Richters HerbLetter

Date: 95/09/02
1. Herbs Block Alcohol Absorption

1. Herbs Block Alcohol Absorption
By Conrad Richter

GOODWOOD, Sept 2 -- A series of chemicals extracted from plants have been shown to block the uptake of alcohol into the bloodstream.

The research results were presented at a recent meeting of the American Chemical Society by Professor Masayuki Yoshikawa of Kyoto Pharmaceutical University. He reported that compounds called saponins found in several different medicinal herbs inhibit alcohol absorption from the gastro-intestinal tract in rats. Animals fed a carefully measured doses of herbs absorbed into the bloodstream only a quarter or less of the alcohol compared to a control group of rats.

Saponins are soap-like substances that have attracted increasing attention from medical researchers. Saponins are implicated in a wide variety of biological effects including modulation of cholesterol and fat uptake by Agave spp. used by the Masai in Africa and the adaptogenic effects of ginseng used in the Orient.

Among the several herbs investigated by Prof. Yoshikawa and his team was the senega snakeroot (Polygala senega var. latifolia), a native of North America where the native Indians used it as a diuretic, diaphoretic (sweat inducer) and for respiratory conditions. Yoshikawa identified several senegasaponins and senegins that inhibit alcohol absorption.

Similar saponins from the seeds of the common camellia (Camellia japonica) and of horsechestnut (Aesculus hippocastrum) and from the bark of the Japanese angelica tree (Aralia elata) were also shown have an inhibitory effect. These and related species are commonly used in Chinese medicine for a variety of conditions but they were not known particularly for their effect on alcohol absorption.

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