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What’s in This?: Hangover Prevention Pills

All eight ingredients in this New Year’s Eve Hail Mary, explained (yep, even hydroxypropyl methylcellulose)

We’re often told that you should never eat anything (or put anything on your body) if you don’t recognize everything on the ingredients list. But since most of us have no idea what xanthan gum or potassium benzoate are — or more importantly, what they’re doing to our bodies  — we’re decoding the ingredients in the many things Americans put in (and on) themselves with the help of an expert.

This edition: PartySmart, which is made from eight separate ingredients that we’ve broken down in the exact order they appear on their website.

Before delving into the ingredients, though, know that PartySmart contains an herbal blend that basically promises to help the liver eliminate the hangover-causing compound acetaldehyde.

With that, let’s see if these party pills actually work…

The Ingredients

1) Chicory Extract: Chicory extract is a supplement produced by mixing dried, ground chicory root with water. One now-retracted study suggests that consuming chicory extract might improve liver toxicity; however, another presumably more accurate study found that eating chicory extract does pretty much nothing for the liver: “Minimal changes were observed in the biomarkers of liver function.”

2) Andrographis Extract: Andrographis extract is (obviously) made from the andrographis plant, which is native to several South Asian countries. There’s some evidence that consuming andrographis extract reduces inflammation in the liver, but one review concludes that “this standardized herbal medicine may not provide immediate remedy,” which means taking andrographis extract in PartySmart form right before hitting the club probably won’t protect your liver from the immediately incoming barrage of alcohol.

3) Grape Extract: Much like the above-mentioned supplements, grape extract (particularly grape seed extract) has been shown to improve liver function after long-term use. But will taking grape extract directly before chugging 15 beers help your liver metabolize all that alcohol? Probably not.

4) Date Palm Extract: One rodent study found that date palm extract effectively protected the liver from chemical stressors, like drugs and alcohol. But again, more research is needed to prove (1) that it has the same effect on humans and (2) that a burst of date palm extract taken right before drinking, rather than as part of a healthy diet, actually helps reduce hangovers.

5) Phyllanthus Extract: Phyllanthus extract is derived from the phyllanthus herb found in central and southern India. Rodent studies show that phyllanthus extract “alleviates the progression of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease,” but again, the idea that taking a single pill filled with the stuff right before drinking will immediately help your liver metabolize alcohol toxins might be a stretch.

6) Amla Extract: Amla extract is derived from the the Indian Gooseberry fruit, and animal studies show that regular consumption might protect against chemical-induced liver cancer.

7) Microcrystalline Cellulose: This is refined wood pulp, which makes up the casing for this supplement.

8) Hydroxypropyl Methylcellulose (Vegetarian Capsule): An odorless and tasteless synthetic powder, which is also used to create the capsule.

The Takeaway

To my surprise, several studies (even human studies) suggest that consuming PartySmart really does reduce hangover intensity. “PartySmart enhanced acetaldehyde metabolism by increasing ADH [hepatic alcohol dehydrogenase, which metabolizes acetaldehyde into a less toxic compound] and ALDH [aldehyde dehydrogenase, which also breaks down acetaldehyde into a less toxic compound] activity without any side effects,” one study concludes. “These findings indicate that PartySmart may exert a beneficial role in the management of alcohol hangover without any toxicity.”

However, the later study only came to this conclusion after feeding rats PartySmart once a day for 90 days, and the former human study only tested the pills on 10 men. Basically, when analyzing the ingredients, there’s certainly evidence that each one might improve liver function, especially when consumed over long periods of time. But more thorough human studies are necessary in order to prove that PartySmart actually works as a quick-acting hangover prevention pill.

At the end of the day, though, is it worth trying? For about $2 per pill… maybe.