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Scientists uncover metabolic mechanisms behind herbal "hangover cure"

Scientists uncover metabolic m...
Researchers have investigated how a herbal remedy called DHM works in the liver to help hangovers
Researchers have investigated how a herbal remedy called DHM works in the liver to help hangovers
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Researchers have investigated how a herbal remedy called DHM works in the liver to help hangovers
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Researchers have investigated how a herbal remedy called DHM works in the liver to help hangovers

A good night out is all too often followed by a bad day. Most of us would probably reach for a glass of water and some greasy food over a herbal remedy that’s claimed to be a hangover cure, but dihydromyricetin (DHM) does seem to have some effect. And now, researchers at the University of Southern California (USC) have investigated how it works.

DHM is a compound usually derived from the fruit of the Japanese raisin tree. It’s a traditional medicine that’s been used for 500 years and is sold in pharmacies as an over-the-counter hangover remedy. There is evidence that it works, but exactly how remains a mystery. So, the USC researchers set out to investigate.

“We know DHM helps the body to metabolize alcohol faster, but how does it work?” says Jing Liang, corresponding author of the study. “We found it activates a cascade of mechanisms that erase alcohol from the body very quickly.”

The team tested the drug in mice, by giving 36 animals ethanol every day for two months. Over time the dose was increased to about 30 percent of their daily food intake. Some mice were also given DHM, and then the team studied the animals’ livers to compare injury and other indicators of stress.

The researchers noticed several improvements in the livers of mice that had also received DHM. The drug appeared to have increased the production of enzymes that metabolize alcohol, and boosted their efficiency as well. The treated mice also had less fat built up in their liver tissue, and reduced levels of inflammatory cytokines, both of which can damage this vital organ.

“In total, these findings support the utility of DHM as a dietary supplement to reduce ethanol-induced liver injury via changes in lipid metabolism, enhancement of ethanol metabolism and suppressing inflammation responses to promote liver health,” the team says. “This line of research suggests that DHM acts on multiple pathways to promote liver health and counteract ethanol injury.”

This new understanding of DHM goes beyond just helping people stop feeling sorry for themselves on a Sunday morning. The researchers say that it could help alleviate liver damage in people with alcoholism, prolong liver function in people awaiting transplants, or boost the function in newly transplanted livers.

The research was published in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research.

Sources: USC, The Conversation

4 comments
Jose Gros
'Hangover' may be induced by brain volume changes, dehydration, because of water and electrolyte metabolism disturbances alcohol induces, it blocks carbonic anhydrase, an enzyme that permeates the Henle Loop walls, allowing urine to concentrate; under alcohol effect, urine is not concentrated, resulting in net water loss, but if other products are concomitantly used, namely MDMA, metamphetamines, which may induce a dilutional hyponatremia, the mix can be highly destructive.
Better never go beyond the first drink serving. Blessings +
paul314
There's quite a distance (at least I hope so) between the typical hangover and the kind of liver injury you get from long-term daily binge drinking.
FB36
I had seen an article (I think in this website) which was saying, cause of hangover was found to be inflammation of brain tissue! If that is really true, then, would not it mean, best hangover cure is any anti-inflammation medicine (like Aspirin for example)? (Ask your doctor! :-)
Jose Gros
Inflammation may be secondary to the disrupted blood-brain barrier from the brain volume changes dehydration induces, but that of FB36 is a good remark, as inflammation may be linked to many brain and mental disorders. The combination of alcohol and aspirin, or any NSAID, is deadly for gastric walls, results in many ER visits from GI bleeding. Blessings +