By: Phelix Peer
Drinking and responsibilities have always clashed. Drinking has traditionally been perceived as a vice, an activity associated with decreased functionality and negative impacts on life. This could be fundamentally attributed to the physiological effects, both acute and chronic, of drinking. However, it’s seemingly here to stay, and has been present in most cultures across the globe throughout recorded history. Why is that? It can definitely be argued either ways whether alcohol has a positive and necessary role in life, but the fact of the matter is, more likely than not, it is here to stay. As such, given this, how may we get around the deficits?
From the first hangover I got (back in first year university), I can remember saying “Oh no, I’m never drinking this much ever again.” (Phelix Peer, 2009) Nausea, dry mouth, stomach troubles, fatigue, the list goes on… Against my better judgement, I can no longer count nor remember how many times I’ve been hungover. For the sake of argument, let’s assume I have grown wiser in the past years; have I not been increasingly aware of the side effects alcohol poses? Why is it still present in my life? Well, we can go down the rabbit hole of my personal life choices, but I thought it’d be more prudent to assume that alcohol is inevitably linked with humanity as of the current meta, and see what researchers and their data are saying.
Current social approaches, as much as they may be frowned upon, have revolved around hydration sugary drinks, coffee, pharmaceuticals (such as antihistamines i.e. Zyrtec, Telfast, Claratyne) and a variety of grandma’s concoctions. But what does the data say? The core physiological reasons for why we have hangovers stem from the dehydration and presence of alcohol breakdown intermediates within our bodies (namely acetaldehyde). Out of the aforementioned approaches, there doesn’t seem to be much data backing its efficacy. Interestingly enough, in the field of supplements and herbal remedies, there seems to be some potential. Studies in China, Korea, Japan, and North America have tried to identify potential herbs and compounds which may help with this problem. Most notably, studies have identified Dihydromyricetin (DHM), a compound found in the Japanese raisin tree (Hovenia dulcis) which can reduce the severity of hangover symptoms, through its impact on blood acetaldehyde levels.1 Albeit the studies so far have been conducted on mostly animal models, DHM has shown efficacy in assisting the body to metabolize alcohol faster and more efficiently.1,2 This is done through the increase in activity of enzymes used to break down alcohol within the liver – alcohol dehydrogenase (ADH) and acetaldehyde dehydrogenase (ALDH).2,3
Additionally, a recent study looking at hangovers in humans (medically termed veisalgia) and what supplements can offer, was published in February 2020, and showed a combination of ingredients including Acerola Cherry Extract, Prickly Pear Extract, Ginkgo biloba Extract, Ginger Root Extract, White Willow Extract, along with vitamins and minerals to be statistically effective in reducing hangover severity as compared to consumption of sugar alone, or vitamins and sugar.4 This is just another study, amongst many conducted in the recent times, validating the effectiveness various herbs with antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties have in addressing the acute negative effects of alcohol consumption. Not to be a crusader, but maybe it’s time we start taking the functionality of supplements seriously, and start realizing what the data and evidence is showing.
If you want to find out more specifically on which herbs have been looked at by researchers on symptoms of alcohol consumption, feel free to click on any of the following links:
Prickly Pear Extract – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15226168
- Shen, Y., Lindemeyer, A. K., Gonzalez, C., Shao, X. M., Spigelman, I., Olsen, R. W., & Liang, J. (2012). Dihydromyricetin As a Novel Anti-Alcohol Intoxication Medication. Journal of Neuroscience, 32(1), 390–401. doi:10.1523/jneurosci.4639-11.2012
- Okuma, Yutaka, et al. “Effect of Extracts Form Hovenia Dulcis Thunb. on Alcohol Concentration in Rats and Men Administered Alcohol.” Nippon Eiyo Shokuryo Gakkaishi, vol. 48, no. 3, 1995, pp. 167–172., doi:10.4327/jsnfs.48.167.
- Sakai, Kiyoshi, et al. “Effect of Water Extracts of Crude Drugs in Decreasing Blood Ethanol Concentrations in Rats.” Chemical & Pharmaceutical Bulletin, vol. 35, no. 11, 1987, pp. 4597–4604., doi:10.1248/cpb.35.4597.
- Lieb, B., & Schmitt, P. (2020). Randomised double-blind placebo-controlled intervention study on the nutritional efficacy of a food for special medical purposes (FSMP) and a dietary supplement in reducing the symptoms of veisalgia. BMJ Nutrition, Prevention & Health, bmjnph–2019–000042. doi:10.1136/bmjnph-2019-000042