Chinese herbal flavonoid shows hangover busting potential

By Stephen Daniells

- Last updated on GMT

Chinese herbal flavonoid shows hangover busting potential
A flavonoid from the Chinese herb Hovenia dulcis may counter the detrimental effects of alcohol consumption and offer a potential hangover supplement, suggests new research from UCLA.

Results of experiments with rats indicated that the compound dihydromyricetin (DHM), extracted from Hovenia dulcis​, could counteract the effects of acute alcohol (ethanol) intoxication, in addition to easing the behavioral changes associated with alcohol exposure and withdrawal.

The compound was also reported to decrease alcohol consumption when tested in “an intermittent voluntary [alcohol] intake paradigm in rats”​.

According to the UCLA scientists,China’s first pharmacopoeia, the Tang Materia Medica (Su, 659) lists Hovenia dulcis ​as one of the premier anti-hangover herbal medicines. It has been used in folk medicine for over 500 years.

Business opportunities?

A lot more research is needed before similar effects are established in humans, but Jing Liang MD, PhD, an associate professor in the Department of Molecular and Medical Pharmacology at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA and lead researcher on the study, told NutraIngredients-USA that she is actively seeking business partners or any experts to take DHM into nutraceutical products, like gum, beverages, and tablets.

“I have patented all the ideas I could figure out,”​ said Dr Liang. “The reason I want to go the nutraceutical route is because if we have any uncomfortable feelings, we do not normally go to see a doctor. If we put some DHM products in a bar [where drinks are served], people won't get sick.”

Longer term, however, the LA-based neuroscientist is looking to establish the compound as a medication. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), alcohol use disorders are the most common form of substance abuse and they affect over 76 million people worldwide.

“As my manuscript documented, DHM is a candidate and capable of being a medication for emergencies, and severe alcohol use disorders.”


Mark Blumenthal, founder and executive director of the American Botanical Council (ABC) told NutraIngredients-USA that Hovenia would probably be classed as an ODI, assuming that a company could qualify its pre-DSHEA sales. However, high purity dihydromyricetin would probably require a new dietary ingredient notification (NDIN), he added.

Study details

Dr Liang and co-workers tested the effects of the DHM (98% purity) in rats at a dose of 1 mg per kg of body weight. Over 300 animals were used in the study, and divided into groups for different tests, which included measuring an animal’s ability to right itself after a loss of balance, how the animals performed in a maze, and their responses to a voluntary alcohol consumption test.

Results showed that the compound “counteracted acute alcohol intoxication, and also withdrawal signs in rats including tolerance, increased anxiety, and seizure susceptibility; DHM greatly reduced [alcohol] consumption in an intermittent voluntary [alcohol] intake paradigm in rats.

“In summary, we determined DHM anti-alcoholic effects on animal models and determined a major molecular target and cellular mechanism of DHM for counteracting alcohol intoxication and dependence,”​ reported the UCLA scientists.

In vitro​ studies shozed that DHM may work by acting on the brain's GABA(A) receptors, specific sites targeted by chemicals from brain cells. Alcohol normally enhances the GABA(A) receptors' influence in slowing brain cell activity, reducing the ability to communicate and increasing sleepiness - common symptoms of drunkenness.

The researchers noted that the next stage of the research will involve human clinical trials.

Source: The Journal of Neuroscience
4 January 2012, Volume 32, Issue 1, Pages 390-401, doi: 10.1523/​JNEUROSCI.4639-11.2012
“Dihydromyricetin As a Novel Anti-Alcohol Intoxication Medication”
Authors: Y. Shen, A.K. Lindemeyer, C. Gonzalez, X.M. Shao, I. Spigelman, R.W. Olsen, J. Liang

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