A Headbusting Hangover — Any Natural Solutions? : Exclusive Renegade Health Article

Monday Jun 11 | BY |
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You may have your favorite hangover cures, but do they really work?

You know you shouldn’t, and you usually don’t, but you were so excited to see your old high school friends… or to realize your first-born was actually going to graduate high school… or to have actually achieved that goal you’ve been working toward for so long… that you indulged a bit too much last night. Now, you’re paying the price with a wicked hangover.

Is there anything you can do, short of covering your head with your pillow and going back to bed?

What is a Hangover?
You know what it feels like, but what exactly is going on in your body? When it comes right down to it, doctors actually aren’t sure. But they have some theories. First, they think that when you drink a lot of alcohol at one time, you overwhelm your liver. Usually, it processes alcohol by first converting it to a toxic substance called “acetaldehyde,” then converting that substance to a non-toxic substance called “acetate.” Normally this second part of the conversion process happens quickly, but when you drink a lot, your liver may fall behind, allowing a build-up of the toxic acetaldehyde in your body. That buildup can cause nausea, vomiting and sweating.

Some other ways excess alcohol can lead to hangover symptoms:

  • Since alcohol is a diuretic, it tends to stimulate your body to get rid of fluid, which can leave you dehydrated. Symptoms include dry mouth, thirst, dizziness, and headache.
  • Alcohol also dilates the blood vessels in your brain, which can further encourage headaches.
  • Alcohol disturbs your sleep cycle, leaving you sleep-deprived, dizzy, and irritable.
  • Alcohol can prevent your body from correctly balancing blood sugar, causing low blood sugar—which results in fatigue and weakness.
  • Alcohol can lead to inflammation in your stomach lining, increasing risk of vomiting and stomach pain, while also stimulating your stomach to produce excess acid, further encouraging unpleasant symptoms.
  • Some symptoms, such as sweating, anxiety, and tremors, may indicate withdrawal issues, meaning your system is having trouble adjusting as your blood alcohol level returns to zero.
  • By-products of the distillation and fermentation process may contribute to making you miserable. Methanol, for example, is broken down in the body to formaldehyde. Darker alcoholic beverages, such as red wine and whiskey, have a higher concentration of these by-products, called “congeners.”

What Can You Do About It?
When it comes to actually finding a “cure” for hangovers, we’re still a long way from there. Just to make it very clear, researchers published a study in 2005 showing “no convincing evidence” that any conventional or complementary remedies can prevent or cure a hangover. They looked at various supposed remedies, including nausea drugs, beta blockers, anti-inflammatory medicines, fructose and glucose (that are supposed to reduce the effects of ethanol), and various dietary supplements, including prickly pear. Their suggestion? Just don’t drink too much in the first place.

Fortunately, that study wasn’t the last word on the subject. A later animal study appearing in the journal PLoS One found that simply taking some a painkiller with a cup of coffee created the best results. The caffeine in the coffee and the anti-inflammatory ingredients of aspirin reacted against the chemical compounds of ethanol (pure alcohol), relieving headaches and blocking the effects of acetaldehyde. None of the other so-called solutions could match these effects.

What if You’re Not Thrilled About Taking Aspirin and Coffee?
Many are not happy about the idea of taking aspirin—or especially acetimetophen—when their livers are already overloaded dealing with the alcohol. Others are concerned about coffee, fearing it could increase dehydration, but researchers in the study noted that the animals were not dehydrated, contrary to typical theories concerning alcohol consumption.

Any natural solutions instead? Some say turn to coconut water—which was included in the 2005 study, by the way, and showed no benefit. It does contain key electrolytes that can help rehydrate and replace energy, which are both things you want to do after a night of excess drinking. It’s also reputed to settle the stomach, and is rich in potassium, but so far, we don’t have any research supporting it as a real cure for a hangover. (You can still try it.)

Others suggest vitamin B12 supplements. The idea is that the body uses B12 to process alcohol, so taking a bit extra before you drink could assist in that breakdown, saving you from symptoms. Still, this supplement was also included in the study, and showed no real benefit. (Try it if you like!)

Fortunately, some new studies are giving us some hope—and some interesting new solutions to try.

What Might Really Work
Here’s a brief taste of the new research that’s going on—and how you can take advantage of it.

  • Asparagus: Yep. You’ve heard about it’s amazing properties before. It’s one of the main hopefuls in natural-based cancer research. Now new research shows that eating asparagus before or after a night of drinking can help reduce the severity of headaches. Published in the Journal of Food Science, the study found that extracts taken from the leaves and shoots of asparagus boosted levels of key enzymes that break down alcohol after drinking. The researchers noted that you don’t need concentrated amounts, however. Simply eating a healthy dose can do the trick. “Cellular toxicities were significantly alleviated in response to treatment with the extracts of asparagus leaves and shoots,” said lead researcher B.Y. Kim. “These results provide evidence of how the biological functions of asparagus can help alleviate alcohol hangover and protect liver cells.
  • Honey: Researchers from the Royal Society of Chemistry found that taking honey helps the body break down alcohol into harmless by-products. The researchers’ suggestion? Simply serve the honey on toast.
  • The Japanese Raisin Tree (Hovenia Dulcis): According to researchers from UCLA, descriptions of the anti-alcohol effects of the Japanese Raisin Tree—an ancient homeopathic treatment—date back to 659. Now these descriptions have scientific evidence behind them. Researchers isolated the key compound of the tree—called “Dihydromyricetin (DHM)”—and gave it to drunk rats, who had consumed the equivalent of 15-20 beers in two hours. They then passed out, and researchers flipped them over on their backs (an uncomfortable position for rats.) Those that didn’t receive the DHM dozed on their back for almost an hour before being able to flip themselves over. Rats receiving the DHM were up in 15 minutes. In addition, rats who didn’t get the DHM were much more likely to act hungover the next day. The most surprising results? The rats that drank alcohol laced with DHM never got addicted to alcohol. The researchers are hoping to begin human trials soon.

Of course, you can also just try the traditional favorites, such as the following, but if you’re looking for something with a little more evidence behind it, try the previous options.

  • Drink water to rehydrate
  • Eat a banana and coconut water to restore potassium levels
  • Take a brisk walk to boost circulation and speed the removal of toxins
  • Try prickly pear or ginger root—they may reduce nausea
  • Try tiger balm—it may reduce headaches
  • Try a reflexology treatment—it may help relieve aches and pains
  • A little wheatgrass may encourage detoxification, if you can stomach it!
  • The classic non-alcoholic “hot toddy” — honey, lemon, and hot water — may help soothe you all over
  • Go back to bed and wait it out

Do you have a favorite hangover cure? Please share.

* * *

Photo courtesy cmn design via Flickr.com.

Jeannine Stein, “A Little Knowledge is a Good Thing for Hangovers,” Los Angeles Times, December 29, 2011, http://articles.latimes.com/2011/dec/29/news/la-heb-hangover-new-years-eve-20111229.

“Coffee and Aspirin Best Remedy for Hangover,” The Med Guru, January 19, 2011, http://www.themedguru.com/node/43386.

“Asparagus May Ease Hangover,” US News, HealthDay, August 28, 2009, http://health.usnews.com/health-news/diet-fitness/articles/2009/08/28/asparagus-may-ease-hangover.

“Honey ‘Cure” for Hangover,” The Indian Express, December 24, 2010, http://www.indianexpress.com/news/honey-cure-for-hangover/728911/.

Sally Engelhart, “A Hangover Cure on the Horizon,” The Daily Pennsylvanian, April 11, 2012, http://thedp.com/index.php/article/2012/04/sally_engelhart_a_hangover_cure_on_the_horizon.

Kevin Gianni

Kevin Gianni is a health author, activist and blogger. He started seriously researching personal and preventative natural health therapies in 2002 when he was struck with the reality that cancer ran deep in his family and if he didn’t change the way he was living — he might go down that same path. Since then, he’s written and edited 6 books on the subject of natural health, diet and fitness. During this time, he’s constantly been humbled by what experts claim they know and what actually is true. This has led him to experiment with many diets and protocols — including vegan, raw food, fasting, medical treatments and more — to find out what is myth and what really works in the real world.

Kevin has also traveled around the world searching for the best protocols, foods, medicines and clinics around and bringing them to the readers of his blog RenegadeHealth.com — which is one of the most widely read natural health blogs in the world with hundreds of thousands of visitors a month from over 150 countries around the world.


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  1. Kuru says:

    Carrot juice!

  2. I have also heard that taking chlorella before you drink alcohol can help prevent a hangover. I’m not sure if it works since I haven’t really put it to the test, but I do take chlorella daily.

  3. Sarah says:

    What about a coffee enema to help the liver get out the toxins quickly? I’ve never tried one, but since they’re used as a natural pain killer and liver detox aid for cancer and other patients, I imagine it could help! 🙂

  4. jel says:

    Try tart cherry pills or organic tart cherry juice.

  5. Denise says:

    I woke up with a really bad hangover a few weeks ago. I couldn’t even stand up straight and was sure I would vomit if I left the house. I juiced cucumber, kale, and celery juice and drank it, and I was instantly better. It felt miraculous – the change was so instant and drastic.

  6. Gordon says:

    It’s simple , every other drink make it water, actually not tap water as that will make anything worse. Just no floride or chlorine. I’ve done this for tears since retiring from work, and I’ve never experienced any kind of reaction, much less a hangover.

  7. sue thomas says:

    ??My system is just too ‘weak’ to drink any alcohol. OUCH! How do others do it? I did like the idea of a green juice cocktail!

  8. mary Annp says:

    Charcoal pills. Digestive section of your health supplement store.

  9. Samantha says:

    I pop a capsule or two of activated charcoal before going to bed if I drink too much. =) Fresh or freshly juiced green veggies with spirulina and chlorella also help in the morning if I forget the charcoal…or if I’ve had TOO much alcohol! Not that it happens often. 😛

  10. John Michael says:

    I enjoy fully hydrating myself and then enjoy a hot steam or sauna to sweat out the toxins and then fully hydrating myself again and being certain that I am drinking filtered water which is effective in permeating the cells ( and that’s another story)! After that, miso soup works well to alkalinize and adding wakame to the soup. After my body settles I take a chlorophyll drink.

  11. Mary Ann says:

    Charcoal pills before or after drinking. You can get them at your local supplement store.

  12. Beatrice says:

    I once rubbed the neurolymphatic points for the stomach under left breast pretty relentlessly for a few minutes after which the drunk chap was able to vomit and felt better instantaneously. What goes back up does not have to be metabolized. Give it a try, if you like. backintoit.com/tag/neurolymphatics/ For the points see the “Pect. Maj. Clav.” area in the picture at “backintoit.com/tag/neurolymphatics/”.
    Beatrice – Touch for Health Instructor – Switzerland

  13. Violet says:

    This is a funny one! It’s been a long time, but I used to drink 2 glasses of water with a B vitamin before going to bed, then coffee and Advil in the morning. Can’t say I felt great, but it got me to work. 🙂

  14. Diane says:

    Vitamineral greens and vitamin C (especially when mixed into coconut water) the night of or morning after. Also, a bit of kombucha. Ginger kombucha is the most soothing for me.

  15. jude lay says:

    Charcoal is pretty good for any kind of digestive disturbance, as are green juices, stewed apple and various herbs e.g ginger, peppermint and meadowsweet.
    My favourite remedy is Nux Vomica 30c or even better 200c. I don’t partake very often but this is a remedy I have used and also given to others with great success.
    I suggest you take a dose before you go out and another one when you get home, again if you get up to go to the bathroom, and one more dose in the morning if you still feel a bit under the weather. Oh..its a Homeopathic remedy if you are looking to get hold of some. Hope this helps.

  16. Thanks for all the great tips. Definitely going to try the cucumber and asparagus juice. Going natural is any day better than taking coffee and asprin!

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