The party’s over, so to speak. And the hellish hangover has begun! We all know that drinking alcohol — especially to excess — can bring on a multitude of symptoms. Headache. Nausea. Fatigue. Dizziness. Thirst. Sensitivity to light or sound, or both. You’ve tried the supposedly tried-and-true preventive treatments or recommended remedies, like downing a glass of pickle juice or rubbing a lemon in your armpit before drinking. All to no avail.
Here’s some good information you’ll want to pour over: five easy, evidence-based ways to lessen or cure a hangover.
Avoid Drinks With Congeners
Selecting drinks low in congeners may help reduce the incidence and severity of hangovers. What exactly are congeners? Through the process of ethanol fermentation, sugars are converted into carbon dioxide and ethanol, also knows as alcohol. Congeners are toxic chemical by-products that are also formed in small amounts during this process; different alcoholic beverages contain varying amounts. Drinks low in congeners include gin, vodka, and rum; vodka contains almost no congeners. Tequila, whiskey, and cognac are all high in congeners; bourbon whiskey contains the highest amount of congeners.
Dehydration isn’t the only cause of a hangover, but it contributes to many of its symptoms such as fatigue, headache, dizziness, and increased thirst. Alcohol has a diuretic effect that can lead to a loss of fluids and electrolytes. Another potential cause of dehydration: Consuming excessive amounts of alcohol can cause vomiting, which, in turn, leads to additional loss of fluids and electrolytes. Increasing your water intake may help alleviate some hangover symptoms or prevent a hangover altogether.
“Hair Of the Dog”: Just An Old Wives Tale (Or Tail)?
Although mostly based on myth and anecdotes, the suggestion that having a drink the next morning to lessen hangover symptoms is based on some scientific evidence. Alcohol changes the way the body processes methanol, a chemical found in small amounts in alcoholic beverages. After you drink alcohol, methanol is converted to formaldehyde, a toxic compound that could be the cause of some hangover symptoms.
Drinking ethanol (alcohol) when you have a hangover can stop this conversion and prevent the formation of formaldehyde altogether. Instead of forming formaldehyde, methanol is then safely excreted from the body. This hangover treatment method is generally frowned upon, as it could lead to alcohol dependence and unhealthy drinking habits.
A lack of sleep won’t cause a hangover but it sure can make a hangover feel worse. Fatigue, irritability, and headaches are all hangover symptoms that can be exacerbated by lack of sleep. Bottom line: You might want to hit the hay before you hit the local bar.
The following supplements could ease hangover symptoms:
Red ginseng One study found that supplementing with red ginseng reduced blood alcohol levels, as well as hangover severity
Prickly pear Some evidence shows that the prickly pear cactus could help treat hangovers; a 2004 study found that prickly pear extract decreased hangover symptoms and cut the risk of hangover severity in half
Ginger In one study, combining ginger with brown sugar and tangerine extract improved several hangover symptoms, including nausea, vomiting and diarrhea
Borage oil One study looked at the effectiveness of a supplement containing both prickly pear and borage oil, which is derived from starflower seeds. The study found that the supplement reduced hangover symptoms in 88% of participants
Eleuthero Also known as Siberian ginseng, eleuthero was found in one study to alleviate several hangover symptoms and decrease the overall severity of the hangover