Over the years, various natural remedies have been recommended as hangover cures, usually with little if any science to back them up.
Now, no less than the esteemed British journal BMJ Nutrition Prevention & Health has published a paper suggesting a plant extract combination of fruits, leaves and roots may help relieve the symptoms many people know only too well.
We’re talking prickly pear, ginkgo biloba, willow, ginger root and something called Barbados cherry (Acerola).
The paper, written by Bernhard Lieb and Patrick Schmitt from the Institute of Molecular Physiology in Mainz, Germany, also suggests the dehydrating effects of alcohol and the associated loss of electrolytes may be a furphy.
The study was scientific but simple. Lieb and Schmitt asked 214 healthy adults (18-65 years) to get on the turps 45 minutes after taking a flavoured supplement, then to take another after their drinking session had ended.
There were three different supplements. One included the aforementioned plant extracts, plus vitamins, minerals and additional antioxidant compounds, steviol glycosides and inulin. The second contained all that except the plant extracts. The third was a glucose placebo.
Blood and urine samples and blood pressure measurements were taken before and after the four-hour drinking session, and careful note was taken of how often people went to the loo. The average amount of alcohol consumed was virtually the same in all three groups.
Twelve hours later the same samples and blood pressure measurements were taken, and participants filled in a questionnaire about the type and intensity of perceived hangover symptoms.
Analysis of the data showed that intensity varied widely among the participants, but those taking the full supplement reported less severe symptoms than those on the placebo.
No significant differences were reported by those taking the supplement without the plant extracts, however, suggesting that they were largely responsible for the observed changes, the researchers say.
Not all symptoms were affected, but some biggies were. Average headache intensity fell by 34%, nausea 42%, feelings of indifference 27% and restlessness 41%.
Polyphenol and flavonoid compounds in each of the five plant extracts have been associated with curbing the physiological impact of alcohol in previously published experimental studies, the researchers say, but it’s still not clear how.
In addition, the absence of any observed impact for vitamins and minerals on their own suggests that alcohol might not affect electrolyte and mineral balance, as is commonly thought, they add.
Their analysis also showed levels of water content in the body weren’t significantly associated with the amount of alcohol drunk.
“This study significantly supports the finding that haemostasis of electrolytes and minerals caused by alcohol consumption might be negligible and that no significant dehydration due to alcohol consumption seems to occur,” they write.
Nick Carne is editor of Cosmos digital and editorial manager for The Royal Institution of Australia.
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