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Hangover Remedy from a Vegetable? Some Scientists Say "Yes"

Tim Boyer's picture
Hangover Remedy

Experts from the Institute of Food Technologists recently reminded the drinking public of a published study that indicates that parts of one common vegetable may be a remedy for a hangover.

For many of us it's that time of the year when we will break the most sacred of all bathroom promises - "Never again." Never again will I drink alcohol. Never again will I allow myself to have "just one more" no matter how good of an idea it seems at the time. Never again will I view an open bar as a sound economical reason to get my year's allotment of drinking out of the way for the New Year.

Imbibing too much holiday cheer typically leaves a person with a sore stomach and splitting headache. Scientists tell us that a hangover is the physiologic response of the body where alcohol essentially dries out cells that are in need of a constant amount of hydration to remain healthy and function normally--especially in the brain, which is highly sensitive to hydration levels. Furthermore, many sources of alcohol contain impurities that are toxic to the body and are believed to be responsible for the nausea that comes with a hangover.

The prevailing advice from multiple medical sources is that in spite of a plethora of anecdotal remedies from field tested veterans of the battle of the bottle, there really is no cure for a hangover aside from taking the time to allow your body to detox, and rehydration to get your body's fluid levels back to normal.

However, according to a study published in The Journal of Food Science, eating specific parts of an asparagus plant may protect your body from some of the toxic effects of drinking too much alcohol. More specifically, researchers at the Institute of Medical Science and Jeju National University in South Korea have found that the amino acids and minerals found in asparagus leaves and stems may alleviate the symptoms of an alcohol hangover and protect liver cells against toxins.

In the study, human and rat liver cells were exposed to a source of alcohol (hydrogen peroxide) while cultured both with and without extracts from the leaves and shoots of the plant species Asparagus officinalis. What the comparative study showed was that the asparagus extract caused a 70% reduction in toxicity in the liver cells. Furthermore, the biochemical activities of 2 important enzymes that metabolize ethanol--alcohol dehydrogenase and aldehyde dehydrogenase--were increased over 2-fold when the liver cells were cultured with the protective asparagus extract.

“Cellular toxicities were significantly alleviated in response to treatment with the extracts of asparagus leaves and shoots,” states the lead author of the study. “These results provide evidence of how the biological functions of asparagus can help alleviate alcohol hangover and protect liver cells.”

The authors of the study point out that it is the leaves and shoots of the asparagus plant that are rich with the liver-protective components, rather than the main stalk that is normally consumed.

While whether or not an extract supplement of asparagus will actually make drinking this holiday season a little easier on the body remains to be seen, health experts offer these following tips to make over imbibing in holiday cheer a little more survivable:

Practical tips for dealing with or avoiding a hangover

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--Have water or a nonalcoholic drink between each beer or hard drink to keep you hydrated and cut down on the overall amount of alcohol you drink.

--The gentlest choices of alcohol on the body are beer and clear liquors, such as vodka and gin.

--Be sure to know your alcohol equivalents: a 12-ounce glass of beer, a 5-ounce glass of wine, and a 1.5-ounce shot of distilled spirits have about the same amount of alcohol.

--Eat before you drink. Fatty foods like steak or pizza will especially slow down how fast and how much alcohol reaches your bloodstream.

--Drink water before going to bed, throughout the night and first thing in the morning to fight dehydration.

--Take OTC painkillers after you wake up, but not before you go to bed. And, don’t take acetaminophen (Tylenol) after a night of drinking because of a potential liver toxicity danger.

--Don't try to taper off a hangover with "hair of the dog" drinks in the morning--you are really just prolonging the symptoms of a hangover.

--Don't fill up on coffee to sober up--it adds to your dehydration and makes the hangover symptoms worse. Sport drinks that provides electrolytes that replenish the body after dehydration is a better choice in addition to a fruit smoothie to soothe a savage stomach.

For an informative article about the dangers of one reported hangover cure, follow this link to an article titled "Blowfish for Hangover? Buyer Beware."

For a potential Asian remedy that some scientists attest to, follow this link to an article titled "Chinese Herbal Hangover Remedy May Fight Alcoholism."

Image Source: Courtesy of MorgueFile

Reference: "Effects of Asparagus officinalis Extracts on Liver Cell Toxicity and Ethanol Metabolism" Journal of Food Science; Article first published online 28 July 2009; Kim, B.Y. et al