The Move Toward Plant Medicine and Herbs
Interest in plant medicine has grown exponentially in the last decade. People are discovering the health benefits and stress-relieving qualities of traditional herbs, and as a result, many have moved away from more dangerous substances such as alcohol.
The U.S. Has a Substance Abuse Problem
- Approximately 19.7 million American adults (age 12 and older) struggled with a substance use disorder in 2017, according to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH).
- Nearly 74% of adults with a substance use disorder in 2017 struggled with an alcohol use disorder.
- About 38% of adults in 2017 battled an illicit drug use disorder.
- That same year, 1 in 8 adults struggled with both alcohol and drug use disorders simultaneously.
- In 2017, 8.5 million American adults suffered from both a mental health disorder and a substance use disorder, or co-occurring disorders.
- Drug abuse and addiction cost American society more than $740 billion annually in lost workplace productivity, healthcare expenses, and crime-related costs.
Statistics are from the American Addiction Centers.
Traditional Plant Medicine
For centuries, indigenous cultures around the world have been using plant-based medicines for healing, recreational and ceremonial purposes. In fact, kratom, indigenous to Thailand and its surrounding countries in Southeast Asia, has been used for millennia in traditional medicine and in social and religious contexts.
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.
Renewed Interest in Plant Medicine
In the 1960s, psychedelics, including plant-based hallucinogens such as psilocybin (magic mushrooms) were gaining interest among Western researchers as a possible way to address mental health issues and substance abuse. During this time, researchers published more than 1,000 scientific papers demonstrating the potential of these substances. Soon after, however, political and social backlash halted psychedelic research in the U.S.
Today, there is renewed interest and support for the widely experienced benefits of herbal medicines and plant alternatives. Kratom is experiencing increasing popularity and public support and now cannabis has become legal, at least for medicinal purposes, in most states. In addition, during guided sessions or healing ceremonies, many people are using natural substances such as magic mushrooms, ayahuasca and peyote cacti to address previous trauma and mental health issues.
Kratom/ Kava Bars Help Promote the Sober Life
Kratom/kava bars allow people to mingle and relax while remaining completely sober. And as a natural extension, many of these bars have sprouted friendly communities of like-minded people.
For many, the mood-boosting and stress-reducing effects of kratom are quite conducive to social interaction without all the messiness and regrets of alcohol. Kratom/ kava bars are typically set up like alcohol bars, but instead of beer and hard liquor, you are given a wide variety of botanical teas, kava concoctions and coffee drinks that won’t leave you with a painful hangover in the morning. Most likely, you can have your choice of either white (stimulating), green (mildly euphoric) or red (relaxing) kratom. Many of these bars open early and don’t close until late at night.
Ayurveda, an ancient Indian system of natural medicine, is also enjoying new interest in the West. The practice is based on the concept that disease is caused by an imbalance in a person’s overall being. Ayurvedic practitioners offer natural therapies and interventions to help patients regain balance within the body, mind, spirit and environment.
Herbs are used extensively in Ayurvedic treatment. Siesta Botanicals offers three botanicals commonly used in Ayurveda including ashwagandha, holy basil (tulsi) and the spice turmeric.
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.
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.
Turmeric (Curcuma longa) is a flowering plant of the ginger family Zingiberaceae. The plant is a perennial, rhizomatous, herbaceous plant native to the Indian subcontinent and Southeast Asia and has a long history of use in traditional medicine. The rhizomes are used fresh or boiled in water and dried, after which they are ground into a deep orange-yellow powder commonly used as a coloring and flavoring agent in many Asian cuisines, especially for curries, as well as for dyeing. Turmeric powder has a warm, bitter, black pepper-like flavor and earthy, mustard-like aroma. Turmeric has powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Research has shown that curcumin, the active ingredient in turmeric, can benefit inflammation, pain, metabolic syndrome, and help in the management of inflammatory and degenerative eye conditions.