Study Finds Plant Extracts Could Be Key To Lessening A Hangover

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Rachael Funnell 30 Apr 2020, 23:30

New research published in the journal BMJ Nutrition Prevention & Health brings good news for hangover sufferers, as a plant extract drink shows promising signs in reducing the undesirable side effects of drinking. The findings also indicate that long-held beliefs about the effects of alcohol on dehydration and mineral depletion could be false.

If you’ve ever had a hangover, you’ll have felt the desperate longing for some sort of magic tonic to cure your ills. Various remedies have been touted by wellness brands and nutritionists but there’s been remarkably little research into this area. To remedy this, a team of researchers decided to take a scientific approach in deducing specific plant extracts, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidant compounds that could actually ease the unpleasant physical and psychological symptoms associated with being hungover.

The researchers created a supplement that contained Barbados cherry (Acerola), prickly pear, ginkgo biloba, willow, and ginger root. The researchers state that polyphenol and flavonoid compounds in each of these plant extracts have been associated with reduced hangover symptoms in previously published experimental studies, but exactly why remains unclear. These ingredients were bolstered with vitamins and minerals including magnesium, potassium, sodium bicarbonate, zinc, riboflavin, thiamin, and folic acid.

A sample of 214 healthy volunteers between the ages of 18 and 65 were treated to a 7.5g flavored, water soluble supplement made up of a combination of the above ingredients. These were given 45 minutes before and immediately after the participants started sesh’ing on a menu of beer, white wine, or white wine spritzer.

The full group of participants were split into three categories. One-third were given the plant extract, mineral-rich supplement with additional antioxidant compounds, including steviol, glycosides, and inulin. Another third was given a similar supplement except that the plant extracts had been removed and a third group were given a placebo of glucose only.

The researchers took note of how many libations the participants indulged in, as well as the slightly less glamorous task of noting how many times they emptied their bladders and collecting samples for analysis. They also took blood samples and pressure measurements before and after the four-hour drinking session, after which the participants were sent on their merry way to sober up.

They took the same readings again 12 hours later and the participants were asked to fill in a questionnaire (in what was likely the eye of the hangover storm) detailing their symptoms.

The findings revealed that while symptom intensity varied significantly across all of the participants, those taking the full supplement of plant extracts, minerals/vitamins, and antioxidants reported less severe symptoms compared to the placebo group. The researchers highlight that the mechanism as to why this happens is still not known and an area for future investigation. 

The average headache intensity was 34 percent less in this group, with nausea falling by 42 percent. Participants in this group also felt less apathetic and restless with reductions of 27 percent and 41 percent respectively. The results didn’t show a significant reduction in symptoms in the group with the supplement without the plant extracts, indicating that these played a key role in the observed changes. It also indicates that electrolyte and mineral imbalances may not play a significant role in hangovers as is widely believed, as supplementing these supposed deficiencies made no difference.

"Our results suggest that alcohol-induced increased fluid excretion does not necessarily lead to a significant dehydration process," the researchers write. "It seems to be clear that hangover symptoms are predominantly caused by alcohol and its metabolites.”

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