Chinese Herbal Medicine for the Treatment of Drug Addiction

Int Rev Neurobiol. 2017:135:279-295. doi: 10.1016/bs.irn.2017.02.013. Epub 2017 Mar 25.


This chapter summarizes recent developments in preclinical and clinical research on Chinese herbal medicines and their neurochemical mechanism of action for the treatment of drug addiction. We searched Chinese and English scientific literature and selected several kinds of Chinese herbal medicines that have beneficial effects on drug addiction. Ginseng (Renshen) may be clinically useful for the prevention of opioid abuse and dependence. Rhizoma Corydalis (Yanhusuo) may be used to prevent relapse to chronic drug dependence. Alkaloids of Uncaria rhynchophylla (Gouteng) appear to have positive effects on methamphetamine and ketamine addiction. Both Salvia miltiorrhiza (Danshen) and Radix Pueraiae (Gegen) have beneficial inhibitory effects on alcohol intake. Sinomenine has been shown to have preventive and curative effects on opioid dependence. l-Stepholidine, an alkaloid extract of the Chinese herb Stephania intermedia (Rulan), attenuated the acquisition, maintenance, and reacquisition of morphine-induced conditioned place preference and antagonized the heroin-induced reinstatement of heroin seeking. Traditional Chinese herbal medicines may be used to complement current treatments for drug addiction, including withdrawal and relapse. As the molecular mechanisms of action of traditional Chinese herbal medicines are elucidated, further advances in their use for the treatment of drug addiction are promising.

Keywords: Addiction; Alcohol; Chinese herbal medicine; Cocaine; Heroin; Ketamine; Morphine; Relapse.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Drugs, Chinese Herbal / chemistry
  • Drugs, Chinese Herbal / therapeutic use*
  • Humans
  • Medicine, Chinese Traditional / methods*
  • Substance-Related Disorders / therapy*


  • Drugs, Chinese Herbal