Hovenia for hangovers?: AHPA reviews research on Japanese raisin tree's liver-detoxifying effects

Hovenia for hangovers?: AHPA reviews research on Japanese raisin tree's liver-detoxifying effects

AHPA examines research behind Hovenia dulcis, or the Japanese raisin tree, which is largely unknown outside East Asia but traditionally has been used to detoxify the liver after alcohol poisoning. AHPA also explores the market potential for this Asian herb and questions suppliers and manufacturers should consider.

From the American Herbal Products Association (AHPA):

The first reference of the three presented below is a mini-review of Japanese raisin tree. Largely unknown outside East Asia, its uses include treatment of liver disease and detoxification after alcohol poisoning. The second reference describes the protective effects of a seed extract of this plant in treating alcohol-induced liver injury in mice, and the third one focuses on a single purified flavonoid that is present in the plant. As is usual in complex botanical extracts, there are several closely related compounds that may contribute to the activity of the total extract. Certainly, a single purified compound is easier to study and perhaps simpler to include in formulations. Extensive research was done on this single flavanonol, including actions on GABAA receptors in the rat brain. However, the practical relevance of what happens when this chemical is injected into rats compared to people consuming Japanese raisin tree seed or fruit extracts remains to be proven.

If ingredients purported to be Japanese raisin tree extracts were to appear on the market, some of the first questions that might come to mind: Where is the source material from? Is it cultivated or wild-harvested? What practices are followed to obtain the botanical raw material, including how is it dried and processed? What part of the plant is used? What are the appropriate specifications and practices to ensure a consistent quality of the raw material? How is the extract made? What solvent(s) are used for how long and at what temperature? Are there chemical markers that are worth quantifying and specifying? What methods of analysis are used to do that, are there scientifically valid methods, and are analytical standards available?  

If an ingredient supplier has been properly qualified, and all these questions, and more, have been answered, then what scientifically valid test do you do to ascertain that you are getting the real deal?

Planta Medica, July 2010: Hovenia dulcis- An Asian Traditional Herb 


Hovenia dulcis Thunb., known as Japanese raisin tree, is commonly found in East Asia. It has a long history as a food supplement and traditional medicine in Japan, China and Korea, but is little known and used in Western countries so far. This minireview summarizes traditional uses and current knowledge on the pharmacology and phytochemistry of H. duclcis and covers, in particular, literature from specialized Asian journals that are not readily accessible. Extracts from H. dulcis accelerate detoxification of ethanol, and possess hepatoprotective, antioxidative, antimicrobial and antidiabetic properties. Although the underlying molecular mechanisms are not fully understood, free radical scavenging and enhancement of ethanol catabolism have been reported. ... 

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Pharmaceutical Biology, August 2010: Semen Hoveniae extract protects against acute alcohol-induced liver injury in mice

The protective effects of Semen Hoveniae extract (SHE) from Hovenia dulcis Thunb. (Rhamnaceae) on acute alcohol-induced liver injury were investigated in vivo using mice as test models. In the present study, SHE (150, 300, 600 mg/kg/day) was given to mice by intragastric administration for 4 days. Mice were gavaged with 60% ethanol 10 mL/kg after the last dose of extract. Six hours after alcohol administration, liver injury was evaluated by biochemical examination. Lipid peroxidation and the activity of antioxidants were measured by spectrophotometric methods. In mice, administration of SHE significantly decreased the activities of alanine aminotransferase (ALT) and aspartate transaminase (AST) in serum. Administration of SHE also protected against alcohol-induced alcohol dehydrogenase (ADH) elevation in mice. Concurrently, there was an augmentation in the activities of antioxidant enzymes such as superoxide dismutase (SOD), glutathione S-transferase (GST), and glutathione (GSH), and it also facilitated alcohol metabolism. ...    



The Journal of Neuroscience, January 2012: Dihydromyricetin As a Novel Anti-Alcohol Intoxication Medication


Alcohol use disorders (AUDs) constitute the most common form of substance abuse. The development of AUDs involves repeated alcohol use leading to tolerance, alcohol withdrawal syndrome, and physical and psychological dependence, with loss of ability to control excessive drinking. Currently there is no effective therapeutic agent for AUDs without major side effects. Dihydromyricetin (DHM; 1 mg/kg, i.p. injection), a flavonoid component of herbal medicines, counteracted acute alcohol (EtOH) intoxication, and also withdrawal signs in rats including tolerance, increased anxiety, and seizure susceptibility; DHM greatly reduced EtOH consumption in an intermittent voluntary EtOH intake paradigm in rats. GABAA receptors (GABAARs) are major targets of acute and chronic EtOH actions on the brain. At the cellular levels, DHM (1 μm) antagonized both acute EtOH-induced potentiation of GABAARs and EtOH exposure/withdrawal-induced GABAAR plasticity, including alterations in responsiveness of extrasynaptic and postsynaptic GABAARs to acute EtOH and, most importantly, increases in GABAAR α4 subunit expression in hippocampus and cultured neurons. DHM anti-alcohol effects on both behavior and CNS neurons were antagonized by flumazenil (10 mg/kg in vivo; 10 μm in vitro), the benzodiazepine (BZ) antagonist. DHM competitively inhibited BZ-site [3H]flunitrazepam binding (IC50, 4.36 μm), suggesting DHM interaction with EtOH involves the BZ sites on GABAARs. In summary, we determined DHM anti-alcoholic effects on animal models and determined a major molecular target and cellular mechanism of DHM for counteracting alcohol intoxication and dependence. We demonstrated pharmacological properties of DHM consistent with those expected to underlie successful medical treatment of AUDs; therefore DHM is a therapeutic candidate.


The links above are provided as a convenience, however, web pages are often updated by their host sites and this link may not remain active. AHPA gathers information from many organizations. Some sites require you to register in order to read articles.

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