Antihistamine blockade of alcohol-induced flushing in orientals

J Stud Alcohol. 1988 Jan;49(1):16-20. doi: 10.15288/jsa.1988.49.16.


The so-called Oriental flushing reaction associated with ingestion of small amounts of alcohol was antagonized by combined antihistamine administration. In stage one of the study, the flushing reaction to low doses of alcohol was produced in Orientals. Most subjects experienced a cutaneous flush, an increase in skin temperature, a decrease in blood pressure, an increase in pulse rate and subjective symptoms such as dizziness, sleepiness, anxiety, headache, generalized weakness and nausea. Before the administration of alcohol, one-half of the subjects were given 50 mg of diphenhydramine (H1 receptor antagonist) and 300 mg of cimetidine (H2 receptor antagonist). The second half received placebo tablets. The clearest difference between the antihistamine group and placebo group was in the skin flushing reaction. The antihistamine group showed a significant reduction in the skin flush. The antihistamine also neutralized the systolic hypotension induced by the administration of alcohol. The possible importance of histamine in the expression of sensitivity to alcohol is considered. The relevance to genetic susceptibility for development of alcoholism is discussed.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Controlled Clinical Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Alcoholism / genetics
  • Asian Continental Ancestry Group*
  • Blood Pressure / drug effects
  • Cimetidine / pharmacology*
  • Diphenhydramine / pharmacology*
  • Ethanol / adverse effects*
  • Ethanol / blood
  • Female
  • Flushing / chemically induced*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Skin Temperature / drug effects
  • Time Factors


  • Ethanol
  • Cimetidine
  • Diphenhydramine