There are many myths about what cures a hangover, from hair of the dog to endless cups of coffee, although whether they actually work or not is often debated. However, German researchers have a suggestion for one way to ease your sore head, after finding that taking a combination of plant extracts could help reduce some of the effects of a heavy night.
Carried out by researchers at Johannes Gutenberg-University, the new study set out to investigate whether a combination of natural plant extracts including Barbados cherry (Acerola), prickly pear, ginkgo biloba, willow and ginger root along with vitamins and minerals such as magnesium, potassium, sodium bicarbonate, zinc, riboflavin, thiamin and folic acid could help reduce hangover symptoms.
The researchers recruited 214 healthy 18-to-65-year olds for the study and randomly split them into three groups. One group were given a flavored water-soluble supplement containing the combination of plant extracts, vitamins and minerals, along with steviol glycosides and inulin, 45 minutes before and immediately after they stopped drinking their choice of beer, white wine or white wine spritzer. Another group received the supplement but without the plant extracts and the third group were given glucose as a placebo. All participants provided blood and urine samples and blood pressure recordings before and after drinking, and 12 hours later.
The findings, published online today in BMJ Nutrition Prevention & Health, showed that although the average amount of alcohol drunk was around the same in all three groups (0.62 ml/minute), the severity of hangover symptoms varied widely among the participants.
However, taking the supplement with the plant extracts did appear to help ease some of these symptoms. Compared to the participants who took the glucose-only placebo supplement, those who took the full supplement of plant extracts, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants benefited from a 34 percent average reduction in the severity of their headache intensity and a 42 percent reduction in nausea. Feelings of indifference also fell by an average of 27 percent and restlessness by 41 percent.
As taking the same supplement minus the plant extracts appeared to make no difference to hangover symptoms, the researchers say it seems it was the plant extracts that were helping. The fact that the vitamins and minerals had no effect on their own also suggests that alcohol does not, in fact, affect the body's level of electrolytes, which are electrically-charged minerals that help balance water content and acid levels and mineral balance, as was previously believed.
The findings are also in line with previous studies, which have found that the polyphenol and flavonoid compounds in each of the five plant extracts included in the study could help reduce the impact of alcohol on the body. "The underlying mechanisms remain to be unravelled and surely need further investigation," say the researchers.