Can You Prevent or Cure a Hangover?

Since we’ve just gone through the season of excess, I thought I’d do some Web sleuthing to determine alcohol’s economic impact on society. Estimates vary dramatically but a report from the reputable National Institute of Health (NIH) suggests the impact in the U.S. could be more than $100B annually.

Regardless of the exact number, the line of thought leads to an intriguing New Year’s day speculation:

Can you prevent or cure a hangover?

Of course, legends abound. Conventional wisdom suggests lots of water and ibuprofen either before or after drinking. I had a college friend who swore by a concoction containing a raw egg yolk and Worcester sauce as a morning-after remedy. Interestingly, ginseng appears to be an Internet favorite.

Two UK researchers decided to systematically vet all available research to determine if there are any effective hangover cures. Fifteen studies tested a wide variety of treatments, including borage, prickly pear, propranolol, and tolfenamic acid. Perhaps not surprisingly, the authors conclude:

No compelling evidence exists to suggest that any conventional or complementary intervention is effective for preventing or treating alcohol hangover. The most effective way to avoid the symptoms of alcohol induced hangover is to practise abstinence or moderation.

If nothing works, why do people swear by these home remedies?

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9 Responses to Can You Prevent or Cure a Hangover?

  1. Anonymous January 3, 2012 at 5:28 am #

    home remedies work, just need to constantly change (rotate) them, it is not simple one for all solution.

  2. Alyse Wyler January 3, 2012 at 7:28 am #

    Our “want” for feeling better superimposes our practicality in certain cases. Why do women eat exotic fruits or walk miles when trying to induce labor? For the same reason I believe. Maybe trying these different things actually does make us feel better emotionally rather than physically.

  3. Peter Brandt January 3, 2012 at 11:47 am #

    Isn’t the right question here – “why the excess in the first place?”

    Yes, over-consumption of alcohol induces a temporary “feeling good” perception. But, it is really a false feeling. It is really symptomatic of poisioning/reaching a toxic level of alcohol in our body. And, alcohol contributes to quite a few of society’s ills when abused/used to excess.

    So, why not enjoy in moderation?

    We are supposedly the smartest of the animal species, yet we’re the only one that poisons itself to make itself “feel good”. And, then looks for “remedies” to make itself feel better after the poisoning takes place. Huh?

    • Jonathan Becher January 6, 2012 at 3:03 pm #

      Changing the question is often a good way to get perspective. I’ve not looked at the research but I suspect there is a bit of a slippery slope going on. One leads to the second which leads… to excess.

  4. John Appleby January 4, 2012 at 1:40 am #

    “This entry was posted on Sunday, January 1st, 2012 at 4:06 pm” – presumably after managing to crawl out of bed!

    It’s human nature to practice excess and suffer for it. And human nature to believe that anecdotal evidence allows them to feel better. I’m not convinced that there isn’t a placebo effect here much as happens with medication.

    After all I’m sure we’d all swear by some fatty food and a vat of coffee. Happy New Year mate.

    • Jonathan Becher January 6, 2012 at 3:02 pm #

      Happy New Year to you as well, John. No comment on the fact that it was two UK researchers?

  5. Michael Mankowski January 4, 2012 at 11:13 am #

    Based on what I have heard from a “friend”, drinking German beer in Germany will result in a much less significant hangover than drinking a similar volume of Budweiser here in the US.

  6. Tom Stephenson January 4, 2012 at 7:30 pm #

    Interesting timing of the post. Was this musing or hoping?

  7. Kevin Cox January 6, 2012 at 12:54 pm #

    I’m with Mr. Appleby, it works, because it is a placebo. Placebos actually give the “mind” power over empirical science in a very sneaky way– by allowing the minds “beliefs” to manipulate the physical functions of the body it way that seems to prove the impossible is possible. Great vid on recent placebo research:

    And to Peter Brandt’s point why drink at all? I would say that just knowing about the home remedey is a “profilatic” placebo.

    Here’s to an impossible New Year being possible:-)

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