How to Cure a Hangover

How to Cure a Hangover

It’s Friday night. You’re at the local bar with the gang celebrating the end of yet another drab, dull work week.

The drinks start flowing, and show no signs of stopping anytime soon. Hours are whiled enjoying the conversations, flirtations, and exaltations of a night that seems too good to be true.

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As night fades and the sun begins to slice through the horizon, you make your way home. You are still feeling on top of the world, most likely due to the stream of alcohol still coursing through your veins.

Laying your head on the soft, supple pillow placed on your bed, you drift off to sleep feeling immensely satisfied after another glorious night on the town. That is, until you wake up a few hours later feeling utterly miserable. Your headaches, you can’t stand to see light, you have no energy, and in general you feel like you just got run over by a dump truck.

Congratulations, my friend; you’ve got yourself one heck of a hangover. And you’re not alone, an estimated 75% of people consuming alcohol have experienced a hangover in their life, and missed work/school due to one.

While you enjoy the nights of drinking and socializing with friends, you despise the utterly abysmal way you feel the next morning, leaving you wonder on more than one occasion,

“How can I enjoy alcohol in great amounts, yet not suffer the inevitable morning after hangover?”

That’s where we come in. We’ve separated fact from fiction to give you the most effective, scientifically-proven remedies to combat hangover symptoms, enabling you to drink more freely and not suffer the harsh consequences of the following morning.

Drunk

What is a Hangover?

Scientifically known as “veisalgia,” the hangover has been plaguing human beings for eons. In fact, there first recorded incident of man experiencing the deleterious effects of too much alcohol were first described in the Bible of all things! [1] Taken from Isaiah 5:12:

“Woe unto them that rise up early in the morning, that they may follow strong drink.”

Yes, hangovers have been a nuisance for centuries, and they still remain a bother for the overenthusiastic bacchanalian. As to what is to blame for the hangover (outside of your lack of control), scientists suggest it’s acetaldehyde, the dehydrogenated product of alcohol metabolism, that might be responsible for hangover symptoms. [1]

Additionally, if you’re a fan of dark liquors (whiskey, tequila, etc.), the congeners (byproducts of these liquor preparations) have been shown to increase the severity of hangovers compared to the clear liquors (vodka, rum, etc.) which have less congeners in them. [2]

Researchers have compiled a list of the most common symptoms associated with hangovers, most of these you’ve probably experienced yourself. Those common symptoms are: [1][3]

  • Headache
  • Diarrhea
  • Anorexia
  • Tremulousness (shaking or quivering)
  • Fatigue
  • Nausea
  • Poor sense of well-being
  • Cognitive impairment
  • Decreased work-related performance

That’s great and all, but you’re here to understand how to cure a hangover, not so much what they are or what they feel like - you’ve had plenty of “hands on” experience with hangovers to detail them line, chapter, and verse. With that, let’s jump into the most effective remedies to combat hangovers.

Best Hangover Remedies

#1 - Hydrate

This may seem almost too simple to be true, but drinking water is paramount to curbing the nasty feelings brought on by a night of excess drinking. While the thought of slamming your body with even more fluids after a night of pilsner pints sounds dreadfully, water can (and will) help combat the symptoms of a hangover. Many of the negative consequences associated with excessive alcohol consumption stem from dehydration.

Drinking a big glass of water before going to bed can lessen the severity of headaches, nausea, and fatigue. In effect, it’ll “soften the blow” of whatever hangover symptoms you may be headed for in a few hours.

#2 - Prickly Pear

While there are scores of home remedies and OTC supplements touted as effective hangover cures, very few of them actually hold up in testing. One of those lone exceptions is prickly pear (Opuntia ficus indica).

Research shows that consuming an extract of the prickly fruit a few hours before drinking may lower hangover symptoms by about 50%. [4] The exact mechanism by which prickly pear combats the severity of hangovers isn’t really understood fully, but researchers believe the plant contains a protein that reduces the inflammation brought on from drinking too much.

#3 - Lemon-Lime Soda

Believe it or not, one of the most popular soft drinks around can help you fight off a hangover. Research out of China documented that consuming Sprite improved the body’s ability to metabolize alcohol by speeding the body’s ability to process aldehyde dehydrogenase (ALDH), the instigator of hangover symptoms. [5]

Interestingly enough, that same study found that consuming certain herbs and teas can slow down the rate of ALDH processing, theoretically prolonging the time you’re suffering from a hangover.

Maybe there is something to those popular “Seven and Seven” mixed drinks after all?

#4 - Herbal Tea

Seeing herbal teas on the list probably makes you scratch your head after reading the previous bullet point, but remember only certain teas and herbs prolonged the hangover effects. Other research has found that consuming peppermint or ginger tea can reduce feelings of motion sickness and nausea (common symptoms associated with hangovers). [6][7]

Additionally, EGCG, a potent catechin found in teas, stimulates key detoxification pathways, improving liver function and therefore alcohol processing. [8]

#5 - Coffee + Aspirin

The most frequently recommended remedy for curing hangovers actually works believe it or not. Nothing could be simpler than coffee plus aspirin, but in fact, the combo has been proven to work.

Published in PLOS ONE, a 2010 study noted that the caffeine contained in coffee and the anti-inflammatory compounds present in aspirin, and other NSAIDs, were effective against the chemical constituents of alcohol. [9]

The reason the combo works is that the NSAIDs reduce the severity of headaches and the caffeine in coffee reduces other symptoms of hangovers, including fatigue and malaise. Just be careful when mixing coffee and painkillers though, as not everyone reacts well to the combination.

Takeaway

Everyone experiences a hangover at some point in life, and for some reason, humans still continue to freely enjoy their libations, regardless of the consequences or negative effects on health. All that being said, if you do enjoy the occasional drink, but don’t want to bother with a nasty hangover, reduce the quantity of alcohol you consume and follow these tips to ensure you’re never stuck with another dreadful hangover.

References
1) Jeffrey G. Wiese, Michael G. Shlipak, Warren S. Browner. The Alcohol Hangover. Ann Intern Med. 2000;132:897–902. doi: 10.7326/0003-4819-132-11-200006060-00008. http://annals.org/aim/fullarticle/713513/alcohol-hangover
2) Pawan GL. Alcoholic drinks and hangover effects. Proc Nutr Soc 1973; 32:15A. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/4760771
3) Swift R, Davidson D. Alcohol hangover: mechanisms and mediators. Alcohol Health Res World. 1998;22:54-60. doi:10.1139/y86-123. https://pubs.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/arh22-1/54-60.pdf
4) Wiese J, McPherson S, Odden MC, Shlipak MG. Effect of Opuntia ficus indica on symptoms of the alcohol hangover. Arch Intern Med. 2004;164(12):1334-1340. doi:10.1001/archinte.164.12.1334. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15226168
5) Li S, Gan L, Li S, et al. Effects of Herbal Infusion, Tea and Carbonated Beverage on Alcohol Dehydrogenase and Aldehyde Dehydrogenase Activities. Food & Function. 2013. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24162728
6) Lien H-C, Sun WM, Chen Y-H, Kim H, Hasler W, Owyang C. Effects of ginger on motion sickness and gastric slow-wave dysrhythmias induced by circular vection. Am J Physiol Gastrointest Liver Physiol. 2003;284(3):G481-9. doi:10.1152/ajpgi.00164.2002. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12576305
7) Herbal remedies for dyspepsia: peppermint seems effective. Prescrire Int. 2008;17(95):121-123. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18630390
8) Singh BN, Shankar S, Srivastava RK. Green tea catechin, epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG): mechanisms, perspectives and clinical applications. Biochemical pharmacology. 2011;82(12):1807-1821. doi:10.1016/j.bcp.2011.07.093. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4082721/
9) Maxwell CR, Spangenberg RJ, Hoek JB, Silberstein SD, Oshinsky ML (2010) Acetate Causes Alcohol Hangover Headache in Rats. PLoS ONE 5(12): e15963. http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0015963
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