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Herbal tonic cuts hamsters' alcohol use.

An herb long used in traditional Chinese medicine to treat alcoholism contains two substances that dampen the fondness for alcohol displayed by a particular strain of hamster, two biochemists report in the Nov. 1 PROCEEDINGS OF THE NATIONAL ACADEMY OF SCIENCES.

Further study of these chemicals may produce new drugs to help treat human alcohol abusers, assert Wing-Ming Keung and Bert L. Vallee of Harvard Medical School in Boston.

Keung and Vallee studied Syrian Golden hamsters, which drink large quantities of alcohol when given the chance. A group of these hamsters had continuous access to both water and alcohol. When animals received injections of an extract of the herbal elixir, taken from the root of the kudzu vine, their alcohol intake over six days was half that observed when they received injections of an inactive substance for six days. Two chemical constituents of the extract - daidzin and daidzein similarly squelched alcohol consumption.

The ways in which these two compounds diminished hamsters' hankering for alcohol remain unknown, the scientists say. Daidzin and daidzein apparently interfere with the breakdown of alcohol in the body, they note.

Other evidence suggests that naltrexone, a drug that blocks naturally occurring opiates in the brain, helps deter uncontrolled alcohol use (SN: 11/21/92, p.341).
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Title Annotation:kudzu vine constituents daidzin and daidzein reduce alcohol consumption in hamsters
Publication:Science News
Article Type:Brief Article
Date:Nov 13, 1993
Words:210
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