Plant Extract Blend Might Reduce Hangover Symptoms

By Lisa Rapaport

May 22, 2020

(Reuters Health) - A supplement that blends plant extracts with vitamins, minerals and sweeteners may help relieve hangover symptoms, a small study suggests.

Among 214 healthy adults who sampled a custom-blended beverage 45 minutes before and immediately after they stopped drinking beer, white wine, or white wine spritzer, a total of 69 were randomly assigned to receive the intervention beverage containing plant extracts as well as vitamins, minerals and other ingredients. Another group of 76 received a nearly identical beverage lacking the plant extracts, and 69 people in the "placebo" group got a beverage with only glucose and flavorings.

Those who consumed the intervention beverage with plant extracts had less severe hangover symptoms the following day, the researchers report in BMJ Nutrition, Prevention, and Health. Compared to participants in the placebo group, those who consumed the plant extracts reported 34% less-intense headache symptoms, 42% less-intense nausea symptoms, 27% reduced feelings of indifference, and 41% less restlessness.

Symptom-intensity differences varied in the group that got the version of the intervention beverage without plant extracts. Their headache intensity the next morning was somewhere in between that of the intervention and placebo groups. Their levels of nausea and indifference were higher than in both of the other groups.

"We cannot say which single ingredients of the plant extracts are responsible for the intervention effect because we just tested the combination of them," said study co-author Patrick Schmitt, founder and owner of PS Nutraceuticals in Mainz, Germany.

The intervention beverage included a mix of plant extracts from malpighia glabra, opuntia ficus indica, ginkgo biloba, salix alba, and zingiber officinale. It also contained magnesium citrate, potassium chloride, sodium bicarbonate, zinc citrate, riboflavin, thiamine hydrochloride, and folic acid, as well as steviol glycosides, inulin, glucose, and flavorings.

Researchers recorded the number and types of alcoholic drinks the participants consumed, as well as how many times people emptied their bladders over a four-hour period. They took blood and urine samples before and after the alcohol consumption. Then, the following day, they took samples again, as well as measuring blood pressure and asking participants to complete questionnaires about any hangover symptoms, rating each on a scale of 0 to 10.

Participants consumed alcohol at the same rate during the study: 0.62 ml/minute across each of the groups.

Researchers also checked hydration levels before and after drinking, and found they were not impacted by how much alcohol participants had consumed. This suggests drinking alcohol might not lead to dehydration, and that hangover cures focused on hydration might not work as well as other approaches, the authors conclude.

Plant extracts in the intervention beverage contain polyphenol and flavonoid compounds that have been linked to reduced physiological symptoms from alcohol consumption in previous research, the study team notes in their report.

The underlying mechanisms of this process are not clear, and more research is needed to determine how plant extracts might ease hangovers and which specific extracts, and in what amounts, might do the most good, the authors also point out.

Most of the listed components are quite safe and available either in the form of dietary or food supplements, but people shouldn't necessarily run out to whip of a mixture of plant extracts on their own before they plan to drink alcohol, said Eduard Korkotian, a senior scientist in neurobiology at the Weizmann Institute in Israel who wasn't involved in the study.

People could have allergies to individual ingredients, or experience harmful effects from formulations or doses that are different from what was used in the study, Korkotian said by email.

"It is necessary to carefully study the long-term effect of the mixture of extracts on human health, which is beyond the scope of the article," Korkotian added. "In many cases, it is much easier to limit or stop alcohol consumption than take risks by taking an unverified mixture."

SOURCE: BMJ Nutrition, Prevention, and Health; online April 30, 2020.