Hangovers refer to the uncomfortable physiological and psychological effects that follow an excessive consumption of drinks that contain ethanol. Over the years, the cause of this unpleasant condition has been sought in a bid to reduce its effects. Hangovers are caused by the dehydrating property of ethanol. The condition can be blamed on the buildup acetaldehyde. When one consumes alcoholic drinks, they are broken down into acetaldehyde, which is then metabolized into a less active product called acetate. Eventually, the acetate is broken into carbon dioxide and water, substances that can be easily eliminated by the body. However, the breakdown of acetaldehyde is slow and it consequently accumulates in the body, thus creating symptoms such as dizziness, nausea, and sweating. It is this uncomfortable feeling that is referred to as a hangover.
Milk thistle is an herb that is native to the Mediterranean. Currently, it is found in various regions of the world even though it is regarded as a weed in some parts. The leaves have therapeutic benefits and when crushed, they produce a milky sap hence its name. The most active compound in the milky fluid is flavonoid silymarin. It is made up of various components like silicristin, silibinin, and lidianin. These complement each other to provide multiple health benefits. Silymarin is an anti-fibrotic. Therefore, it prevents the formation of tissue scars which is characteristic when the liver is presented with various injurious agents for a long time. Also, it prevents different toxins from binding to the various liver cell membrane receptors. Therefore, it is used to treat toxin-induced liver disease, viral hepatitis, and alcoholic liver disease. Administration of this compound has been shown to minimize liver injury that is caused by various environmental toxins and drugs like acetaminophen.
Hovenia dulcis is a Traditional Chinese Medicine mainly used to reduce hangovers. It grows naturally in China, Korea, Japan, and Himilayas. It is also referred to as Raisin Tree. Medicinally, only the fruits and the peduncles are useful. In the body, alcohol is broken down into its primary metabolite, acetic acid by the alcohol dehydrogenase (ADH). Acetic acid is broken down into acetaldehyde by the aldehyde dehydrogenase (ALDH). The herb is effective when taken half an hour before, concurrently or half an hour after. Studies both in men and rats have shown that it is more effective when taken before consumption of alcohol. It reduces hangovers by minimizing the circulating levels of alcohol.
Studies have shown that Hovenia has liver protective capabilities. Most of these have been done on rats and mice. These studies have revealed that the herb protects the liver from injuries secondary to carbon tetrachloride. Also, it is protective from a mixture of lipopolysaccharides and galactosamine. Also, the herb protects the liver by preventing the rise in the levels of liver enzymes like alanine aminotransferase (ALT) and aspartate aminotransferase (AST). Dihydromyricetin also has anti-oxidative capacities. It does so through superoxide radical scavenging, ferrous ion chelation, prevention of formation of fatty liver, and lipid peroxidation. Also, the methanolic extract normalizes the levels of superoxide dismutase, serum triglyceride, catalase, and hepatic glutathione.
Detoxification is an important process as it eliminates various chemicals that we absolve on a daily basis. Primarily, detoxification is carried out by the liver. Different foods like those in vitamin E aid in the detoxification process. Ginseng is an herb. For years, it has been used to detoxify the body thereby delivering the necessary nutrients at the appropriate concentration. Ginseng contains various components like saponins and ginsenosides that have been show to supplement the functions of the liver. Also, ginseng contains minerals, vitamins, and antioxidants. The liver performs various functions and if left unprotected can potentially cause liver complications. By performing some of the functions that are carried out by the liver, ginseng protects the liver.
The main culprit in causing hangovers is acetaldehyde, a metabolite that is formed from metabolism of alcohol. Hangovers are relieved after detoxification of acetaldehyde. Ginseng has been shown to detoxify acetaldehyde as well.
Kudzu is a group of climbing, coiling and trailing vines that grow natively in regions of Eastern Asia, Southeast Asia and the Pacific Islands. The people honor it for its aesthetic and health properties associated with longevity, and the Japanese have christened Kudzu the Royal Food.
In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), Kudzu is known as ge gen, and is considered one of the 50 fundamental herbs. It has been used for centuries to manage an assortment of disorders, including; gut disorders, blood pressure, muscle pain, tinnitus, alcoholism and superficial heat (the Wei syndrome). TCM systems have used the wonder vine as a treatment for chronic headaches. Traditionally, both the Kudzu root and flower have been used to treat alcoholism and to cure hangover respectively. One theory for its action is that the herb’s isoflavones are alcohol dehydrogenase inhibitors, interfering with the alcohol metabolism process. This results in a less violent hangover from intoxication.