Herbal drug reduces the effects of alcohol

by Deborah Braconnier report
A photo of the tree Hovenia dulcis. Image: Wikipedia.

(Medical Xpress) -- Alcohol consumption can lead to those dreaded hangovers and even alcohol dependence. However, a new study published in the Journal of Neuroscience has found a natural ingredient in the Asian tree Hovenia dulcis that seems to produce anti-alcohol effects.

Led by Jing Liang from the University of California, researchers began looking at different herbs that have natural anti-alcohol properties. They found descriptions of anti-alcohol properties of the Asian tree Hovenia dulcis that dated back to 659. These descriptions listed it as a prime hangover remedy.

The main ingredient in Hovenia dulcis is known as dihydromyricetin, or DHM. The team of researchers used rats to test out the effects. Rats react similar to humans when it comes to the so they are a perfect candidate.

The rats were given the human equivalent of 15-20 beers in a time frame of under two hours. As expected, the rats passed out drunk and lost the ability to flip themselves over when placed on their back. Within an hour, the effects of the alcohol started to wear off and they were able to again control their bodies.

When the rats were given the same alcohol with a shot of the DHM, they still eventually lost the ability to flip over but it took a longer time period and they were able to recover from the effects in about 15 minutes.

The effects of the DHM went beyond that though. Two days after the , the rats that were given the DHM showed less signs of hangover symptoms such as anxiety and seizures.

The other noted result was the reduction in addiction. When the rats were allowed to drink freely, they would gradually start consuming more. However, those that had received the DHM did not increase consumption.

While these results will not lead to a magic pill that will allow you to drink and not face consequences, the results do hold some promise when it comes to the treatment of .

Liang and her team of researchers plan to begin testing humans and their response to the DHM.

More information: Dihydromyricetin As a Novel Anti-Alcohol Intoxication Medication, The Journal of Neuroscience, 4 January 2012, 32(1): 390-401; doi: 10.1523/​JNEUROSCI.4639-11.2012

Abstract
Alcohol use disorders (AUDs) constitute the most common form of substance abuse. The development of AUDs involves repeated alcohol use leading to tolerance, alcohol withdrawal syndrome, and physical and psychological dependence, with loss of ability to control excessive drinking. Currently there is no effective therapeutic agent for AUDs without major side effects. Dihydromyricetin (DHM; 1 mg/kg, i.p. injection), a flavonoid component of herbal medicines, counteracted acute alcohol (EtOH) intoxication, and also withdrawal signs in rats including tolerance, increased anxiety, and seizure susceptibility; DHM greatly reduced EtOH consumption in an intermittent voluntary EtOH intake paradigm in rats. GABAA receptors (GABAARs) are major targets of acute and chronic EtOH actions on the brain. At the cellular levels, DHM (1 μM) antagonized both acute EtOH-induced potentiation of GABAARs and EtOH exposure/withdrawal-induced GABAAR plasticity, including alterations in responsiveness of extrasynaptic and postsynaptic GABAARs to acute EtOH and, most importantly, increases in GABAAR α4 subunit expression in hippocampus and cultured neurons. DHM anti-alcohol effects on both behavior and CNS neurons were antagonized by flumazenil (10 mg/kg in vivo; 10 μM in vitro), the benzodiazepine (BZ) antagonist. DHM competitively inhibited BZ-site [3H]flunitrazepam binding (IC50, 4.36 μM), suggesting DHM interaction with EtOH involves the BZ sites on GABAARs. 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. We demonstrated pharmacological properties of DHM consistent with those expected to underlie successful medical treatment of AUDs; therefore DHM is a therapeutic candidate.

Related Stories

New study reveals brain cell mechanism of alcohol dependence

May 28, 2008

A study released today reveals a cellular mechanism involved in alcohol dependence. The study, in the May 28 issue of The Journal of Neuroscience, shows that gabapentin, a drug used to treat chronic pain and epilepsy, reduce ...

Scientists find seizure drug reverses cellular effects

May 28, 2008

In the new research, published in the May 28, 2008 edition of The Journal of Neuroscience, the scientists found that gabapentin normalizes the action of certain brain cells altered by chronic alcohol abuse in an area of the ...

Migraine sufferers more prone to hangover headache

Oct 19, 2009

Migraine sufferers, beware. You may be more prone to an alcohol-induced headache after a night of drinking, according to researchers from the Jefferson Headache Center. The research will be presented at Neuroscience 2009, ...

Recommended for you

User comments

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

Dallas97702
5 / 5 (1) Jan 05, 2012
Oh cool! We're on our way to Synthahol!
Isaacsname
5 / 5 (6) Jan 05, 2012
Later the rats were found passed out with tiny bags of potato chips everywhere.

Also, one one them is missing an eyebrow, but nobody's talking.
Xbw
3 / 5 (6) Jan 05, 2012
If I was a rat, I would definitely sign up for this test group. PARTAY!!!
hyongx
not rated yet Jan 05, 2012
"Rats given large doses of absinthe were observed to chew off parts of their tail, fur, and toes. Rats given large doses of absinthe and a shot of DHM showed less sign of self-chewing."
Sinister1811
2 / 5 (4) Jan 05, 2012
While these results will not lead to a magic pill that will allow you to drink and not face consequences...


Darn, that's a pity. Well, they'd better get to working on that then.
Burnerjack
5 / 5 (2) Jan 05, 2012
Thanks Isaacsname, LMOA! You one funny guy!
Parsec
not rated yet Jan 05, 2012
Thanks Isaacsname, LMOA! You one funny guy!

ditto
Isaacsname
not rated yet Jan 05, 2012
Haha, thanks guys/gals. I have no choice in the matter, it's what my name means :D
JES
5 / 5 (1) Jan 07, 2012
I love the part:

"The rats were given the human equivalent of 15-20 beers in a time frame of under two hours".

Given the modest consumption, I'm happy that the "under" was added to make sure the time frame didn't sound too generous!!

JE