Have you heard of Dihydromyricetin or DHM? Probably not yet. But you may start hearing more about it soon. DHM is extracted from a variety of the Oriental Raisin Tree and the Chinese have been utilizing it for hundreds of years as an antidote to a hangover. A study published in New Scientist shows that it may help lessen the impairing impact of alcohol.

Recently researchers conducted a study on some poor unsuspecting rats. The rats were given roughly the equivalent of an eighteen pack of beer over a two hour time period. Once they were thoroughly intoxicated they were laid on their backs to see how long it would take them to get back on their little feet. Well, on average it took the rats 1 hour and 10 minutes to get back in to an upright position. Now, here’s the interesting part. The researchers then repeated the experiment but added DHM to the alcohol mixture at a dosage of 1 milligram per kilogram of the rat’s body weight. Amazingly the rats were, on average, able to get back on their feet in five minutes.

The rats were also tested in a maze. Rats that had hangovers would not even try to navigate the maze but would rather sit in a corner cowering and unmotivated. A fairly typical response for someone with a bad hangover. However, once the rats were given a dose of DHM they became more active and behaved like a normal un-intoxicated rat.

Unfortunately for the rats they still weren’t done being tested. The researchers then gave the rats a choice of drinking either a sweetened alcohol mixture or sweetened water. Of course most of the rats preferred the alcoholic mixture. Well, over time the rats that were given DHM consumed only 25% of the amount of alcohol that the untreated rats drank.

Could this substance be used on humans with the same effects? Well, the researchers are starting human trials now to find out. If Dihydromyricetin, or DHM, does work as well in humans then it could be a break through in treating alcoholism.

There are, of course, potential drawbacks. Would DHM encourage people to drink heavily more often knowing that they could just take some DHM and the symptoms would be greatly diminished? Would this cause some people to drink a lot more? Would you be more likely to get drunk if you knew you could alleviate the hangover the next day by just popping a pill? Maybe so, but it may still be a very effective tool to help those plagued by alcoholism.

We’ll know more in the near future as the human trials get under way.