eucalyptus EO, Ginkgo, Ginseng, Gotu Kola, Guarana, Peppermint EO, Rosemary EO, Yerba Mate



Black Pepper EO, Eucalyptus EO, Ginkgo, Ginseng, Gotu Kola, Guarana, Peppermint EO, Rosemary EO, Yerba Mate



Cedarwood (Atlas) EO, Frankincense EO, Patchouli EO, Vetivert EO


Hormone balance for men

Ginseng, Sarsaparilla, Saw Palmetto

Hormone balance for women

Black Cohosh, ChasteTree Berry (Vitex), Dong Quai

Immune system support

Astragalus, Eleuthro (Siberian Ginseng), Lapacho


Liver support

Burdock, Dandelion, Milk Thistle, Red Clover, Yellow Dock

Nicotine withdrawal

Black Pepper EO, Lobelia

Oral aid

Cinnamon Chips, Clove Bud, Ginger (Crystallized), Gymnema Sylvestre



Catuaba, Cedarwood (Atlas) EO, Chamomile EO, Frankincense EO, Hops EO, Kava Kava, Lavender EO, Marjoram EO, Melissa (Lemon Balm), Passion Flower EO, Patchouli EO, Scullcap, Valerian, Vetivert EO, Ylang Ylang EO


Respiratory health

Eucalyptus EO, Frankincense EO, Lobelia, Peppermint EO, Thyme


Sleep aid

Chamomile EO, Hops, Lavender EO, Marjoram EO, Melissa (Lemon Balm), Passion Flower, Scullcap, Valerian


Stress reducing

Bergamot EO, Catuaba, Cedarwood (Atlas), Chamomile EO, Clary Sage EO, Frankincense EO, Grapefruit EO, Hops, Kava Kava, Lavender EO, Lime EO, Marjoram EO, Melissa (Lemon Balm), Orange EO, Passion Flower, Patchouli EO, Scullcap, Valerian, Vetivert EO, Ylang Ylang EO


Sugar craving reduction

Gymnema Sylvestre


Bergamot EO, Clary Sage EO, Grapefruit EO, Lime EO, Orange EO, Patchouli EO



(EO = Essential Oil)




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