Researchers are cautiously optimistic that a Chinese remedy could help to reduce cravings in alcoholics.
Researchers are investigating a 500-year-old Chinese hangover cure in the hope they can put its properties into a pill to help alcoholics and stave off sore heads.
The researchers say the ancient Chinese remedy contains a compound which can prevent alcohol from having its usual intoxicating effects on the brain.
The compound, DHM, which works by stopping alcohol from accessing the receptors in the brain, is extracted from an oriental raisin tree and has already proved its worth as an alcohol antidote in a series of experiments on rats.
Researchers at the University of California injected rats with a dose of alcohol proportionate to the amount a human would get from downing 15 to 20 beers in two hours.
Head researcher Dr Jing Liang said “when rats are drunk they behave like humans, just like that”.
In a bid to test coordination and clumsiness, Dr Liang looked at how long rats took to right themselves after being laid on their backs.
Rats treated with DHM took just five minutes to recover, while those without the drug slept for more than an hour.
As well as sobering them up, the treated rats also exhibited fewer hangover symptoms; for example, untreated rats were more likely to cower in the dark recesses of their maze.
But Dr Liang says those dreaming of a magic antidote to drinking too much can think again.
The presence of DHM also reduced the cravings for alcohol, a factor Dr Liang says could prove invaluable in treating alcoholism in humans.
“If from the beginning you drink alcohol with DHM, you never go to a high level of drinking,” she said.