Take care of those hangovers


Most of us have experienced the uncomfortable aftermath that follows a night in which we’ve consumed a one too many cocktails at the bar. Our “morning after” stories are all similar, and have remained so for generations. It starts with a night of restless sleep and fitful dreams. You then wake up bleary-eyed, mouth parched with an unquenchable thirst, head pounding like a bass drum. You’re feeling nauseous, and may even vomit. Nothing in your kitchen looks or smells fit for human consumption, except maybe an herbal hangover remedy. Your aching body and sore muscles exacerbate your general fatigue. Movements are slow and deliberate, consistently slow on the uptake and reaction time has slowed to a near standstill. If you were a reality show, you’d be on a 20-second tape delay. A hangover is one of the cruel consequences of drinking alcohol to excess and everyone who’s ever been afflicted by one seems to have their own hangover cures to remedy their malaise. Some hangover cures involve bizarre concoctions of raw eggs; others involve tomato and lemon juice or cold pizza. Still others recommend a big, greasy breakfast the morning after, punctuated with cocktails made with the same liquor you enjoyed the night before. But the healthiest hangover cures utilize herbal medicine to naturally heal you from the inside out. These herbal hangover remedies may not completely eliminate every hangover every time, but they’ll certainly help make most of your mornings after more bearable.


~ It’s no wonder that Bloody Mary’s and mimosas are popular day-after-drinking libations. Ingesting alcohol to help alleviate a hangover is a popular but ultimately ineffective remedy. While the alcohol will bring your buzz back and boost your energy, it only temporarily delays your hangover. It’s the juice in these drinks that really helps your hangover symptoms. The simplest herbal hangover involves ingesting plenty of fructose, the sugar that comes from fruit. Fructose is thought to improve the body’s ability to metabolize alcohol, so any remnants of alcohol still in your system will be processed more efficiently. That’s why Bloody Mary’s and mimosas contain juices that are chock-full of fructose like tomato juice and orange juice. For a healthier, more effective hangover remedy, skip the vodka or sparkling wine and just sip fructose-filled juice on its own. Orange, apple and tomato juices are all great choices. If you drink tomato juice, jazz it up with as much hot sauce as you can handle. The capsaicin found in hot peppers is a renowned painkiller and hot peppers are also full of vitamin C.

~ Fructose isn’t just found in fruit juice, however. Ginseng root is about 50 percent fructose, and honey is over 40 percent fructose. Brew some hot tea and add a few spoonfuls of honey or a bit of ginseng to reap the benefits of fructose. Dates are also high in fructose and can sometimes be more palatable than a cup or two of tea. If you don’t think you can stomach a hot beverage, try cooling down with a fresh banana milkshake. The potassium in bananas seems to help soothe an upset stomach and, if you sweeten the milkshake with honey, you also add the healing properties of fructose.

~ Recent studies also tout prickly pear extract as a viable herbal hangover cure. Prickly pear extract reduced nausea, dry mouth and appetite loss in 64 candidates that participated in a Tulane Health Services study, which was then published in the 2004 Archives of Internal Medicine. You can find prickly pear extract in most health food stores. For the best results, take a dose several hours before you know you’ll be out tying one on to give the extract plenty of time to work its magic.


~ For an alternative hangover cure to consuming fresh fruit or fruit juice, the healing properties of fresh or dried herbs can help fortify your body as it recovers. Of all the herbs, two are best known as hangover remedies: milk thistle and angostura. You’ve probably seen angostura in the form of angostura bitters, a tiny brown paper-wrapped bottle behind nearly every bar. Angostura bitters are a bartender’s best friend. A shake or two in hot water, club soda, ginger ale or lemon-lime soda soothes stomachs and helps rehydrate. And milk thistle, also known as silymarin, is known to protect liver cells from being infiltrated by toxins. Take milk thistle capsules before a night out to protect your liver and take another dose the next morning to help fortify a taxed immune system.

~ Other fresh herbs also have healing properties that are especially beneficial to someone with a hangover. You may even have some growing in your backyard. Mint leaves can be either chewed or brewed into a strong tea to settle an uneasy stomach.

~ Wintergreen contains methyl salicylate, which is related to aspirin. A tea made from wintergreen will help alleviate aches and pains. Like angostura, chinchona is bitter in flavor. It’s the source of the quinine that gives tonic water its beneficial punch, so tea made from chinchona bark will similarly soothe your stomach. Other popular herbs for a restorative tea are dandelion, basil, cinnamon, honeysuckle, lavender, feverfew, pineapple sage, rosemary, thyme and lemongrass. These herbs are all known to help cleanse and relax your body. When you cannot find fresh herbs, dried herbs are an acceptable substitute.


~ Remembering to take your multivitamin in the morning is important for your health and is also crucial to help alleviate some serious hangover symptoms. Vitamin C is known to help stimulate the liver, which helps it metabolize the alcohol still lurking around in your system. Supercharge your dosage to help your system catch up. B vitamins will quickly become your best friend. A good B-complex supplement taken before bed and immediately upon waking up in the morning is one of the best hangover prevention methods. B vitamins will give you energy and dilate your blood vessels while helping your body process alcohol. The more potent your B-complex vitamin, the better this remedy works.

~ Gingko biloba seeds are also quite effective as an herbal hangover. In Japan, researchers discovered that an enzyme in gingko biloba seeds helps the body process alcohol more efficiently.

~ In China, the roots and flowers of the kudzu plant cause acetaldehyde, the primary chemical attributed to a hangover, to accumulate more quickly. By taking a capsule or two of dried kudzu, you’ll start feeling hangover symptoms while you’re drinking. While this doesn’t necessarily improve your night out, you’ll be far less likely to have a hangover the next day.

Unfortunately, modern science hasn’t yet perfected the art of the foolproof natural hangover remedy. The simplest hangover cure is to simply imbibe less alcohol, but the occasion or company might not provide an opportunity to exercise restraint. The next best move is to alternate alcoholic drinks with water to help your system re-hydrate. Taking herbal hangover remedies like prickly pear extract and B-complex vitamins, as a precautionary measure is an excellent hangover prevention backup. As we all know, however, sometimes even drinkers with the best of intentions still end up with a hangover the next day. For those ill-fated days, these herbal hangover cures are sure to lift your flagging spirits and get you sufficiently detoxed…until next weekend.

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