Choosing Among Hangover Remedies

Ever since the first human sipped his or her first drop of fermented vegetation and after a festive night’s sleep awoke with bleary eyes, a scratchy throat, a queasy stomach and a pounding headache, the search has been on for an effective hangover remedy. Medical science has been of virtually no help whatsoever, and the most effective and popular hangover remedies remain those based on traditional herbal and plant-based concoctions, and above all, the fact that the primary effect of alcohol consumption is dehydration and that the drinking of water is the single best preventative of hangover symptoms.

But, alas, few people alternate their booze with plain water, and suffer the consequences, and then look for a cure. Here are a few that have, despite their questionable effectiveness and side effects, have borne the test of time, and remain the cure(s) that some people swear by.

Aspirin For most people, a pounding headache is the most pronounced symptom of a hangover, and good old aspirin is the answer for most people. But, many people turn to other, newer headache remedies, such as acetaminophen, which is dangerous. Under any circumstances, acetaminophen can and often does does cause liver or kidney damage and if taken while there is alcohol in the system,
that likelihood is greatly increased. Of course aspirin is a blood thiner and can cause bleeding, especially in people with a wide variety of pre-existing conditions from stomach ulcers to various intestinal disorders to actual bleeding disorders, both serious ones such as hemophilia or less chronic ones such as von Willebrand’s disease, that often escapes diagnosis for years. Oh, those side effect of medical remedies. ibuprofen may not be quite as bad on the kidneys or on the liver, but it also can cause bleeding similar to aspirin.

Water Even if you did not alternate water with your booze, it still helps after-the-fact. Drinking as much water after you stop drinking and until you fall asleep helps, as does drinking more water each time you wake up to go to the bathroom.

Food Besides causing dehydration, alcohol consumption also lowers blood sugar that can cause weakness and that is the cause of the “shakes”, a much ridiculed symptom of
alcohol consumption. The remedy for that is an easy one - EAT. While out drinking or when drinking at your home bar, don’t forget the bar food or that thing called dinner. Some simple snacks can cure that low blood sugar problem and keep the shakes away.
  • Eggs will raise blood sugar and their protein will break down toxins
  • Toast provides a quick picker-upper and the carbohydrates help with both fatigue and that queasy stomach
  • Bananas replenish depleted potassium and will prevent muscle ache
And speaking of eggs and toast, we cannot leave out the remedy of the late 1800s, created at New York’s Waldorf-Astoria, Eggs Benedict. Any you thought it was just a fancy breakfast to the idle rich! No, it was invented as a hangover remedy. How simple. What better for the morning after than a big plate stacked up with an English muffin, a poached egg, ham and a generous ladle of hollandaise sauce?

Sports Drinks Don’t care that much for water? Need something that will replenish those electrolytes? Then Gatorade or any other quality sports drink may do the job and prevent the shakes and the feeling of weakness.

Amino Acids The building blocks of proteins, amino acids are depleted by alcohol consumption and that is a significant cause of the symptoms of a hangover. Eating carbohydrates can help replenish amino acids, but a faster and more direct approach, taking amino acid capsules or the liquid form, should be even more effective.
Fruit or Fruit Juice The fructose in fruit helps the body burn off alcohol faster than normal, so drinking a glass of orange juice or tomato juice or eating some fresh fruit accelerate the removal of the remnants of a night of drinking.

Honey Honey is an even greater source of fructose than fruit, but its consumption is not quite as convenient as drinking a glass or orange juice. Dribble a generous portion of honey on a cracker or two or three, and it could do the job.

Willow Bark Aha, you say - finally a natural remedy from days past! Yes, and no, Willow bark is an ancient hangover remedy, and it works on some hangover symptoms, but not because of some
mystical reason. Willow bark is an effective pain reliever and works on those horrid hangover headaches because it contains the natural form of salicylate, the active ingredient in aspirin. The good news is that you don’t have to search nearby forests for a willow tree, you can purchase it in capsule form.

Soup or Broth A nice salty broth or soup will replenish the depleted salt and potassium lost by consuming a bevy of beautiful beverages. How effective and how quickly that will act on some of those awful symptoms varies greatly according to whom you ask.

Coffee - Yes or No? Whether coffee is beneficial to a hangover remains an open question with hangover survivors on both sides of the issue. On one hand, given that alcohol causes blood vessels in the brain to swell, and given that the caffeine in coffee will constrict blood vessels, it seems that coffee will be beneficial to hangover symptoms. But, coffee is also a diuretic, and could serve to increase the dehydration effects of the alcohol, extending the length and severity of the hangover. Or so it might seem. But, if you regularly drink coffee, not having it could actually exacerbate hangover symptoms by adding caffeine withdrawal to the mix.

Hair of the Dog The ancient remedy of Hair of the Dog also has its supporters and its naysayers. First, where did that name actually originate? It seems most likely that it was appropriated from the practice many, many years ago of putting dog hair on a dog bite to ward of rabies. That said, the “experts” say more alcohol is the worst thing you can do for a hangover, that while it may temporarily
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take a bit of an edge off of the symptoms, they will be far worse in the long run. But, looking closer at versions of the cure, in particular the Bloody Mary, the idea is not so stupid. Look above to the section of Fruit or Fruit Juice. Tomato juice is specifically mentioned because it is one of the most effective fruit or juice items to use for a hangover. So, go ahead and have that Bloody Mary, full of tomato juice, celery celery salt, Worcestershire sauce and tabasco and/or ground pepper, but just leave out the vodka.

Bicarbonate of Soda Do they still even make Alka-Seltzer? Whether they do and you have some around, or you mix the old fashioned crystal kind with water, or you get it in some other form - ok, even just plain seltzer - it does seem to settle that queasy stomach, if not the other symptoms.

Menudo South of the Border down Mexico way, and for a lot of people in the USA, somehow the consumption of a spicy dish made from tripe has become their hangover remedy of choice. We’ll pass on that one. Come to think of it, this one is not too far different from an Ancient Greek handover remedy of eating sheep’s lungs, or from the Roman cure of deep frying and eating your pet canary. There is even a modern recipe for that in “The Hangover Handbook”, a 1981 book by by David E. Outerbridge that apparently includes primarily various hair of the dog concoctions. Even the fried canary recipe includes cognac. Sadly, that book is out of print and impossible to find.

Umeboshi This is a hangover remedy popular in Japan, It’s a sour, pickled, dried ume, which is similar to a plum or apricot. Most people will steep it in green tea and devour the whole thing. Like with soup, it’s likely the high salt content that helps to replenish depleted salt and potassium, etc.

Poutine In Canada, they rely on their national dish, Poutine, for the morning after. For those of you who’ve never traveled north of the border, the delicious dish consists of a bowl of French fries covered with chunks of Canadian cheese curd, and covered in a thick layer of gravy, with some peppercorns garnished on top.

Non-Medicinal Organic Potions Available in pill, capsule, liquid or patch form, many natural, herbal and/or organic products are available to ingest on attach. Some work at least to some extent, some do not. Most, such as the Zaca Recovery Patch* contain nothing harmful and include a collection of ingredients that can help to replenish depleted minerals, acids, and more, and can have the effect of hastening recovery from some of those awful symptoms.

*Disclosure: We at have in the past received free sample products from Zaca but have not been solicited to review their products. While we have personally tried their Recovery Patch we are not now making any specific representations that the patch has any special qualities other than generalizations made from product names and descriptions. However, should any visitor to click on one of the Zaca links found here or elsewhere on and make an online purchase, would then receive a small commission based on a percentage of the sales price of the purchase, as we also would for a purchase made from the merchant offering Willow Bark, but we have received no free merchandise, and no merchandise whatsoever, from that merchant. For more information see our FTC Compliance section.

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