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weening off prescription medication

How to Ween Yourself Off a Medication Using Acupuncture and Herbs

allergies anxiety blood pressure depression diabetes medication

My absolute favorite moments in practice are when my patients tell me they’ve stopped taking their prescription medications. 

By law I can’t recommend anything regarding a prescription drug.  

I can’t tell you to take it or not.  

But I can help you devise a plan for getting off of it that will involve you discussing this plan with the doctor who prescribed the medication. 

Just as 99% of doctors don’t know about herbs and nutrition (that’s not what they studied in medical school), and therefore shouldn’t give recommendations about them, I have limited knowledge about prescriptions. 

What I do know is that medications often mask an underlying issue.  And most of the time, those issues are fixable with the right tools.  The right foods, plants, exercises, and mindset.  And the right kind of doctors (including acupuncturists).

Ultimately this is what I want to hear from my patients:  Pain relievers?  “Nah…don’t need them anymore; I feel great!”  Thyroid medication?  “Doc says my blood work is great and I don’t need it anymore.”  Diuretics for hypertension?  “I threw them out because they were making my blood pressure too low!”  And of course, "I've completely weaned off my antidepressant and I feel GREAT!"  

But, please – there is a procedure for this.  

Don’t just stop taking a prescription medication cold turkey; you must go through these steps first:


It doesn’t matter who you chose to work with – a chiropractor, naturopath, counselor, PT, integrative doc, nutritionist, or acupuncturist.  Work with folks who can help you get the results you’re looking for.   Look for professionals that listen carefully and give you fully thought-out answers. 

Don't be afraid to speak up and ask for what you think you need.  Ultimately, the patient is the boss.  

You need A TEAM that can help you get to the root of the problem.  You'll get there much faster with objective, expert help.  

While you’re starting this journey into wellness, STAY ON YOUR MEDICATION.  If you’re not sure, ask your Wellness Team if anything they’re giving you will interfere with your medication. 

There aren’t too many contra-indications for herbs with medications, but there are a few.  In most cases, the natural therapies prescribed (supplements, herbs, or lifestyle changes) will help the medication work better because they’re helping your body function better.  In turn, the natural therapies are healing your body so your body has less of a need for the medication.

In this stage, possible side-effects are probably due to the medication, and not the natural therapies. 

For example, if you’re on medication to lower your blood pressure, and you’re doing natural therapies to regulate your blood pressure, you may start to feel excessively tired.  If you check your blood pressure, you may find that it’s going too low

Herbs and foods help regulate a healthy blood pressure; they don't force your blood pressure lower.  At this point, it’s due to the medication dosage being too high.   This is when you need to talk to your prescribing physician, which is step 2.


Once you’re starting to feel better and notice positive changes that indicate that your body is functioning better, talk to the doctor who prescribed the medication. 

Tell them that your plans are to get off the medication at some point.  Tell them exactly what you've done so far to make healthy changes, and that you’re noticing improvements.  

Then ask, “Can I stop this medication or start to wean off of it?”  If they sound agreeable, have them specify the steps needed to do this.  (If not, it may be time to find a new doctor.) 

  • You want to know if there are possible complications for doing reducing a med (as there can be with anti-depressants). 
  • You'll want to know what you should be tracking, such as your blood pressure or blood sugar numbers for hypertension or diabetes. 
  • You'll want to know about red light warning signs of when to call them. 
  • AND what is the best way to wean off if it’s a medication that you should not quit “cold turkey.”  

If your doctor advises against weening off a medication, it doesn't hurt to seek out a second opinion.  

In some cases, you really can't stop a medication.  One example of this if you've had your thyroid removed.  In this situation, you'll probably need thyroid medication your whole life, unfortunately.  (A great reason to see an acupuncturist before docs start yanking your organs out.)   


If you’re working with a natural doctor and the results are just not happening, it may be time to try something (or someone) new.  There are no shortages of different options. You may need to try a few to see what works for you.  

Everyone has a slightly different take on things:  different training, different perspectives and different areas of expertise.  Don’t be discouraged; just try plan B.


Let’s say you’re working with me on your thyroid.  I still would encourage you to go to your regular MD for blood work so we can track our progress.  If the blood work shows improvement, hey, let’s celebrate!  Even if you’re not 100% “cured,” even slow progress is a step in the right direction, so we know to keep at it.  If there’s no changes, or if things are worse, we have to adjust our treatment protocols.

If you’re tracking your blood pressure, invest in a good quality blood pressure cuff to keep at home and check daily at first, and then weekly as you’re improving over time.  If you’re diabetic and weaning off insulin, you need to check your blood sugars every morning and your A1C through blood work according to your MD’s recommendations.

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