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   Jan 05

Date palm, bitter kola, zobo top local herbal ‘cures’ for Yuletide blues

Today is Christmas. The Yuletide is here again. The season is synonymous with over indulgence in alcohol, food and sex. Hangover, weight gain and sexually transmitted infections such as Human Immuno-deficiency Virus (HIV) become the order of the day. But scientists have validated bitter kola, date palm, zobo, grapefruit, among others as ‘cures’ for hangover and to prevent weight gain. They advise against unprotected sex and promiscuity, and recommend being faithful to one partner and the use of condom. CHUKWUMA MUANYA writes.

THE temptation to drink and get intoxicated with alcohol is high especially during festive periods. The habit, however, comes with the resultant hangover.

Hangover is the experience of various unpleasant physiological and psychological effects following consumption of alcoholic beverages, which can last for more than 24 hours.

According to Wikipedia, typical symptoms of a hangover may include headache, drowsiness, concentration problems, dry mouth, dizziness, fatigue, gastrointestinal distress, sweating, nausea, hyper-excitability and anxiety.

Alcoholism is the most widely used term to describe patients with alcohol problems. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that two billion people worldwide consume alcoholic beverages and 76.3 million have diagnosable alcohol use disorders.

Long-term heavy alcohol use is the most prevalent single cause of illness and death from liver disease. The liver is the primary site of alcohol metabolism, as alcohol is broken down in the liver, a number of potentially dangerous by-products are generated, such as acetaldehyde and highly reactive molecules called free radicals.

Several studies have shown that medications for alcoholism have many side effects including diarrhea, dyspepsia (indigestion), and headache, nausea, vomiting, rash, and itching.

Currently no empirically proven mechanism for the prevention of alcohol induced hangover, or for making oneself sober is recommended, except moderating the amount of alcohol consumed or abstinence.

A four-page literature review in the British Medical Journal concludes: “No compelling evidence exists to suggest that any conventional or complementary intervention is effective for preventing or treating alcohol hangover. The most effective way to avoid the symptoms of alcohol induced hangover is to avoid drinking.”

Most remedies do not significantly reduce overall hangover severity. Some compounds reduce specific symptoms such as vomiting and headache, but are not effective in reducing other common hangover symptoms such as drowsiness and fatigue

Until now, the common herbs used worldwide for treatment of alcoholism are St. John’s wort (Hypericum perforatum, HPE), kudzu (Pueraria lobata) and ibogaine (Tabernanthe iboga) and Milk thistle.

However, researchers have identified bitter kola (Garcinia kola), Date palm (Phoenix dactylifera), Zobo (Hibiscus sabdariffa) and grapefruit as ‘safe’ ‘cures’ for hangover.

A leading researcher on bitter kola and herbal medicine, Prof. Maurice Iwu, told The Guardian that bitter kola prevents the alcoholic induced hangover and in fact bursts the intoxication effect of alcohol. Iwu said his team has developed a formulation with bitter kola that neutralizes the effect of alcohol in minutes.

Iwu said a supplement made from bitter kola, Garcinia-IHP also called “The Cold Cap”, has intriguing bioflavonoids capable of modulating almost any physiological anomaly. “The answer perhaps lies in the role of flavonoids in the evolutionary course of human beings. Humans, over many millennia, have adapted to a diet, which is favourable for their survival and the flavonoid-like structures were part of the physiological system,” he said.

Indeed, researchers have identified Bitter kola as a potential antimicrobial and detoxifier. The antibacterial, antiviral, detoxifying and cleansing properties is responsible for being used widely in the treatment of various diseases and infections.

Iwu said: “Garcinia kola is used extensively in West African traditional medicine for the treatment of laryngitis, general inflammation, bronchitis, viral infections and diabetes. It is also a rejuvenating agent, adptogen and general antidote. Kolaviron, the mixture of biflavonoids, benzophenones and chromanols, and related phenolic compounds in Garcinia kola possesses strong antioxidant activities.”

Other major indication of bitter kola, according to Iwu, include: as cold remedy because it is very effective in managing symptoms of cold and sore throat, pains, cough, nasal congestion and helps coagulate phlegm; as antibacterial because it is used in many tropical countries to fight infectious diseases and has positive effect on pains, bacteria and viruses; for detoxification because of its cleansing effects on the liver, gall bladder and the entire body system and it reduces the absorption of toxins; and prevention and management of diabetic complications of the eye because of it activity on aldose reductase.

Iwu also bitter kola has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, which makes the body resistant to infections; and reverses impotence by increasing blood supply to the core area in men who have hardening of the arteries.

Meanwhile, Sudanese researchers have shown that Date palms or rather Dates are one of the most commonly fruits used for treatment of liver diseases including alcoholic liver diseases.

According to the study published last year in Sudanese Journal of Public Health, Date palm (Pheonix dactlylifera) fruit is an important component of the diet in most of the hot arid and semi arid regions of the world, it contain carbohydrates, fats, proteins, fibers, minerals and vitamins.

The study titled “Effect of aqueous fruit extract of Phoenix dactylifera,L. (date palm) on improvement of liver disorders induced by Traditional Sudanese liquor (Aragi).”

The Sudanese researchers from the School of Pharmacy, Department Biochemistry and Genetics, and Centre for Science and Technology at Ahfad University for Women concluded: “This experimental study confirmed the effectiveness of aqueous fruit extract of Phoenix dactylifera,L. on reduction of the hepatic enzymes GOT, GPT and ALP, which were elevated due to excessive alcohol intake.

“A fifteen days administration of aqueous fruit extract of Phoenix dactylifera,L. reduced these enzymes to almost the same level before Aragi intake. Furthermore, the multinuclear cell infiltration, fibrosis, focal necrosis and fatty degeneration resulted due to excessive Aragi intake, were moderately improved after administration of aqueous fruit extract of Phoenix dactylifera for fifteen days.

“Aqueous fruit extract of Phoenix dactylifera, which has been used traditionally as a remedy for treatment of alcoholism and other liver diseases which affect hepatic enzymes as well as hepatic cells, is confirmed scientifically through laboratory investigations to be a potent hepato-protective drug…”

Ibuprofen, hangover cure also extends life span by 12 years

New research suggests that an over-the-counter painkiller taken by millions of Britons could hold back ageing. In laboratory tests, ibuprofen was found to extend the lives of worms and flies by the equivalent of about 12 years in human terms.

The simple creatures not only lived longer, but seemed to maintain their fitness and health as they aged.

Despite the big evolutionary gap between worms and people, scientists believe they have stumbled on a new aspect to ageing that could have major implications for humans.

Ibuprofen, like aspirin, is a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) used to treat pain and fever.

Rehydration: Drinking water before going to bed or during hangover may relieve dehydration associated symptoms such as thirst, dizziness and dry mouth.

Yeast-based extracts

The difference in the change for the symptoms discomfort, restlessness, and impatience were statistically significant but no significant differences on blood chemistry parameters, blood alcohol or acetaldehyde concentrations have been found, and it did not significantly improve general well being.

Zobo (Hibiscus sabdariffa)

Researchers have also found that Hibiscus sabdariffa (Zobo) extract inhibits obesity and fat accumulation, and improves liver steatosis in humans.

The study published recently in Food & Function concluded: “Consumption of Hibiscus sabdariffa extracts (HSE) reduced obesity, abdominal fat, serum free fatty acid (FFA) and improved liver steatosis. HSE could act as an adjuvant for preventing obesity and non-alcoholic fatty liver.”

The researchers wrote: “Obesity is associated with a great diversity of diseases including non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. Our previous report suggested that HSE had a metabolic-regulating and liver-protecting potential.

“In this study, we performed a clinical trial to further confirm the effect of HSE. Subjects with a BMI ≧ 27 and aged 18 to 65, were randomly divided into control (n = 17) and HSE-treated (n = 19) groups, respectively, for 12 weeks.

“Our data showed that consumption of HSE reduced body weight, BMI, body fat and the waist-to-hip ratio. FFA was lowered by HSE. Anatomic changes revealed that HSE improved the illness of liver steatosis.

“Ingestion of HSE was well tolerated and there was no adverse effect during the trial. No alteration was found for serum α-amylase and lipase. The clinical effect should mainly be attributed to the polyphenols of HSE, since composition analysis showed that branched chain-amino acids, which is associated with obesity, is not obviously high…”


Meanwhile, according to Canadian research that has identified a fat-burning molecule in the fruit, a glass of grapefruit juice every morning could help you lose weight. Also, scientists in Holland have discovered substances in red pepper and green tea that encourage cells to break down calories faster.

“We identified plant molecules that speed up metabolism and reduce appetite,” explains Prof. Margriet Westerterp-Plantenga of Maastricht University.

Naringenin, a flavonoid in grapefruit, balances out blood sugar levels and helps to prevent metabolic syndrome, a pre-diabetic condition associated with weight gain around the waist. Scientists at the University of Western Ontario found it worked by programming the liver to burn up excess fat, rather than store it.

Asked to drink grapefruit juice before each meal, obese people lost 31/2-10 pounds over three months through this alone, according to a study at the University of California.

Green tea

Green tea speeds up the rate your body burns cellular energy by up to 40 per cent, according to research reported in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

The plant also increases the rate of fat burning. Researchers have found this effect is caused by the combination of caffeine and flavonoids found in the tea, whether it is drunk hot or cold.

Hot pepper

Capsaicin, the heat-producing molecule that gives chilli peppers their fiery edge, is thermogenic, meaning it speeds metabolism and heat production. Research has found that cells can burn up to 25 per cent more calories after a person has eaten chilli. Trials at Maastricht University found that chilli peppers also reduce appetite by suppressing hunger and prolonging the feeling of fullness.

A Scandinavian study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that when volunteers were given rice pudding with three grams of cinnamon, they produced less insulin after the meal. Because insulin is the hormone that turns excess sugar into fat, this means less weight gain. Furthermore, cinnamon may slow down emptying of the stomach, meaning it can make you feel fuller for longer.

Coconut oil

According to Cherie Calbom, author of The Coconut Diet, when people replace their usual cooking oil with coconut oil they consistently lose weight. Coconut fat yields fewer calories per gram than other fats, producing only 6.8 calories per gram rather than nine calories like most fats. Unlike many others, calories in coconut oil act more like carbohydrates, being burned by the liver for immediate energy.

According to the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, the body digests coconut oil more easily than the fats in butter or spreads, rapidly converting it into a source of energy.

Source: The Nigerian Guardian

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