10 Hangover Remedies That Work and Don’t Work
Hangovers are not pleasant, but some are worse than others. If you want to avoid a hangover, you already know what you need to do, but if you want information on how to minimize the effects of excessive alcohol intake, here are ten remedies that work…and some that don’t.
What causes a hangover?
One major problem with treating a hangover is that experts are not sure what causes one. Sure, it seems obvious that drinking too much alcohol causes a hangover, but at a physiological and cellular level, the actual cause of a hangover is unclear.
A hangover may be caused in part by the presence of congeners, which are toxic substances present in alcohol. Other contributing factors include the impact of alcohol on a person’s biological rhythms, dehydration (due to an increase in urination and the ability of alcohol to inhibit the activity of anti-diuretic hormone on the kidney), and acetaldehyde (methyl) intoxication.
The best hangover remedy must be stated: don’t drink or drink at a moderate level so you don’t set the hangover process in motion. While this may sound like party-busting advice, experts have found that, based on their research and scientific evidence gathered thus far, “it must be concluded that most remedies do not significantly reduce overall hangover severity,” as noted in a 2010 study in Current Drug Abuse Reviews.
However, if you choose to drink alcohol, here are some hangover remedies that may work—or not—since each person responds in a different way to both alcohol and attempts to alleviate its effects.
- Water and electrolyte-rich beverages: Because a hangover typically involves some degree of dehydration, replenishing your body with water and electrolytes can be helpful, but don’t expect to feel wonderful after downing a glass of water, a sports drink, or other beverage such as coconut water. Replacing fluids should be a part of your hangover recovery, not the only step you take. To help avoid dehydration in the first place, drink a glass of water after each alcoholic beverage. That might also slow down your alcohol consumption!
- More alcohol: The so-called “hair of the dog” may (or may not) make you feel better temporarily, but that high will be followed by feeling worse.
- B vitamins: The B family of vitamins can help the body metabolize alcohol, so taking a B-complex supplement may provide some relief.
- Sweat it out: Because alcohol is toxic, some people benefit from sitting in a sauna and sweating out the alcohol. However, it’s important to remember to rehydrate with water since drinking also can cause dehydration, and sitting in a sauna causes a significant loss of water.
- Coffee: Some people claim that drinking lots of strong coffee can help with the headache that is often part of a hangover. Coffee is effective for some people but not others. Regardless of which category you fall into, be sure to rehydrate yourself, since coffee is a diuretic.
- Pickled plums: Also known as umeboshi, picked plums are a hangover remedy from the Japanese. Pickled plums are very salty and can be eaten alone or with green tea to help relieve hangover symptoms.
- Exercise: Sure, you’ll feel like jogging the morning you wake up with a hangover! However, engaging in some physical exercise may help metabolize the alcohol in your body. If you do try to exercise, don’t overdo it and be sure to hydrate with water or a sports beverage.
- Asparagus: According to a study published in 2009 in Food Science, asparagus may speed up the metabolism of alcohol, thus helping with recovery from a hangover. The authors stated that in their experiments, extracts of the leaves and shoots of this vegetable increased the “activities of 2 key enzymes that metabolize ethanol,” and that this indicates the vegetable may be beneficial in the “alleviation of alcohol hangover and the protection of liver cells against toxic insults.”
- Eat: Be sure to eat before you drink, and keep consuming small amounts of food while you drink. The best foods to eat before you drink and while at the party are foods high in protein and complex carbs and low in fat and salt, such as low-fat cheese, dry roasted nuts (unsalted best), deviled eggs, whole-grain breads (no oily potato chips!), or a soy yogurt or almond milk smoothie (you can pretend it’s a new drink).
- Fresh fruit: To help metabolize the alcohol in your system, eat fresh fruits, especially those high in vitamin C such as oranges, cantaloupe, strawberries, and other berries. Stock up on these fruits before you go to the party so when you crawl out of bed the next morning, you’ll have the fruit waiting for you!
As a bonus remedy, I have included dihydromyricetin, which the Chinese have been using for more than 500 years as a treatment for hangovers. Chances are you won’t have ready access to this option, but you might want to investigate it further.
According to the authors of “treatment and prevention of alcohol hangover” in Current Drug Abuse Reviews, “it’s unlikely that an effective hangover cure will be developed” until experts can effectively identify the pathology of alcohol hangover. Until then, these ten hangover remedies may work, or not work, for you.
Kim BY et al. Effects of asparagus officinalis extracts on liver cell toxicity and ethanol metabolism. Journal of Food Science 2009 Sep; 74(7): H204-8
Verster JC, Penning R. Treatment and prevention of alcohol hangover. Current Drug Abuse Reviews 2010 Jun; 3:(2): 103-9