Scientists have discovered that a compound in ancient Chinese herbal medicine can prevent hangovers and even cure alcohol dependency.
This could be good news for the UK government, which is currently spending billions of pounds treating alcohol related illnesses on the NHS.
Dr. Jing Liang, an associate professor of pharmacology at the University of California in Los Angeles, noticed that when people ate food cooked with hovenia the effects of alcohol were greatly reduced.
Hovenia is an extract from the Chinese Raisin Tree. In Asia, hovenia has been taken as a herbal supplement to treat hangovers for at least 500 years.
Dr. Jing Liang decided to isolate the specific compound that was blocking the effect of alcohol, called dihydromyricetin, or DHM, and test the compound on rats.
The rats given alcohol without DHM showed similar signs of intoxication as humans do when they drink. But the rats given alcohol with DHM showed no signs of intoxication.
Researchers also administered DHM to rats that were given alcohol over a prolonged period of time. Their results, published in the Journal of Neuroscience, show that the symptoms of alcohol dependency were greatly reduced.
All rats given DHM with alcohol had reduced hangover symptoms.
Dr Liang now wants to test the study’s findings in human clinical trials. If the compound is proven effective, it could be turned into a medication, possibly in gum, patch or spray-form.
Bernard Le Foll, a pharmacology professor at the University of Toronto, said the study's findings are "very promising" for the treatment of alcohol addiction.
"It's building on the use of an old plant in Chinese medicine and they seem to have been able to isolate what seems to be the active ingredient."
However, Le Foll does not recommend people start taking hovenia to treat their hangovers just yet until the compound has been proven effective for humans.
© ActiveQuote Ltd. 2012