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Curing A Hangover

I came across this list at Forbes when I was reading the original Forbes story about the world’s heaviest-drinking countries. This is their list of the Top Ten Hangover Cures, which I’ve reprinted below.

  1. Water (Lots of It)
  2. Sports Drinks
  3. Over-the-Counter Pain Relievers
  4. Vitamins B6 and B12
  5. Berocca
  6. Prickly Pear
  7. Tripe Soup
  8. Haejangguk (Korean for “soup for the stomach”)
  9. Rosiglitazone (used by diabetics to boost glucose levels)
  10. Hair of the Dog

In the beginning of the article, however, they begin with this annoying chestnut. “The best—and most painfully obvious—remedy is not to drink yourself into oblivion.” Can it be possible nobody realized that abstinence cannot be a cure since if you never get a hangover there’s nothing to remedy? I know I’m splitting hairs here but I’ve always found the “just say no” mentality a bit overly self-righteous. Nothing ventured, nothing gained I always say. Keep abstaining and you gain no wisdom, no experience, no nothing that you need to grow as a person.

The first four and the last one are old tried and true ones, but five through nine were largely new to me. I wrote a book in the early 1990s that included an appendix of common hangover cures, which I researched pretty thoroughly at the time. When you drink, your body — primarily the liver — begins processing the alcohol. Once it starts working, there’s really nothing you can do to speed things up. All you can do it wait. Alcohol also dehydrates you making you feel dry because when you drink you lose more water than your body replaces until your liver and kidneys finish their work. While the excess alcohol is waiting to be processed, it is stored in your cells, displacing the water that is normally there: this phenomenon is known as “extra-cellular” and it’s what makes you feel dry and crave water. When you drink faster than your liver’s ability to process the alcohol, it gets backed up. That backup is what causes your misery. The medical record I looked at suggested that there is only one thing that will cure a hangover: time. You may be able to ease some of your symptoms, but there’s nothing to any of the supposed cures that will do anything to speed up your recovery. That doesn’t stop anybody from trying, of course, as people — myself included — will do anything in the hopes of eliminating the pain of a hangover.

In my own experience, I’ve found preventative measures are always more effective than anything you can try the morning after. When I put together my appendix, I divided the various methods to keep yourself feeling fit into four categories based on when to administer them.

  1. Before Drinking
  2. During Drinking
  3. Before Going To Bed
  4. The Morning After


Naturally, there are exponentially more supposed cures for the morning after than for anytime the night before. I think that’s because the preventative measures involve common sense and a few basic ideas, things that most of us forget to do once we start drinking. My personal regime is to take a vitamin B supplement and two Advil (I used to take Tylenol until I read that it can be hard on your liver) before going to bed. I’ve had a pretty good success rate with that, which is why I still use it. I’ve started reprinting my hangover cure appendix so you can take a look at it. I only have up the first three categories, and a few from the morning after, but little by little I’ll get it all up there.


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