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Herbs, vitamins and supplements that help a hangover!

The festive season is a time of indulgence. Indulgence can take on many forms but often the most popular is a glass or two (or more) of mulled wine…

What’s in a hangover?

Alcohol is broken down by the liver. When alcohol is broken down it produces a substance known as acetaldehyde, which is a toxic substance formed from ethanol metabolism, and is found in cheaper wines and spirits.

The first step to avoiding a hangover is to avoid those alcohols that contain higher levels of acetaldehyde that include whiskey, cheap red wines, fruit brandy and dark spirits. If you are going to indulge, you are better off sticking to clear spirits and good quality red wine with no sulphites added.

If you choose organic, then you are guaranteed less sulphites and a better quality, more natural product that is easier for the liver to breakdown.

Not that we need reminding, but the key signs of a hangover often include, dehydration, blood sugar variability (cravings), fatigue, nausea and a lowered immunity.

So, the next question is, how can we avoid these dreaded symptoms?

First, we need to understand in more detail, what happens to alcohol when it reaches the liver. There are two main phases of liver detoxification, conveniently labelled phase 1 and phase 2.

In phase 1, alcohol is converted into a less toxic state by an enzyme known as cytochrome P450. It achieves this through a series of complex enzymatic pathway conversions. This process forms free radicals that in a healthy person can be targeted by antioxidants. However, if we have over-indulged slightly and our system is a little more toxic than intended, this task is more challenging for the liver.

Phase 2 is where liver cells add metabolites to the products produced during phase 1 to render them into water-soluble compounds, which then can then be safely excreted from the body. For example, this is where acetaldehyde is converted. Essentially, the alcohol is broken down in a less toxic state so that it can be safely excreted and not continuously circulated in the bloodstream.

What can we do to support the liver and also build up its tolerance?

The best way is enhance the natural detoxification processes occurring during phases 1 and 2 whilst also providing a good dose of antioxidants. There are also some great herbs and vitamins that strengthen processes within the liver.

Here are your before and after-party heroes: 

• Chamomile is great for calming and relaxing the mind and body in general, which is particularly good if you suffer with ‘the fear’ the morning after. As a hangover cure, chamomile can also get to work on indigestion or a headache.

• Chlorella (a freshwater plant) is an excellent choice for combating that dreaded hangover and for preparing the body for the indulgence ahead. It naturally contains a very high level of chlorophyll and a unique component known as Chlorella Growth Factor. Chlorella Growth Factor has the ability to repair tissues within the body, including liver cells in addition to stimulating the production of immune specific cells. Chlorella is especially effective in the removal of pollutants from the body, supporting their detoxification from the body, which includes alcohol.

• Fennel is great for easing nausea and indigestion and can help to reduce the other effects of alcohol on the body. A lukewarm cup of fennel tea will help to relieve digestive ailments.

• Ginger is warming and protective. It stimulates blood flow and is renowned for reducing nausea and settling and upset stomach. Its warmth and spice also stimulate the metabolism that in turn enhances detoxification.

• Magnesium is another nutrient depleted by alcohol, and it’s one that many are already deficient in. Plus, magnesium has anti-inflammatory properties that may help to reduce some hangover symptoms. If you don’t eat a lot of magnesium-rich foods, taking a magnesium supplement before an evening involving drinking may be helpful.

• Milk Thistle contains silymarin and silybin, antioxidants that are known to help protect the liver from toxins, including the effects of alcohol. A milk thistle supplement may be most useful when taken throughout the entire festive season if you know you’ll be having cocktails on more than one occasion!

• Mint is a renowned herb for the digestion. However, its strong menthol essential oils also help to relieve nausea and improve clarity and concentration, boosting energy.

• NAC is a form of the amino acid cysteine. It is known to help increase glutathione and reduce the acetaldehyde toxicity that causes many hangover symptoms. Try taking NAC (at least 200 milligrams) 30 minutes before you drink to help lessen the alcohol’s toxic effects. It is also best taken with vitamin C.

• Parsley helps to clear harmful acid from the body due to its high mineral and chlorophyll content.

Rosemary is a natural stimulant and is great for relieving feelings of tiredness. For a hangover related stomach upset, rosemary could be used in the bath or inhaled in oil form or it can easily be used in food.

• Turmeric is a renowned super spice, famed for its anti-inflammatory and pain relief benefits. However, we now know that turmeric has a direct effect on liver cells encouraging their regeneration and repair.

• Vitamin C provides the immune system with that extra boost and also helps to prevent the onset of the January cold and flu season. Natural vitamin C can be found in citrus fruits or in food supplements, watch out for ascorbic acid and synthetic vitamin C.

For the ultimate natural boost try Pukka Herbs’ Clean Greens as it contains 11 nutrient-dense plant foods (such as wheat grass juice, ginger, fennel, nettle, parsley, chlorella, kale sprout etc) that have high antioxidant capacities. Clean Greens is able to alkalise, oxygenate, mineralise, detoxify and reduce inflammation throughout the body. It is the ideal solution for building up your tolerance too. It is gentle enough for everyday use whilst also helping to keep us on top of our daily cleansing and detoxification needs.

We offer a wide selection of all these herbs, vitamins, minerals and supplements so please ask what will suit you best and we will guide you in the right direction. Don’t forget we have 25% off ALL Solgar products until the end of December, which means we have got you covered for your New Year celebrations too, you’re welcome!