Wellness

14 hangover cures that work

Avatar By | January 1, 2020
Medically reviewed by Lindsey Hudson, APRN, NP-C

Between holiday parties and New Year’s Eve get-togethers, the time for festive communal drinking is upon us. The unwanted side effect of enjoying the parties a bit too much? Hangovers the next morning. 

You know the classic hangover symptoms:

  • Fatigue 
  • Thirst (from dehydration)
  • Weakness, muscle aches, or sweating
  • Headache or sensitivity to light and sound
  • Nausea, stomach pain, or vertigo
  • Anxiety or irritability
  • Increased blood pressure

And, depending on how much you drank, it can take a while to bounce back—up to 72 hours, according to Johns Hopkins

14 hangover cures that work

No one wants to spend their days sick in bed (regretting last night’s choices). So to get through the season, you’ll need these hangover remedies that actually work. 

1. Check for drug-alcohol interactions.

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, as the saying goes. Some of the best hangover cures involve preventing their worst side effects in the first place. The effects of alcohol can sometimes be complicated by medications, such as those used to treat allergies, high cholesterol, and ADHD. Before having anything to drink, you should check with your provider or pharmacist to ensure it’s safe to mix alcohol with your regular prescriptions.  

2. Take your vitamins.

If you’re cleared to imbibe, bulking up on certain nutrients before indulging might help reduce the painful side effects the next day. “Alcohol depletes a broad range of vitamins, amino acids, fatty acids, enzymes, proteins and minerals from your body,” explains Carolyn Dean, MD, a diet and nutrition expert and author. Deficiency in these vitamins and minerals can contribute to your hangover symptoms, often causing a worse hangover or prolonging the period of time it takes to get over them. 

Dr. Dean says magnesium is “the kingpin” of vitamins depleted after drinking. Age and excessive alcohol consumption over time can further deplete this mineral, increasing your hangovers and impacting your overall health. So if you’re a regular drinker, she advises supplementing daily with magnesium (preferably a liquid picometer form) as well as vitamin C and milk thistle—all of which support proper liver function.

3. Hydrate with water (and a little caffeine).

“Hangovers occur primarily due to dehydration, low blood sugar, electrolyte imbalances, and dilated blood vessels, which can lead to headaches,” says Stephen Loyd, MD, medical director of the rehab facility JourneyPure. “To treat a hangover, each of those symptoms has to be treated.”

Starting with the first of those symptoms, dehydration, Dr. Loyd says drinking water is your best bet. But he added, “Many people can benefit from caffeine, too, to help boost their energy and concentration.” Just make sure to use it in moderation as too much can worsen dehydration.

4. Try tomato juice…or Sprite.

The misery of a hangover may have you reaching for a little hair of the dog with a well-made Bloody Mary. But drinking more alcohol in an attempt to recover from a wild night out isn’t recommended. Instead, try some alanine-fortified tomato juice, researchers found that it can reduce blood alcohol levels. And after experimenting with 57 different beverage options in a lab, researchers in China concluded that Sprite may be the best drink for curing your hangover symptoms. 

5. Eat some carbs.

Heavy drinking can have an impact on blood sugar levels. (This is just one reason people with diabetes need to exercise extra caution when drinking.) It’s why Dr. Loyd says that in addition to hydrating with water, hangover sufferers should be eating. “A breakfast that is high in carbohydrates can help hydrate you and stabilize your blood sugar,” Dr. Loyd explains.

In fact, you should eat a balanced meal before drinking, along with the morning after. ResponsibleDrinking.org explains that having nutrients and calories in your body can slow alcohol absorption. 

6. Try bacon and eggs.

It’s not just your imagination that a bacon, egg, and cheese sandwich magically makes you feel better. Both bacon and eggs contain an amino acid called cysteine, which scientists have found may decrease the amount of acetaldehyde in the body—one of the byproducts of alcohol metabolization that may contribute to some of your hangover symptoms. 

If you’re vegan, broccoli also contains high amounts of cysteine, so that little superfood might help to kick you out of hangover mode. 

7. Balance your electrolytes.

To stabilize your electrolytes and treat the issues that might arise from such an imbalance, Dr. Loyd says to “incorporate avocado or banana into your breakfast. Both these foods have salts and minerals the body needs to recover.” 

It’s worth noting that Cedars Sinai has reported on research that found electrolyte levels don’t actually go down when you drink alcohol, citing this as a long-standing myth. But that doesn’t mean you can’t still benefit from the extra hydration and electrolyte boost you’ll find with sports drinks like Gatorade, coconut water, Pediapops, and Pedialyte (the last two can typically be found in the baby aisle at your local grocery store).  

8. Medicate aches and pains.

Because headaches (up to and including migraines) and body aches can be among the most common symptoms of a hangover, you may find that over-the-counter painkillers such as ibuprofen, Advil, Aleve, Motrin, or acetaminophen can help prevent some of the worst symptoms. In fact, a 1983 study found that NSAIDs were more effective at reducing hangover symptoms than placebos.  

Margaret Aranda, MD, of Your Doctors Online suggests medicating before you ever go to bed. She recommends the following regimen:

  • Ibuprofen, 200-800 mg (unless you have stomach ulcers, in which case she says “take nothing, and don’t drink, either”) 
  • Turmeric 2000 mg, “which pretty much anyone can take”
  • Cimetidine 200 mg twice a day, “to prevent stomach ulcers”

It’s important to know that continually combining over-the-counter pain reducers and alcohol can have a negative impact on your body. So while a dose of pain relievers the night of your drinking session, before you go to bed (with a big glass of water), and then again the next day, shortly after waking up, may help reduce your symptoms—it’s not a solution you want to rely on every time. 

You may want to consider giving Alka-Seltzer a try as well. Although there is no research to back up the fizzy medicine’s treatment of hangover, the sodium bicarbonate in the ingredients may help to settle an upset stomach. 

9. Hit up an oxygen bar.

Over the past decade, oxygen bars have gained popularity everywhere from Vegas to Aspen. While there is no scientific evidence to suggest it can cure a hangover, doctors say the treatment is harmless and can help ease symptoms of difficulty sleeping and dizziness. Plenty of people swear by it. 

Just avoid the flavored O2 options, which contain oils and may be dangerous to inhale. 

10. Try hangover IV drips.

Another concept that has grown in popularity in recent years is the idea of the Hangover IV Drip. Establishments are popping up across the country to administer an assortment of fluids and vitamins purported to reduce the impact of a hangover and return you to full energy in just 45 minutes. 

Again, there is (as of yet) no scientific evidence to back up the validity of claims being made regarding these IV drips. And this option isn’t cheap, running up to $250 an IV bag. But people who have opted to give the heavy in B vitamins and electrolytes bags a try claim it helps in most cases for at least a few hours.

Dr. Aranda supports this treatment plan. If you’ve woken with a hangover, she suggests getting an IV with the following (“depending again on your risk of stomach ulcers and NSAIDS”):

  • Ketorolac 30mg IV
  • Vitamin B12 or cyanocobalamin 1000 IU intravenous or subcutaneously

Once you’ve finished your IV drip, she says you should take, “cimetidine 200 mg tablets twice that day to prevent stomach ulcers.”

11. Consume some ginger.

“Ginger is an excellent, natural hangover cure,” says Jamie Bacharach, a licensed medical acupuncturist and herbalist who has extensive experience helping patients fight the effects of hangovers and reset their systems following a hangover. 

While there are no studies to back up the benefits of ginger for a hangover, it’s one of the natural cures mentioned time and time again across the internet. And Bacharach says that, “either by eating ginger or drinking ginger tea you can help to reduce feelings of nausea and indigestion, as ginger’s natural properties serve as an effective counter to all hangover-associated symptoms.”

12. Try prickly pear extract.

Bacharach further suggested the use of prickly pear extract. She says this “is a popular hangover cure as some studies have suggested it can reduce the risk and severity of a hangover by as much as 50%.”

She’s referring to the 2004 research conducted by Jeff Wiese, which did find a significant reduction in nausea, dry mouth, and food aversions for those who took prickly pear extract prior to a night of drinking.  

“Prickly pear extract naturally reduces inflammation of the liver, which otherwise directly leads to hangover symptoms such as headache and nausea,” Bacharach explains. 

13. Get some sleep.

“Ultimately, one of the most effective ways to cure a hangover is to sleep it off,” Bacharach says. “When suffering through a hangover, our bodies are in a diminished state, and not up to combating a hangover or its symptoms.”

So if you wake up feeling hungover after a night of drinking, you might want to consider canceling your plans for the day and curling back up into bed—after drinking a big glass of water and enjoying a nice breakfast, of course.

“By giving our bodies the time they need to recover and regroup, we can sleep through the period of discomfort and wake up refreshed and rejuvenated.”

14. Abstain.

We know this isn’t what you want to hear if you’re already suffering from a hangover, but addiction medicine board-certified psychiatrist Jared Heathman, MD, says “the best way to manage hangovers is to avoid alcohol.” In fact, the National Health Service (NHS) recommends taking two full days off drinking a week, especially after a heavy drinking session.

“When you consume alcohol, multiple things happen to the body that can affect the way in which you function and feel, especially the next day,” says John Mansour, Pharm.D., founder of B4, a vitamin supplement drink that claims to help reduce the impact of a hangover. “You are introducing toxins into the body that can cause short- and long-term damage.”

These toxins include acetaldehyde and malondialdehyde. “The damage of these toxins on the body can create a similar effect as radiation poisoning, which is why you feel so sick the next day after drinking too much alcohol,” Dr. Mansour explains. 

This lines up with a report out of the UNC School of Medicine, which revealed that there truly is no perfect and scientifically vetted hangover cure. There are some things that may help, but nothing as effectively as avoiding alcohol altogether. 

A night out on the town can be fun, but giving up alcohol completely has a number of positive benefits. And regular drinking has been linked to a variety of health risks. “The most current studies show that drinking one bottle of wine a week gets you the same detrimental health risks of smoking 10 cigarettes a week,” says Dr. Aranda. 

So, if you don’t want to deal with the effects of a hangover, just say “no thank you.” “If this is not possible or realistic, alcohol should be consumed in moderation and not consumed quickly,” Dr. Heathman adds. “Our body has a limited number of enzymes available to metabolize alcohol. Once our body is at full detoxification abilities, additional alcohol will cause a back-up and result in side effects.”

For some, the thought of even moderation may sound impossible. If that’s you, and you fear you may be suffering from alcohol use disorder (AUD) or addiction, there is help available. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) has a national helpline you can call for advice and resources, and there are even medications available that can help you quit drinking altogether.