Hangover Cures: Myth or Reality?



The damage has been done. You're trying to heal your broken body by scrounging around on the Internet for some sorcery that will make the pressure in your head go away. Unfortunately, doctors have yet to collectively agree on any one single "hangover cure," so we're left to sift through a myriad of wives tales and marketing ploys. To get a better idea where to start, we talked to a handful of different people including Mike McAdams of The Healthy Drinker website and Rob Walker, who wrote the book, literally, on solving hangovers ("Hangovers Solved: A Simple Solution to Prevent Misery the Morning After"). They've valiantly suffered through headaches, nausea and inexplicable body aches, all in the name of science, so that the rest of us can live hangover free.

The Greasy Breakfast

"Your body has already processed -- or is still struggling to process -- the alcohol consumed the night before, and whatever scant vitamins and minerals that are clinging to the fat in that sausage sandwich are not going to make the difference," McAdams says. "The best thing to do food-wise is to focus on replenishing the essential nutrients that have already been depleted." Thankfully, some greasy breakfast foods also have essential nutrients. "Eggs contain amino acids that assist liver detoxification, including cysteine, which helps in neutralizing the toxin acetaldehyde," McAdams says. "Better yet, eating a greasy meal before you start the night actually does help. The grease and gunk saturating that extra helping of hash coats the stomach and slows the absorption of alcohol."

The verdict: If you want a greasy breakfast, eat it before you drink. If it's already too late for that, order eggs.



Despite their density, bananas are 75% water and can jump start your morning of re-hydration and rehabilitation. "They also have high amounts of Vitamin C and B6, which help neutralize free radicals and prevent liver damage," McAdams says. "Bananas also contain healthy amounts of magnesium and potassium, which are depleted with the consumption of alcohol, and leading to the booze blues. Plus, they are loaded with the natural sugars that the body needs to replenish after a night of festivities."

The verdict: No need to start buying bananas on your liquor runs, but maybe keep a few in the fruit bowl.


Coconut Water

If you're dehydrated after a late-night binge, your body may be depleted of electrolytes. "We swear by coconut water as a hangover cure," says Holly Kulp of Healing Lifestyles & Spas. "It contains a whole slew of nutrients and electrolytes our bodies need, including vitamin C, potassium, magnesium, phosphorous, sodium, and calcium. It's like a sports drink, without the acidity or the fake flavoring." You can drink it by itself, or mix it into a smoothie for a snack.

The verdict: Try it instead of a sports drink and see for yourself.


Tomato Juice

Because it contains some salt, tomato juice (or vegetable juice) will help you retain the fluids you're replenishing, says Dr. Linda C. Degutis, associate professor of emergency medicine and public health at Yale. You're also restocking some of last night's lost nutrients with the vegetables and tomatoes. Unfortunately, though, beyond providing the basic nutrients you should already be eating, tomato juice isn't going to be hangover cure-all.

The verdict: If you're craving it, by all means, indulge -- but if you're not a fan, there's no reason to go out of your way to drink it.


Raw Eggs

Eating raw eggs may help your machismo, but it's not going to save you from that hangover. "Unless it's that the pain of eating the raw egg takes your mind off [your hangover]," says Dr. Jeffrey G. Wiese, an associate professor of medicine at Tulane.

The verdict: Say no to salmonella.


Sports Drinks

Athletes drink sports drinks to refuel between games, so If drinking is your sport, you too should refuel between games. "Alcohol depletes electrolytes by making demands on the body that force a greater need for them," McAdams says. Sports drinks are full of electrolytes. "When the next morning arrives, after losing electrolytes in converting alcohol’s toxins and dispelling them in the urine, getting to a place where you feel good again requires replenishment," McAdams says.

The verdict: Electrolytes. They do a body good.


Aspirin or Ibuprofen

After waking up with a skull-splitting headache, you might be tempted to reach for your painkiller of choice. "Taking a painkiller can help reduce the discomfort of a hangover ... but it wouldn’t hurt to pair that medicine with a glass of water and a healthy meal," McAdams says. "That fact, though, must be tempered with the reality that mixing painkillers and alcohol can be very dangerous. Medicine that contains acetaminophen can cause damage to the kidneys and liver, and aspirin can cause stomach irritation."

The verdict: If possible, avoid 'em. They'll kill the immediate pain, but they could be dangerous in the long run.


Hair of the Dog

As tempting as it may be, don't reach for the nearest bloody Mary. Having a bit of the "hair of the dog that bit you" will help relieve the immediate problem of alcohol withdrawal, but it actually will make your hangover worse down the road, Dr. Degutis says.

The verdict: Don't pet this dog.


Bacon Sandwich

A bacon sandwich isn't good for your heart or your waistline, but it might be good for your hangover. "Bread is high in carbohydrates and bacon is full of protein, which breaks down into amino acids," says Elin Roberts, science development manager at The Centre for Life in Newcastle, in an interview with The Mirror. “Your body needs these amino acids, so eating them will make you feel good. Binge drinking alcohol depletes neurotransmitters too, but bacon contains a high level of amines which tops these up, giving you a clearer head.” So there you have it. Another reason to bend your New Year's resolutions.

The verdict: Some shred of scientific evidence to validate our bacon obsession? We'll take it. Oh, and another one of those sandwiches, please.


Milk Thistle Liquid Extract

"Drop 50ml of this mercifully taste-free liquid in a glass of water before you go to bed and in the water you drink throughout the next day," says Becky Pugh, health writer for The Telegraph, and self-volunteered hangover cure tester. The night before, Pugh had a Thanksgiving dinner, complete with three glasses of red wine and two glasses of champagne. "This is by far the best remedy I sampled. It eliminated nausea and limited that debilitating tiredness. Milk Thistle is available in pill form, but I found the tincture worked better for me," Pugh says.

The verdict: If we see it at the store, we'll take it as "a sign" and try it out.

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Fruit and Berries

"Fruit, such as a banana or a bowl of berries is easily digested and adds helpful vitamins and antioxidants," says Vonalda Utterback, certified nutritionist specializing in holistic health and nutrition. In addition to boasting of vitamins A, C, E, berries are well known cancer fighters, so you can help heal your body now while preventing possible illness in the future -- all in one bowl.

The verdict: Bowl of berries = breakfast in bed.


Prickly Pear Extract

Student tested and approved, prickly pear has been shown to "lesson hangover symptoms." The New York Times reports, "Last summer, a group of doctors reported in The Archives of Internal Medicine that an extract from the fruit of the prickly pear cactus, taken in capsule form, was effective in staving off hangover symptoms like dry mouth and nausea." The extract is thought to work for hangovers because it reduces the immune response to congeners (biproducts from the fermentation process), according to Dr. Michael G. Shlipak, associate professor of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco, and an author of the prickly pear report.

The verdict: If it's good enough for those college students, it's good enough for us.

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Milk Bath

Using ingredients from your refrigerator and fruit basket, run a spa-worthy bath so you can pamper any ailments away. "Start your day with a warm bath," says Jane Ross, the spa director at the Ananda Spa in the Himalayas. Add a handful of sea salts, a cup of milk, and 3 drops each of grapefruit, juniper, and cypress essential oils into the bath. "The sea salts will help to remineralize your body and the essential oils will also help your body flush out the toxins. Grapefruit is uplifting and the milk will help to re-hydrate and nourish your skin," Ross says.

The verdict: Cue the spa music...

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Ginger Tea

"If you are feeling queasy, sip ginger tea, or chamomile and mint tea to soothe your tummy," Ross says. "For headaches, apply a cold lavender and peppermint compress. Take a basin of cold water and add ice cubes, one drop of peppermint, and one drop of lavender essential oils. Lay a face cloth across the water and wring out, lie down, and apply the compress for 15 minutes. This is especially soothing and will help to relieve the discomfort."

The verdict: If your stomach is giving you a hard time, sip some ginger tea.