Individuals who took a dietary supplement containing extracts of Opuntia ficus indica, a type of prickly pear cactus, before consuming alcohol, had reduced symptoms of alcohol hangover compared to individuals who drank but took placebo, according to researchers.
The severity of alcohol hangovers may be related to inflammation caused by impurities in alcoholic beverages and byproducts of alcohol metabolism. C-reactive protein, a protein produced by the liver, is thought to be involved in inflammation and alcohol hangovers.
The researchers randomly assigned 55 young adult volunteers (aged 21 to 35 years) to receive either OFI or placebo five hours before alcohol consumption. The study participants were given dinner four hours before alcohol consumption started. Over four hours of drinking, volunteers consumed up to 1.75 grams of alcohol per kilogram of body weight. One hour after alcohol consumption ended, the researchers measured blood alcohol levels. The next morning, volunteers had their vital signs measured, and blood and urine samples were taken. Hangover severity (based on nine symptoms) and overall well-being were assessed on a scale. Two weeks later, the study was repeated with the same volunteers except those that were previously given OFI were given placebo and vice versa.
The researchers found that three of the nine symptoms of hangover – nausea, dry mouth, and loss of appetite – were significantly reduced after taking OFI. The researchers also found that levels of C-reactive protein were strongly associated with hangover severity, and C-reactive protein levels were 40% higher in volunteers who took placebo compared with OFI.
JAMA and Archives Journals Website, June 28, 2004