Southern Cross University researcher Peter Mouatt.
Southern Cross University researcher Peter Mouatt. Jacklyn Wagner

Hungover? Shrub it off

A SOUTHERN Cross University researcher reckons the cure to the next hangover you wake up with in someone else's backyard could be growing there.

Peter Mouatt studies herbal medicines in Lismore and says a common local ornamental shrub, the Japanese raisin tree, carries high levels of DHM (dihydromyricetin) - the active ingredient showing promising results from tests as a hangover cure and, ultimately, a potential antidote to alcoholism, at the University of California.

DHM works by blocking alcohol receptors in the brain and following recent trials on rats - which behave like humans when intoxicated - clinical trials on the human brain are due to start soon.

Mr Mouatt said the Japanese raisin tree, or Hovenia dulcis, was a small deciduous tree common in local gardens.

"It's quite common, they do lose their leaves and it's not a big tree but quite ornamental," he said.

"Local people will recognise it because it is grown around here - if anyone's got it in their garden they'll recognise the odd fruit ... it never gets really fleshy, but it has this taste and consistency like raisins, even when it's mature."

In one Californian study, researchers dosed rats with the equivalent DHM to eight to 10 schooners and timed how long it took them to right themselves when placed on their backs.

The treated rats were back on deck in five minutes with less hangover symptoms while untreated ones slept for more than an hour and were more likely to be up the back of their maze huddled in darkness.

So if the life-saving potential as a treatment for acute alcohol intoxication in ambulances and emergency departments wasn't enough, head researcher, Dr Jing Liang, told reporters that the compound also reduced the cravings for alcohol - alluding to a cure for alcoholism.

While recovering alcoholics have long been known to say if someone made a pill to cure alcoholism it wouldn't work because they'd take the whole box, Dr Liang cautioned that a therapeutic drug was still some way off, although he was working on a nutritional supplement

Mr Mouatt said that while the compound had been used in Chinese medicine for more than 500 years, it was unlikely anyone in Australia supplied it, but suggested there were safe ways to take it.

"It's probably safe if you've got a tree to make a tea, I mean people eat the fruit, it has a long history of being eaten around here," he said.

"I ate one just a few weeks ago, it is a food."



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