Ancient chinese herb may cure hangovers, alcoholism

Experiment shows that a Hovenia Dulcis extract mitigates many of the negative effects of alcohol.

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Whether it's drunk texting or drunk dialing, technology and booze usually don't mix. And now a recent finding may make it so that people are a lot less likely to find themselves in these embarassing situations. That's because scientists believe they have discovered a compound that mitigates many of the impairing effects of alcohol.

We're talking about an antidote that can ease the feeling of a nasty hangover, help you sober up and possibly even eliminate the need for 12-step programs. Actually, perhaps "discovered" isn't quite the right word. The sobering properties of the Hovenia Dulcis tree have been touted by Chinese herbalists for centuries. But it's only recently that a group of researchers from UCLA began lab-testing such claims by running a series of experiments using a chemical extract from the seed known as Dihydromyricetin (DHM).

Instead of human subjects, the researchers used intoxicated rats since alcohol consumption impacts both in similar ways. After having the rodents down about the human equivalent of 15 to 20 bottles of beer over a period of two hours, they found that the ones that were given booze spiked with DHM had a higher tolerance and were able to sober up quicker, in about 15 minutes. They also found that, within two days, the extract helped to clear up hangover symptoms, such as anxiety and susceptibility to seizures.

But the really significant finding was that while some rats tended to consume even higher quantities of alcohol after the initial drinking session, the ones that took it with DHM didn't have the same craving. "When you drink alcohol with DHM, you never become addicted," lead researcher Jing Liang wrote in the Journal of Neuroscience.

Although promising, the study's results are still preliminary and A. Leslie Morro, a neuroscientist at UNC warns of jumping to conclusions. According to a report in Science News:

Though the results are exciting, they don’t mean that a hit of Hovenia extract can enable a night of consequence-free binge drinking, Morrow says. Alcohol has many effects in the brain, and DHM may not block them all.

Alcohol works in part by changing the behavior of proteins known as GABA receptors, which are involved in curbing brain excitation. DHM blocks alcohol’s effects by latching onto these receptors in the brain. Another compound called RO15-4513, discovered by Paul and collaborators, also blocked alcohol by interfering with GABA receptors, but it caused seizures.

So far, Liang and her team have found no side effects from DHM. The researchers now plan to test DHM’s effect on people.

(via ScienceNews)

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