Hangovers - secrets global, old and new
So you started the year with awesome intentions. You may have embarked on Dry January, been tempted by Tryanuary. You may be strong, virtuous and will only ever imbibe the most moderate of amounts, but at some point even the most hardened alcohol angel will have one too many.
You may not need this article now, and think about skipping on to the next, confident that you don’t need to read this. Think twice, this information could prove to be invaluable - your secret arsenal of hangover cures, so stick with it and file this away in the memory banks. Failing that, you can always come back and read it from our online back catalogue!
For those of you unfamiliar with the hangover, it comes with some spectacular side effects. The hangover presents as; headache, nausea, sensitivity to light and sound, fatigue, dizziness and thirst. Translated, this means that feeling when you wake up, when the room spins, the sound of the alarm clock is like Big Ben next to your ear, you can barely open one eye, let alone two and you feel like a bear woken too early from hibernation! You maybe unlucky enough to suffer from the whole lot, or just one or two.
We are going to present you with a range of suggestions, but here is the important bit, we are not scientists or doctors and are not claiming that any of these are necessarily going to do you any good at all, but when you are that bear, you might want to try one. It is also important to check if you are taking any medications as to whether any herbal supplements may have contra indicators.
There are several approaches to hangovers
The preventative route, however this implies that you know you are about to over-indulge. Nevertheless, its good to know.
1. Drink several glasses of water before you start drinking alcohol and, this is the critical bit, again before you go to bed. Leaving yourself the glasses of water by your bed with a large DRINK ME sign can be helpful.
2. Know your units (NHS guide)
A 750ml bottle of red, white or rosé wine (ABV 13.5%) contains 10 units.
See the guide below to find out how many units are in your favourite tipple.
Type of drink Number of alcohol units
Single small shot of spirits * (25ml, ABV 40%) 1 unit
Alcopop (275ml, ABV 5.5%) 1.5 units
Small glass of red/white/rosé wine (125ml, ABV 12%) 1.5 units
Bottle of lager/beer/cider (330ml, ABV 5%) 1.7 units
Can of lager/beer/cider (440ml, ABV 5.5%) 2 units
Pint of lower-strength lager/beer/cider (ABV 3.6%) 2 units Standard glass of red/white/rosé wine (175ml, ABV 12%) 2.1 units Pint of higher-strength lager/beer/cider (ABV 5.2%) 3 units Large glass of red/white/rosé wine (250ml, ABV 12%) 3 units
3. Never start drinking on an empty stomach. Have something starchy like pasta, rice, or bread.
Whilst you are drinking
1. There was a fascinating scientific study in 2010(1) that looked at the impact of the type of drink and the degree of intoxication, hence subsequent hangover. In particular, it looked at a substance called congeners, which are the toxic chemical by-products during the process of fermentation. There are varying levels of congeners in different drinks. Other studies found that drinking beverages with higher levels of congeners could result in increased frequency and severity of hangovers. Okay, so that’s the science bit decanted, what you need to know is which drinks are lower in congeners so you can aim for them. Gin and rum have a low amounts, but vodka has almost no congeners at all. On the other hand, cognac, tequila and whiskey have much higher levels and bourbon whiskey has the highest amount. A study (2) looking at varying effects of congeners on hangovers found that whiskey drinkers suffered more hangover symptoms than vodka drinkers. So, the news here is to choose your drinks wisely, but don’t use this information to drink even more!
2. In between each alcoholic drink, have water or something non-alcoholic. This will help you stay hydrated and slow down your alcohol consumption. This tip is from the NHS. For more information go to https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/alcohol-support/hangover-cures/.
3. Drink aware (3) suggest that we keep nibbling between drinks.
The morning after solutions
1. Alcohol leaves you dehydrated and results in a headache, so keep drinking lots of water.
2. Some people swear by the good old fashioned ice cold shower - shock therapy. Personally I think this might not be good for the heart.
3. Urban myths would have you believe that the’ hair of the dog’ works - definitely not to be used before going to work or driving. The NHS website states: ‘”Hair of the dog” – drinking more alcohol – does not help. Drinking in the morning is a risky habit, and you may simply be delaying the appearance of symptoms until the alcohol wears off again. If you’ve had a heavy drinking episode, hangover or not, doctors advise that you wait at least 48 hours before drinking any more alcohol to give your body time to recover.’ They make their point very stridently and they should know about these things.
4. The health website, healthline (4), suggests we fall back on the big breakfast, and scientists do actually agree that eating something is a good idea, but not necessarily a greasy fry up - perhaps a bowl of granola, with fresh fruit and yogurt. That should help sort out your blood sugar levels and put you back on an even keel.
5. This was a new one on the Bottles & Cans team, a Scientific American Study (5) looked at the prickly pear and have shown it to have remarkable impacts on hangovers. If you want to give it a go, look for Hovenia Dulcis extract.
6. You’ll like this one - getting lots of sleep gives your body time to recover from a heavy drinking session. Many of the website links we have provided already recommend lots of sleep to get you back on your feet.
1. From China, ginger is frequently used because it is proven to help with nausea. You might want to try this by adding a couple of slices of raw, peeled ginger root to a cup of boiling water, add a good squeeze of lemon and dollop of honey to sweeten if required.
2. In America, some swear by the The Prairie Oyster, which is a cocktail made with a raw egg, Worcestershire sauce, Tabasco, lots of salt and pepper and sometimes vodka. Apparently, the secret is to keep the yolk unbroken. Frankly, I am suffering from nausea just thinking about it, but each to his own.
3. In southwest France, the cure is a cassoulet. That’s to say, a casserole made from haricot beans, sausages and usually goose. The locals in Castelnaudary are said to eat this after a night of drinking wine in the Mediterranean sun.
4. Now here is one, we can all probably agree on, the Italian solution - espresso. The typically chic Italians like to keep it simple. The scientific jury is out on this one as coffee is a diuretic and with a hangover you are already dehydrated. I think most of us would agree, however, that despite the science, a coffee is definitely a required part of the hangover ritual.
5. In Peru they quaff a concoction known as Leche de Tigre, tiger’s milk. The name comes from the colour of the cocktail and its apparent energising properties. If you can cope with lime juice, coriander, garlic, onion, chillies, salt, pepper and lastly, fish in the morning with a hangover,then you might also benefit from its claimed aphrodisiac qualities.
6. In Poland and neighbouring countries, the popular hangover cure is good old fashioned pickle juice - a re-hydration shot of vinegar, water and sodium and pickle juice - yummy!
7. They like to keep it simple in Bangladesh too, opting for coconut water as their hydration solution. Coconut water is high in potassium and contains many helpful ingredients, such as antioxidants, ascorbic acids, and magnesium.
A great deal of time, money and energy has gone into finding cures for hangovers by scientists, historians and authors. In his book, Hungover, the culmination of ten years of research, Shaughnessy Bishop-Stall, searched for the gold standard in hangover cures. He says that, “Many of the things that the ancients used, whether pickled eggs or boiled cabbage or charcoal, they all have, we now realize, scientific footing. They’re the precursors to the things we try out to this day.” He found that messing up and passing the buck thanks to a hangover are not a modern problem, In fact, the Saxons, “stayed up drinking before the Battle of Hastings and therefore lost England to the more disciplined Normans”. After all his research, Bishop-Stall concluded that to prevent a hangover, he takes milk thistle, vitamins B1, B6 and B12 and finally frankincense just before bed. He says this will nail the sickness and pain but he hasn’t cracked, “the tiredness, lethargy and grouchiness.”
You will need a fairly strong constitution for some of these cures, but we have given you a taste of just a few of the international cures, both scientific and old wives’ tales. Hopefully, there will be some golden nuggets for you to stash away for the appropriate moment. If you have a cure that we haven’t mentioned, we would love to hear from you. Contact us at ed@cammag,co.uk.
Hungover by Shaughnessy Bishop-Stall