Whether the COVID-19 outbreak has you drinking more often or you had a fun night out before the stay-at-home order, having a hangover is no fun. And while hard evidence is still lacking on an official cure, there’s a new plant-based formulation that’s been said to offer relief.
Research in the journal BMJ Nutrition, Prevention & Health conducted a trial to see if a mix of plant extracts, antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals could improve 47 hangover symptoms. The most common hangover symptoms include exhaustion, thirst, fatigue, headaches, dry mouth, and nausea.
Previous research suggested that the polyphenol and flavonoid compounds in Barbados cherry (acerola), prickly pear, ginkgo biloba, willow, and ginger root eased the physiological impact of alcohol.
That’s why researchers chose to further study them. And the evidence shows that these plants may help in keeping a hangover at bay.
Participants included 214 healthy people ages 18 to 65. They drank 7.5 grams of a flavored, water-soluble supplement 45 minutes before and immediately after they stopped drinking beer, white wine, or white wine spritzer.
The double-blind, placebo-controlled study is considered the gold standard of medical studies.
Participants were put into three groups: The first group’s supplement included plant extracts, vitamins and minerals, and additional antioxidant compounds steviol glycosides and inulin. The second group drank a supplement without the plant extracts. The third group got a placebo glucose drink.
The vitamins and minerals in the supplement included magnesium, potassium, sodium bicarbonate, zinc, riboflavin, thiamin, and folic acid.
The number and type of beverages consumed were recorded. The average consumption rate was about 0.62 milliliters per minute. Researchers logged how many times participants urinated in a 4-hour span. Blood and urine samples, as well as blood pressure, were taken before and after the study period. They were also taken 12 hours after the study period. That’s when participants completed a questionnaire about the intensity of specific hangover symptoms.
The intensity of symptoms varied among participants. But those who took the mixture with plant extracts, antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals had less severe symptoms. For instance, the average headache intensity was 34 percent less, and nausea was 42 percent less in those who took the complete supplement. No significant differences or reductions were reported for any of the other symptoms.
The researchers say the mechanisms of how those extracts may work needs more investigation.
Some people believe dehydration due to alcohol causes hangovers, while others contend the loss of electrolytes is to blame. According to the study, those notions could be wrong.
“Our results suggest that alcohol-induced increased fluid excretion does not necessarily lead to a significant dehydration process,” the authors wrote.
“There is merit to the combination of the plant extracts used … for this hangover study,” said Dr. Jing Liang, a pharmacology professor at the University of Southern California.
A few studies have touted the use of the compounds in disease prevention or therapy. The combination of them, along with potential interactions with each other and alcohol and any prescription medications, warrants more study. Evidence must be confirmed before recommending this combination for hangover symptom relief.
“From the studies that exist on these compounds, it is mainly the antioxidant activity of these compounds that provides the benefits against specific metabolic and inflammatory stressors in the body,” Liang added.
Dihydromyricetin (DHM) is another plant extract marketed in many available hangover formulas shown to have health benefits. Liang has studied it and found it reduces alcohol intoxication and withdrawal, enhances alcohol metabolism and clearance, and can protect the liver from unhealthy alcohol consumption.
Thinking of heading down to the health store to get these extracts? While they’re available, people need to pay attention to quality and sourcing, Liang said.
“With the ongoing COVID outbreak and stay-at-home orders, alcohol sales are on the rise,” Liang said. “It is likely that people will look into several of these remedies for hangovers for treatment, especially as they might need to focus while they continue to work from home or distract themselves from ongoing stress.”
Chronic drinking does promote lingering persistent inflammation in the body, so it would make sense that consuming plants with antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activity might help reduce inflammation. That could make someone feel better, at least in theory. More research is needed to know if it works, how it works, how much to take, and when to take it, added Sharon Palmer, a registered dietitian nutritionist from California.
“It’s probably too soon to start popping vitamins and herbs in an attempt to reduce symptoms of too much alcohol,” Palmer told Healthline. “We need to learn more about whether this treatment is indeed effective.”