Asparagus hangover cure

You might have read some news reports in the last few days reporting a “recent” study showing that asparagus can cure a hangover. It’s very topical of course as you may be contemplating a slight over-indulgence to celebrate the new year but the “recent” study actually appeared in July 2009. Three and a half years is an interesting definition of recent, but perhaps what those reports were really referring to was the “recent” press release re-promoting the article? In any event, it’s still a good story and the time of year means that a short consideration of asparagus and other means to reduce the ravages of alcohol may be in order.

The asparagus study from the Journal of Food Science based itself on the reputation that asparagus has for hangover relief. The study did not involve human subjects but did analyse asparagus to see if it contained substances that could reasonably be expected to ease the morning-after pain.

The analysis revealed that asparagus leaves in particular are very high in amino acids and minerals that could conceivably help alleviate a hangover. The researchers then exposed human liver cells to an extract of asparagus and found two interesting results.

It is the byproducts of alcohol metabolism that cause many of the symptoms of a hangover. Asparagus leaf extract suppressed more than 70 per cent of hydrogen peroxide intensity. Additionally, asparagus caused increases in levels of two key enzymes that metabolise alcohol (alcohol dehydrogenase and aldehyde dehydrogenase). These are actions that would help reduce hangover but unfortunately they are mainly coming from a part of the asparagus plant that is usually discarded: the leaf. Still if you can get an asparagus extract or feel like nibbling a leaf then you might get some benefits.

The popularity of alcohol around the world means that there is a plethora of potential hangover cures available. American Cowboys apparently favoured drinking a tea made from jack-rabbit droppings, presumably on the basis that once you are drinking rabbit poo tea the symptoms of a hangover pale into insignificance. Norwegians fancy a glass of heavy cream to settle stomach the morning after the festivities although it may well do the opposite. In the UK marketers tell you that taking pills made of volcanic rock will help. It’s based on the idea that the rock will bind to things called congeners from alcoholic drinks. Since congeners do cause many hangover symptoms this is theoretically sound but is clinically unproven.

In the end the best advice is to drink plenty of water to avoid the dehydrating effects of alcohol. Part of the head pounding the day after is filaments attaching your brain to your skull stretching because your brain has shrunk due to loss of water. Some fatty substances in your stomach prior to drinking will also slow the absorption of alcohol and allow your body to deal with it as best it can.

Be mindful in what you do and make your 2013 magical.

Terry Robson

Terry Robson

Terry Robson is the Editor-in-Chief of WellBeing and the Editor of EatWell.

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