Cactus combats hangovers

Prickly pear extract reduces symptoms of too much drinking

June 29, 2004 - Prickly pear cactus helps prevent hangover symptoms, according to a study reported in the Archives of Internal Medicine. And, no, you don't have to worry about the spines - doctors used extract of prickly pear in the study, and it's available in some health-supplement stores.


Some homebrewers use prickly pear in making mead (a honey wine) and even beer. Perhaps a commercial operation will begin producing them as "hangover free" products.

Unlike remedies such as raw egg concoctions used to relieve a hangover after a night of drinking, taken hours in advance the extract can alleviate symptoms such as dry mouth and nausea. However, it does not appear to ease other woes, such as headaches and dizziness.

Dr. Jeff Wiese at the Tulane Health Sciences Center in New Orleans led the study. He said the group believes a hangover is caused by three factors: not enough good quality sleep; dehydration; an immune response to the alcohol and the impurities in the drink.

Wiese said the study also seemed to confirm the folk wisdom that brown liquor causes worse hangovers than clear liquor. Bourbon and scotch - liquor with high levels of impurities called congeners - caused worse hangovers than relatively congener-free liquor such as vodka and gin.

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