A night of heavy partying often leads to a morning of misery. To cure a nasty hangover, remedies include everything from eating greasy food to drinking a bloody mary. But there may be a better way. A study conducted at Tulane University and published in the Journal of the American Medical Association concludes a cactus may be the best cure for a hangover.
What the researchers wanted to know: Can an extract of the skin of the prickly pear cactus alleviate some of the symptoms associated with hangovers?
How the study worked: Fifty-five healthy, nonsmoking men and women, ages 21 to 35 years, joined together for a night of drinkingall in the name of science, of course. The scientists gave each subject two capsules; half the group received the cactus extract while the other got a placebo. Following a dinner of a cheeseburger and fries, each subject selected vodka, gin, rum, bourbon, Scotch, or tequila as the drink of choice for the night. Once the allotted four-hour drinking period ended, each person underwent a breath test and received a ride home. Two weeks later, the same subjects returned to repeat the experiment. This time, though, the groups that received the cactus extract and placebo were reversed.
What the study found: Of the nine symptoms studiednausea, headache, loss of appetite, dry mouth, soreness, weakness, tremulousness, diarrhea, and dizzinessthose who had taken the cactus extract reported significantly less severe nausea, dry mouth, and appetite loss the next morning than those in the placebo group. And among the 10 worst reported hangovers, nine were from subjects who had taken the placebo.
What it means to you: Obviously, this study doesn't give you a license to drink. But next time you're headed for a big night out, a dose of cactus extract may save you from a rough morning. All kidding aside, hangovers aren't to be taken lightly. This study also detected high levels of C-reactive proteina compound implicated in heart diseasein subjects who experienced hangovers. In those who received the cactus extract, the protein was reduced.
Caveats: Extracts Plus Inc. of San Diego, the same company that makes the prickly pear cactus dietary supplement, also sponsored the study but had no part in data analysis. So order your margarita with an extra grain of salt.
Find out more: Google "hangover cures" and you'll find plenty of advice. Even the National Institutes of Health weighs in with its own tips: http://www.nlm.nih.gov/.
Read the article: Jeff Wiese, Steve McPherson, Michelle C. Odden, and Michael G. Shipak. "Effect of Opuntia ficus indica on Symptoms of the Alcohol Hangover." Journal of the American Medical Association. June 28, 2004, Vol. 164, pp. 1334-1340.