Herbal hangover cures for the festive season
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. This 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 which includes whiskey, cheap red wines, fruit brandy and dark spirits. If you are going to indulge, you are better to stick 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 which 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 that 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 that tonify and strengthen processes within the liver. There are even some that specifically support the phase 1 and phase 2.
Here are some kitchen liver heroes to keep in your hangover cure kit…
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 which in turn enhances detoxification.
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.
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.
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.
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, making it a handy hangover drink.
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.
Parsley helps to clear harmful acid from the body due to its high mineral and chlorophyll content.
Vitamin C provides the immune system with that extra boost and also helps to prevent the onset of the January cold and flu season. Go natural though! Natural vitamin C can be found in citrus fruits or in food supplements (such as Pukka Herbs’ Natural Vitamin C). Watch out for ascorbic acid and synthetic vitamin c.
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.
For the ultimate natural tonic, try Pukka Herbs’ Clean Greens. Clean Greens 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 directly enhances the activity of two key enzymes that are present within phase 1 and 2 of liver detoxification. 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.