DHM is becoming one of the fastest talked-about supplements due to its protective effects for the body after alcohol consumption. While it may be a newly popularized party supplement, Dihydromyricetin has been used as a traditional remedy in Chinese Traditional Medicine and has many other beneficial uses. Besides its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant capabilities, Dihydromyricetin can interact with cell life cycles and induce the death of cancerous cells—all while exerting neuroprotective effects and helping regulate glucose and lipid metabolism and improving mitochondrial function.
What is DHM (dihydromyricetin)?
Dihydromyricetin (DHM) is a flavonoid known as Ampelopsin. This flavonoid is a secondary metabolite found in the Ampelopsis grossedentata, an Oriental tea plant which grows as a vine. This tea plant is native to southern China where it has been used by the Yao people as a remedy to treat liver and kidney conditions, fever, cough, and throat pain. (1)(2)
DHM can also be found in the fruit and leaves of the Japanese Raisin Tree (Hovenia dulcis), but the primary source for industrial extractions comes from the Ampelopsis plant because it is much more concentrated in the Ampelopsis leaves. (3)(1)
How does DHM work?
DHM works as an alcohol-reducing, hangover-relieving supplement
DHM’s appeal for mitigating the effects of hangovers and protecting the body from the damage caused by alcohol is related to two distinct properties. DHM both reduces oxidative stress on the liver when alcohol is consumed and indirectly decreases the toxic metabolite of alcohol, acetaldehyde. (4)
After alcohol is consumed, it is metabolized into two enzymes so it can be eliminated by the body. The enzymes, alcohol dehydrogenase and aldehyde dehydrogenase, work together by first reducing the alcohol into ADH (alcohol dehydrogenase) and then breaking this down into acetaldehyde. Even though it’s necessary for the body to reduce the alcohol into acetaldehyde, acetaldehyde is an extremely harmful and toxic substance to the human body.
Before acetaldehyde is converted into acetate, it damages the tissues in the areas involved in alcohol metabolism. The metabolism of alcohol is primarily processed in the liver, and most people would be surprised to know that it can also be metabolized in other areas, such as the brain, pancreas, and digestive tract. These are the areas of the body that suffer damage while they are exposed to acetaldehyde. (5)
Next, acetaldehyde is broken down into acetate. The last step in alcohol metabolism is the reduction of acetate to carbon dioxide and water which is then completely released from the body.
There are many factors affecting how well the human body can metabolize alcohol. Body size, gender, the size of the liver itself, genetics, and how quickly the alcohol is consumed are all factors which affect how quickly alcohol is metabolized and eliminated from the body. Irrespective of these factors, the human body can only process alcohol at a certain rate per hour, which makes it difficult for the body to process large or continuous quantities of alcohol. The larger the quantity of alcohol in the body awaiting processing, the longer the tissues in the brain, liver, pancreas, and digestive tract are exposed to harmful acetaldehyde. (5)
DHM increases both the ADH and ALDH enzymes, helping the body process alcohol faster. (6)
DHM has been studied in humans and appears to reduce alcohol concentration in saliva as well as in breath when taken before alcohol consumption. There have been animal studies which also note a decrease in blood alcohol levels and decreases in the level of acetaldehyde in the blood. (4)
Along with observable decreases in acetaldehyde, research in animals demonstrates that DHM exerts antioxidant properties which reduces the oxidative stress on the liver while it metabolizes alcohol. DHM scavenges the free radical, superoxide, in other areas of the body as well. (7)
DHM can help Alcohol Withdrawal Syndrome & Alcohol Use Disorders
DHM successfully blocks the symptoms of alcohol withdrawal syndrome as experienced by alcoholics trying to stop drinking. By working with the GABA receptors, especially GABAAR, DHM’s effects have been compared to benzodiazepines which are often used to help people dependent on alcohol to stop drinking. The benzodiazepines appear to work on the same GABA pathways that DHM does, by potentiating the GABAAR receptors in the neurons of the central nervous system. For people with alcohol use disorders, medicating with benzodiazepines to wean off alcohol abuse may cause more harm than good; but they are often used because of the high risk of relapse when trying to recover from alcoholism. (6)
Anxiety is a difficult alcohol withdrawal syndrome, leading to hyperexcitability which increases cravings for alcohol. DHM was found to decrease the symptoms of alcohol craving when administered at the same time as alcohol, leading researchers to investigate how DHM might be used to help people withdraw safely and successfully with alcohol. (6)
If DHM is given 30 minutes before alcohol consumption or concurrently with alcohol, DHM can effectively counteract intoxication. (6)
- DHM works as an antioxidant
One of the major disadvantages to having too many roaming free radicals (otherwise known as reactive oxygen species) is that it induces the death of mitochondrial cells. DHM scavenges radicals in cardiac models and reduces oxidative stress on the brain. DHM inhibits peroxidation of lipids in the hippocampus (where oxidative damage impairs the memory), while also protecting neurons from oxidative stressors that cause hypoxia (loss of oxygen).
DHM protects the mitochondria life cycle by promoting their synthesis and improving mitochondrial function. (2)
DHM works as a neuroprotectant
DHM’s antioxidant and mitochondrial activities also work within the brain to act as a neuroprotectant. Due to the high concentration of oxidative stress in the brain suffering memory impairments, neurons may be deprived of oxygen. DHM reduces the oxidative stress within the brain while also restoring metabolic processes within the brain region known as the striatum.
DHM is also a neuroprotective compound due to its ability to downregulate pathways related to neurodegenerative diseases, such as in Alzheimer’s disease. (2)
DHM Improves Metabolism of Fats and Glucose
In patients with nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, supplementation with DHM decreased liver enzyme levels, glucose, LDL (bad) cholesterol, and markers of the insulin resistance index. The patients also experienced a decrease in levels of tumor necrosis factor and fibroblast growth factors. (8)
DHM works as an anti-inflammatory
DHM suppresses the gene expression of inflammatory cytokines, COX-2 (cyclooxygenase 2) and iNOS (inducible nitric oxide synthase). DHM inhibits inflammation related to TNF-alpha (tumor necrosis factor) and downregulates genes for the NF-κB inflammatory pathway.
From research in mice, DHM has also been shown to reduce proinflammatory cytokines in a model of asthma through reducing the immunoglobulin antibodies IgE and IgG1. (2)
DHM works as a regulator of cancerous cell death (apoptosis)
DHM has been studied in human liver cancer cells and appears to have a paradoxical mechanism of action. While it functions to reduce reactive oxygen species in areas of healthy cells, in the case of cancerous cells, DHM appears to generate free radicals and activate cell death in the mitochondria of liver cancer cells.
In bone cancer cells, DHM triggers the death of cancerous cells by causing cell cycle arrest.
In human skin cancer cells, DHM causes both cell cycle arrest and cell death (apoptosis) through both upregulating and downregulating various pathways. (2)
Most of the research conducted with DHM has been either in cell studies or live animal models, but only a very few have involved humans. Traditional Chinese medicine has been using the plant containing DHM for a very long time, but the modern scientific research on DHM is still in its early stages.
Studies searching for side effects of DHM in mice did not find any toxicity even up to a dose that was 36.6 times higher than the dose used in most of the studies. (3)
DHM has many benefits and can be a useful tool in preventing symptoms of hangovers while also generally relieving the stress on your body that alcohol consumption causes. As time progresses, it will be the center of many further trials and investigations aimed at harnessing its cell death-mediating and antioxidant properties. It’s an exciting compound that will perhaps become a great tool for helping people recover from alcohol use disorders in the near future.
- Muhammad, Umair et al. “Optimizing the Maximum Recovery of Dihydromyricetin from Chinese Vine Tea, Ampelopsis grossedentata, Using Response Surface Methodology.” Molecules (Basel, Switzerland) vol. 22,12 2250. 18 Dec. 2017, doi:10.3390/molecules22122250
- Li, Hongliang et al. “The Versatile Effects of Dihydromyricetin in Health.” Evidence-based complementary and alternative medicine : eCAM vol. 2017 (2017): 1053617. doi:10.1155/2017/1053617
- “Hovenia dulcis”. Examine.com, Published Jul 12, 2013. Last updated Oct 10, 2018. https://examine.com/supplements/hovenia-dulcis.
- Okuma, Yutaka, et al. “Effect of Extracts from Hovenia Dulcis Thunb. on Alcohol Concentration in Rats and Men Administered Alcohol.” Nippon Eiyo Shokuryo Gakkaishi, vol. 48, no. 3, 1995, pp. 167–172., doi: https://doi.org/10.4327/jsnfs.48.167
- “Alcohol Metabolism: An Update.” National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, vol. 72, July 2007, pubs.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/aa72/aa72.htm.
- Shen, Yi et al. “Dihydromyricetin as a novel anti-alcohol intoxication medication.” The Journal of neuroscience : the official journal of the Society for Neuroscience vol. 32,1 (2012): 390-401. doi:10.1523/JNEUROSCI.4639-11.2012
- Wang, Mingchun, et al. “Preliminary Characterization, Antioxidant Activity in Vitro and Hepatoprotective Effect on Acute Alcohol-Induced Liver Injury in Mice of Polysaccharides from the Peduncles of Hovenia Dulcis.” Food and Chemical Toxicology, vol. 50, no. 9, Sept. 2012, pp. 2964–2970., doi.org/10.1016/j.fct.2012.06.034.
- Chen, Shihui, et al. “Dihydromyricetin Improves Glucose and Lipid Metabolism and Exerts Anti-Inflammatory Effects…: A Randomized Controlled Trial.” Pharmacological Research, vol. 99, Sept. 2015, pp. 74–81., doi:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.phrs.2015.05.009.
By Joanna Cox