While it’s normal to hope for a miracle method that will make you feel like a human being again, when searching for a hangover cure, it’s important to manage your expectations. The science of hangover cures is still emerging, and much of the evidence to support their effectiveness is anecdotal at best. In 2005, British researchers Max H. Pittler and Joris C. Verster published a study in which they attempted to assess the effectiveness of medical intervention for preventing or treating hangovers. The results, as stated in their conclusion, were not very promising:
“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 practice abstinence or moderation.”
Nevertheless, experts say there are some things you can do to mitigate the symptoms of a hangover, although it’s still important to be careful which methods you try. Some fly-by-night cures -- eating eggs, for instance -- are known to cause dehydration and make you feel worse. That said, some of the methods below are known to help ease your swelling head. And even if it’s all just a placebo effect, does it really matter? You’ll still feel better.
The Aspirin at Bedtime Cure
Citing the Mayo Clinic, ABC News on Tuesday called this time-honored method “mostly true.” Excessive booze consumption can trigger an inflammatory immune response, which in turn can be alleviated by aspirin’s anti-inflammatory properties. Ibuprofen works, too. The clinic warns, however, not to try this method with acetaminophen (aka Tylenol), which, like alcohol, is hard on the liver. It’s best not to mix the two.
The Fatty Food Cure
Although it’s normal to crave a hamburger and French fries after a night of heaving drinking, experts say fatty food is better at preventing a hangover than it is at curing one. Colin Wilson, a research scientist at Water Wellpoint, told the Independent in 2010 that fat slows alcohol absorption, which is why some in Mediterranean cultures slurp up a teaspoon of olive oil before a night of heavy drinking. “Most people think of a fry-up as a cure, but slower absorption of alcohol -- and therefore the effects of too much of it -- can be achieved by eating a meal before you start drinking,” Wilson told the paper. Conversely, the Telegraph reported in 2009 that a bacon sandwich really can help with hangover symptoms. Why? The carb-heavy bread will raise your blood sugar and the protein-rich bacon will help you break down amino acids, thereby giving you a clearer head.
The Coffee Cure
Another time-honored post-drinking tradition: Coffee for a hangover just seems natural, but will a trip to Starbucks really make you feel any better? Not likely, according to the alcohol researcher John Brick, who told CNN that caffeine narrows your blood vessels and raises your blood pressure, both of which “may make the hangover worse.” Also, coffee is a diuretic, like alcohol. It’s just not a good combination. Unless it’s Baileys and coffee, then by all means drink up.
Over-The-Counter Hangover Cures
We’ve all seen those products at drugstores and on bodega counters claiming to alleviate hangover symptoms. But look more closely at the labels on products like Chaser, RU-21 and PreToxx and you’ll see the age-old proclaimer for the supplement industry: “These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration.” That’s because supplements are not regulated by the FDA, which means you’re on your own when it comes to determining if they work. And for the most part, experts say, they don’t. “[T]here is no clear evidence that these are better than just rehydration and taking OTC anti-inflammatory or pain relievers,” Forbes contributor Robert Glatter wrote last year.
The Exercise Cure
In 2011, physician Aaron Michelfelder told Bloomberg News that exercise is the best hangover cure. But seriously, who does this? You’re already exhausted. Do yourself a favor and stay in bed. Which brings us to:
The Sleep Cure
As Health magazine puts it, “In the end, the only surefire treatment for a hangover is time.” For hungover casualties of New Year’s Eve, that means take advantage of the national holiday: Drink plenty of water and sleep it off. At 2 p.m., when you finally ooze back to life, don’t rush things. Stay in bed and catch a few bad comedies on TV. If you’re lucky, maybe “The Hangover 2” is on.