All About Hangovers

As we enter the New Year, some of us are still recovering from our recent celebrations. While the buzz from consuming alcoholic beverages can be pleasant, the resulting hangover is not.

Hangover “cures” have been around as long as alcoholic beverages.  Ancient Romans relied on raw owl’s eggs and fried canary.  The Paris Exposition of 1878 introduced the “Prairie Oyster,” a concoction of raw egg yolk, Worcestershire sauce, Tabasco sauce, salt and pepper.  Coca-Cola was originally developed in 1886 as a hangover cure (when it included cocaine among its ingredients).

Agilent solutions have been used in hangover research on a more scientific basis.

Alcohol (technically ethanol or ethyl alcohol) is rapidly absorbed by the body because it can easily cross cell membranes.  Intoxication occurs when alcohol enters the bloodstream faster than it can be metabolized by the liver.  Two enzymes help metabolize ethanol.  First, ADH converts the ethanol to acetaldehyde.  Then, ALDH converts the acetaldehyde to acetate.

(For the scientifically minded, “ADH” stands for “alcohol dehydrogenase.”  “ALDH” stands for “aldehyde dehydrogenase.”)

A hangover may result from the accumulation of acetaldehyde, which is 10 to 30 times more toxic than the actual alcohol.

Ginseng is an herb commonly used in alternative medicine.  Korean scientists studied unripe ginseng berries, which contain the plant’s highest concentration of biologically active compounds.  They were able to extract ingredients that successfully removed consumed alcohol and significantly reduced the level of acetaldehyde.  The study concluded that these ginsenoside-free molecules hold promise for ethanol metabolism and as an anti-hangover agent.  The scientists used an Agilent GC/MS and column in their research.

In a separate study, a different team of Korean scientists studied Echinosophora koreensis, a shrub that possesses antimicrobial properties.  They were able to isolate four compounds that enhanced the metabolizing activities of ADH and ALDH.  The study suggests that these compounds have the potential to prevent hangovers after alcohol intake.  The scientists used an Agilent UV-Spectrophotometer and Agilent HPLC in their research.

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