Alcohol does a lot of great things. It makes jokes funnier, worries less cumbersome, and your dance moves waaaay better. But when you overdo it, it’s also really, really good at making you feel like crap. And while everybody has a go-to hangover cure, there’s not a lot of evidence regarding what truly eradicates the aftermath of a really good night out. Until now.
Over a two-month period, I decided to test 18 purported hangover cures for their validity in extinguishing the Sunday morning weirds — all to ensure you don’t suffer any more than you have to. Everyone’s chemistry is different, so nothing can be 100% objective here, but a group of doctors has come together and declared my body as close to perfect as possible — you wouldn’t know these doctors. I uh… met them at summer camp, and they go to a different med school — so you should trust me.
Needless to say, my liver and I aren’t on speaking terms right now. Oh well. My gallbladder’s still cool.
18. Drinking more
Why is “hair of the dog” occupying the bottom slot on this list? It’s not so much a hangover cure as a hangover delayer. It doesn’t help to fix your ailments, it just prolongs the suffering by keeping you inebriated. But if you have the time, power, money, and gag reflex to just keep drinking for the rest of your life so you never get hungover (a method colloquially known as “the Keith Richards”) I guess that makes it an effective method? And more power to you. Some of us just have careers, families, and stomach linings to worry about…
17. Rubbing a slice of lemon under your armpit
My Puerto Rican friend gave me the skinny on this traditional Caribbean hangover prevention: Before drinking, you rub a lemon in the armpit of your “drinking arm” (the arm you hold your drinks with). While this method obviously did not work, it did give my right pit a distinct citrus musk, like I used a bottle of Pledge as deodorant. But yeah this definitely did not work, and he might have been playing a trick on me. Either way, it kind of stung. This is the absolute last time I rub fruit in my armpits. Hopefully.
If I don’t drink coffee in the morning — whether I’m hungover or not — I don’t really feel normal. So yeah, it made me feel better. But that doesn’t make it a hangover “cure,” per se, it just means my body is semi-addicted to caffeine (a problem in its own right). In reality, the coffee I’m drinking when my body is drying out from a night of whiskey shots and tequila lollipops with real worms inside is probably just making me more dehydrated, which only pokes the slumbering hangover bear slaughtering my insides. Look, I’m not telling you to not drink coffee when you’re hungover. It legit might make you feel better if that’s normally the coal that makes your train roll. I’m just telling you it might make your hangover worse.
15. Pickle juice
Sure, your grandpa (and Dr. Oz, who pretty much has the medical authority and acumen of your average grandpa) swears by pickle juice and its electrolyte-boosting salts for the morning after. But he neglects the obvious problem: When you’re already miserable, the last thing you want to do is chug a half-pint of pickle juice while fighting spurts of dry heaves. If there’s one thing that tastes worse than pickle juice going down, it’s pickle juice coming back up.
14. Coconut water
See above, replace “pickle juice” with “carton of Satan’s urine cut with 40-year-old hamster milk.” Also, I hate coconut water.
13. Activated charcoal
The science behind using activated charcoal to battle the morning weirds asserts that charcoal will “suck” the toxins out of your stomach, effectively absorbing the alcohol and giving your gut a clean slate. This did not happen for me. The only thing the charcoal “activated” was my debit card and a four-minute conversation with the meathead at GNC who sagely advised me to avoid hangovers by pairing every drink with a Red Bull. But it gets some credit for at least not making things worse. It’s like having Mark Sanchez on your team as a third-string QB: no harm done.
Another cure that old-timers tout relentlessly, Alka-Seltzer apparently will neutralize the stomach acid churning in the depths of your stomach. And yeah, it kind of did. So right now we’re moving into the “cures” that actually do help. But the problem here is that Alka-Seltzer only neutralizes one aspect of your hangover. It doesn’t deal with the headaches, the fatigue, or the crushing sense of dreadful guilt. So it’s kind of one-dimensional and cannot rise any higher on this list. Though the fizzling sound is nice.
This stuff is like supercharged Gatorade for babies. It’s filled to the brim with electrolytes, and over the years has developed a reputation as a hangover cure, much to the delight of its marketing department. And while it did give me a boost of energy — my electrolytes were tingling! — other specialty products do the same with less (more on those later) while not making you feel like an 8-year-old with a tummy ache.
Like Pedialyte, Advil — while a valid, supplemental way to help bury a hangover — cannot do the job on its own sugar-coated volition. It will help with your head and to quell that whole “hey, did I get hit by an Amtrak train last night, by any chance?” achy feeling — but cure your hangover it will not. Even when dipped in ranch.
This is something I do personally the morning after a particularly raucous mixer. I’m not sure if this is more of a nostalgia-fueled, conditioned placebo effect, but the Coke genuinely seems to settle my stomach, give me the perfect concentrated dose of caffeine, and improve my mood. It also helps if you can find a can with your name on it, as some unspoken moral support.
8. A shit-ton of water
While this may seem like an obvious solution to dehydration, drinking too much water can end up causing more problems for your body. Namely, filling your gut with a gallon of water, which can lead to vomiting. Hydration is super-important in nursing yourself back to working shape, but there are smarter, more efficient ways to take you there. That being said, it is important to properly hydrate — and while there are better ways, this is not a bad way, per se. You just have to make sure you don’t overdo it. You don’t want all that stuff sloshing around inside your body, especially on an empty stomach. That will only make things worse.
Speaking of puking (a phrase you almost never want to hear), upchucking definitely will help assuage many of your symptoms — particularly nausea. Its ruthless effectiveness at doing so can’t be understated. However, having the contents of your stomach come out of your mouth is pretty damn unpleasant. So if you’re the kind of person that just wants to bite the bullet and/or rip off the BAND-AID, this might be your method of choice. If you prefer to keep your bile inside your stomach, try something else.
6. Pho/ramen/chicken noodle soup
I believe that food is the best medicine for almost everything — despite that time I had to be hospitalized for three months after trying to treat my appendicitis with Pop-Tarts. A hot bowl of soup after a rough night can often be the ideal solution to your hangover woes. The mix of sodium, broth, and noodles is like a culinary hangover panacea, but therein lies the problem: You have to eat it. Some people simply cannot eat when they are hungover. Soups tend to be pungent meals that can be hard to stomach when your insides are walking a tightrope. While it worked for me, I had to recognize that occasionally my hangovers come accompanied by a tornado of stomachaches and nausea that would simply leave this solution invalid. Also chopsticks and the morning shakes were not exactly made for each other. Ditto for spoons.
These over-the-counter hangover pills and powders are often met with speculation and distrust. I mean, it does seem too good to be true, right? Potions like DripDrop and Drinkwel aren’t magic, but they are loaded with vitamins and electrolytes that are designed to get you hydrated fast. They’re like doses of supercharged Pedialyte, which in turn is like supercharged Gatorade. These will definitely help with hydration issues like fatigue and headaches, and will generally make you feel better. The only real drawback is that they are hard to find, and will probably require your order them online in anticipation that you will soon be so hungover that you’ll need specialty potions to recover — which kind of makes you question what you are doing with your life. So yeah, your sense of self-worth might take a small dent.
4. Bacon, egg, and cheese sandwich
I really, really wanted this to be higher. I’ve pretty much sworn by this method since the first time I sipped alcohol, which was obviously on my 21st birthday. Is my brain just pre-wired to respond to the grease-laden combination of the eggs and bacon? Does the bread soak up the booze swirling in my stomach? Does the layer of cheddar awaken endorphins in my spinal cord that fill my body with a crack-like sense of affirmation and goodwill? I’m not sure. But if you are well enough to scarf one of these suckers down, it does the trick.
3. Smoking weed
Sense of euphoria
Makes you high (also a pro, but not if you have stuff to do)
Possibly illegal… which is a pretty big con. A con that might turn you into a con. Proceed at your own risk, bro-ham.
2. IV drip
I have insider information that over-partying doctors and surgeons have been stringing themselves up to IVs the morning after for decades, and for good reason: This shit really works. If you don’t have a medical degree, outfits like New York’s IV Doc will come to your home or office — nurse in tow — and deliver a calculated cocktail of vitamins, saline, nausea medication, and more straight into your veins. It’s an… odd experience. It literally feels like ice water running through your veins (not in a clutch, Ray Allen type of way, but like you’re mainlining a Slurpee) and it’s pretty pricey and elaborate. But if you need to quell a hangover MF’ing ASAP because you have a big presentation or are about to be sworn in as a United States senator, this is probably the best way to do it. Unless you are afraid of needles, obviously. Or nurses. Or IV poles.
1. Physical exercise
I know. I was surprised too. Physical exercise and hangovers don’t seem to go together. But just as my 80-year-old witch-doctor girlfriend tells me, sometimes opposites attract. With much reluctance, I tried working out immediately after waking up with a hangover. I actually tried it three times, just to make sure.
I ran. I did a bunch of push-ups. I did a shit-ton of sit-ups. And I ran some more. At first, it was a glimpse of hell through rapidly fading beer goggles. Then I turned the corner (as I was turning a corner, actually) and I felt the booze gushing out of my pores — I mean, along with the sweat. All this exertion led to a lot of water drinking, and I found myself hydrating properly without getting too nauseous. The fresh air helped clear my head. The endorphins that were released told my brain, “Hey, don’t feel too bad about what happened last night — but also remember to ask your doctor about the next available STI screening, OK?”
Huh. I guess treating your body like a temple actually does counteract the aftershocks of treating your body like an amusement park. Who’d have thunk it? Oh right, every single medical professional, scientist, and nervous mother since the beginning of time. I guess we should have been listening all along.