Researchers have identified a component in Chinese herbal anti-hangover medicine which may help to thwart acute alcohol intoxication and dependence, paving way for new therapeutic treatments.
A UCLA research team found that dihydromyricetin, isolated from the plant Hovenia, blocks the action of alcohol on the brain and neurons and also reduces voluntary alcohol consumption, with no major side effects, in an early study with rats.
Specifically, dihydromyricetin inhibited alcohol's effect on the brain's GABAA receptors, specific sites targeted by chemicals from brain cells.
Alcohol normally enhances the GABAA receptors' influence in slowing brain cell activity, reducing the ability to communicate and increasing sleepiness - common symptoms of drunkenness.
The next stage of the research will involve human clinical trials, the researchers said.