As age hits me in different ways, I found myself seeking out tried and true hangover cures backed by science. I love exploring different types of wine and cocktails, but I’ve found my tolerance has decreased as I age. I’ve more frequently found myself waking up to a hangover after an evening of wine tasting, even when I thought I could very well predict the outcome. Join me in my hangover cure investigation and save yourself from those dreaded hangover effects.
I aim to review some of the most promising hangover cures supported by scientific evidence, providing an overview of their efficacy, safety, and underlying biological mechanisms. Hangovers are a common experience following the consumption of alcohol and are often characterized by symptoms such as headache, nausea, and fatigue.
While there is no definitive cure for a hangover, various remedies have been proposed to alleviate the symptoms. In recent years, there has been increasing interest in investigating the effectiveness of these remedies, and a growing body of scientific research has shed light on their potential mechanisms and benefits.
Table of Contents
What Causes a Hangover?
Hangovers are caused by a combination of factors related to the consumption of alcohol. When you consume alcohol, it stimulates the production of urine, leading to dehydration. This dehydration causes symptoms such as headache, dizziness, and thirst.
Alcohol can irritate the lining of the stomach, leading to nausea, vomiting, and stomach pain. It can cause the blood vessels in the brain to expand, which can contribute to headaches – one of my least favorite and most common hangover symptoms.
Alcohol also disrupts the normal functioning of the body’s internal organs, including the liver and pancreas, which can contribute to feelings of fatigue and weakness. Furthermore, alcohol can affect the balance of chemicals in the brain, such as serotonin and dopamine, which can cause feelings of depression and anxiety.
The severity of a hangover can vary depending on individual characteristics such as age, weight, and overall health, as well as the amount of alcohol consumed and the duration of the drinking session. Consuming alcohol in moderation and staying hydrated can help reduce the likelihood and severity of a hangover.
Damage to the Liver
Alcohol can damage the liver through multiple mechanisms. When consumed, alcohol is metabolized in the liver and forms a highly reactive and toxic compound known as acetaldehyde. Excessive alcohol consumption can cause an accumulation of acetaldehyde, leading to oxidative stress and liver damage.
Furthermore, alcohol consumption can lead to the development of fatty liver, where excess fat accumulates in the liver. This condition can arise due to the increased metabolic demand on the liver to break down alcohol, leading to imbalances in fatty acid metabolism and insulin resistance.
Inflammatory and immune responses play a critical role in the pathogenesis of alcoholic liver disease. Chronic inflammation and oxidative stress can lead to the development of alcoholic hepatitis, a condition characterized by inflammation and liver cell injury.
Repeated and excessive alcohol consumption can eventually lead to the development of cirrhosis, a condition characterized by progressive liver damage and fibrosis. Cirrhosis results from chronic inflammation and scarring of liver tissue, leading to significant changes in liver structure and function.
The extent and severity of alcohol-related liver damage are influenced by several factors, including the amount and duration of alcohol consumption, genetic predisposition, and comorbidities. Adopting healthy lifestyle habits and minimizing alcohol intake can help prevent alcohol-related liver damage.
Drinking Strategies to Prevent Hangovers
As your night progresses, you must be proactive in how you approach your drinking to prevent the likelihood of a hangover.
Hydrating doesn’t mean simply drinking massive amounts of water. Too much water will actually flush your body of electrolytes and end up leaving you even more dehydrated by the effects of alcohol. The cells in your body absorb water through ion exchange across their membranes. Too much water can dilute your body’s electrolytic concentration, preventing adequate hydration. You need to take in fluids that contain minerals and electrolytes for your body to absorb.
Pedialyte has never served me wrong. Even better if you can drink it either during alcohol consumption or right before you go to bed. You can find it at plenty of gas stations or most grocery stores. It might be available under a generic name or competitor, but essentially the beverage is full of ingredients to help replenish electrolytes and vitamins to keep you going for a full night out.
Oral Rehydration Salts
Oral Rehydration Salts are incredible and easily found off Amazon or REI. The taste isn’t great, so many people will mix it with something or get a flavored version. These hydration packets are great for strenuous exercise when it’s hot out. Take a packet before your night out and another packet the next day.
N-acetyl-L-Cysteine (NAC) is a supplement that can aid in the body’s detoxification process and is used by doctors to combat kidney and liver damage caused by acetaminophen overdose.
NAC can protect the liver from alcohol damage when taken before drinking, but can exacerbate liver damage when taken after alcohol exposure.
It is recommended to take 500mg-1000mg of NAC before drinking on an empty stomach, and to avoid taking it the same night as drinking to prevent increased liver damage.
Jarrow is a decent brand for NAC pills, and B vitamins, such as the B Right pills, can also be helpful alongside it.
Take it before science: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/16439183/
The science on how it works: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8238992/
Hangover Cures Backed by Science
If it’s too late for hangover prevention and you’re now onto the stage of needing a hangover cure, this is what actually works. Alongside these cures, you’ll also need to do some basic self-care the next day to help a speedy recovery. A pill or two will simply not be enough.
Take a hot shower and relax your shoulder and neck muscles, try to get plenty of sleep, and get your vitamins through eating actual food. B-complex vitamins alongside all this are all essential in reducing the length and severity of a hangover.
Dihydromyricetin (DHM) taken before or during drinking, is like night and day for people with brutal hangovers. It works by speeding up the processing of alcohol in the liver, reducing the formation of acetaldehyde. Hangovers which used to be akin to near-death experiences are reduced to tolerable, sometimes even mild the next day.
Someone that worked in alcohol research for Anheuser-Busch told me that it’s one of the few evidence-backed supplements that actually works. I swear by it and everyone I’ve told about it does too. You don’t need those anti-hangover concoctions/pills. Make sure DHM is one of the main ingredients if you are using one of these options. Or just buy Dihydromyricetin itself.
People will swear up and down DHM is some kind of miracle cure. While it is a viable cure, you can’t evade a hangover if you don’t hydrate, sleep, and take vitamin b-complex alongside – all crucial pieces to lessening the hangover.
Some people have also reported that the increased efficiency of alcohol processing allows them to drink more, or not get buzzed as easily.
So how does it work?
Dihydromyricetin (DHM), a component of herbal medicines, has been found to counteract acute alcohol intoxication and withdrawal symptoms in rats, reduce alcohol consumption in rats, and antagonize acute and chronic alcohol actions on GABA receptors in the brain. GABA receptors are key targets for alcohol actions, and
DHM was found to antagonize alcohol-induced GABA receptor plasticity, including changes in the responsiveness of extrasynaptic and postsynaptic receptors. DHM was also found to interact with the benzodiazepine site on GABA receptors.
These findings suggest that DHM is a promising therapeutic candidate for treating AUDs, and its pharmacological properties make it a potential treatment for alcohol intoxication and dependence.
The science: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3292407/
Taking a B-vitamin complex the day after drinking alcohol can be beneficial, but it’s important to consider that certain B-vitamins can be energizing (B12, folate) while others can be sedating (B3/niacin, B6). To promote restful sleep after drinking, it is recommended to take 50-100mg of B6 at night.
The following day, taking 500-1000mcg of B12 and 500-1000mg of folate can help increase energy levels and support the methylation cycle, which is involved in neurotransmitter production and NAD+ function for mitochondrial and DNA repair.
B-complex vitamins and hydration are actually backed by science as preventive methods or cures. They have measured this in people. While not a foolproof cure-all, b-complex vitamins help a ton and saves you hours of headache.
The science: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8945215/
Hangover Cures That Don’t Work
Not only has science found these hangover cures to be ineffective, but I’ve also tried them and no longerutilize these as viable methods.
Milk Thistle is an herbal supplement, one of the most studied as an herb associated with liver disease treatment. Supplements can actually be effective, but not as effective as N-acetyl-L-Cysteine (NAC).
The active substances in silymarin, especially silybin, have demonstrated hepatoprotective effects in many studies.
However, milk thistle can be contaminated by mycotoxins, which are produced by toxic micro-fungi and can reduce or nullify the beneficial effect of silymarin.
The micro-fungi Fusarium and Alternaria, along with their mycotoxins, are most likely to affect Milk thistle. Mycotoxins such as AOH, BEA, DON, ENNA, ENNA1, ENNB, ENNB1, HT-2, T-2, TEN, and ZEA are the most significant in milk thistle-based dietary supplements.
The beneficial effect of silymarin can thus be reduced or totally antagonized by mycotoxins. Milk Thistle has a similar mechanism to NAC in that it increases glutathione which is good for detoxification, and replenishes the enzymes your body uses to metabolize alcohol.
This study focuses on summarizing cases of mycotoxins in milk thistle and highlights the need for strict monitoring and regulation since mycotoxins in relation to milk thistle-based dietary supplements are not regulated by the European Union legislation.
The science: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/33302488/
SAMe, an abbreviation for S-adenosylmethionine, is a supplement advertised online as a treatment for a variety of ailments, including liver and joint diseases, and emotional well-being.
Jean-Michel Fustin and his colleagues at Manchester University conducted research revealing that SAMe breaks down in the body into adenine and methylthioadenosine, which are toxic substances.
Their study was conducted on mice, but the results are relevant to humans, as they tested the supplement on human cells and found that it had the same effect as it did on mice. The study also found that SAMe adversely affected the biological rhythms of mice, slowing them down instead of improving them.
The research, funded by the Medical Research Council and the Japanese Society for the Promotion of Science, suggests that the health benefits of SAMe are dubious at best, as there is no clear indication of what a safe dose would be, or if one exists at all.
In the past I’ve used SAMe to help the liver process alcohol, but after reading about more effective methods alongside the potential downside, I’ve eliminated this supplement from my repetoir.
The science: https://www.theguardian.com/society/2022/apr/10/biologists-warn-against-toxic-same-health-supplement
It’s biology, not rocket science.
I strive to paint vivid landscapes with my words, bringing the magic of far-off lands and enchanting aromas to life for my readers. Combine passion for exploration and the art of gastronomy in an unending ode to the senses. When I’m not traversing the globe, I find solace in the earth beneath my fingertips, tending to my garden and working on projects around my verdant oasis. MK Library serves as a beacon, guiding fellow travelers and homebodies alike to embrace sustainability, nurturing both our planet and our souls with purpose. Full Bio.