We Debunked 12 of the Most Common Hangover Cures Out There
Full-bottle wine nights and bottomless margarita dates are all fun and games until you wake up the next morning with a pounding headache—and a foggy memory of giving that dude with a the Blink-182 tattoo your number. Then comes the crystal clear realization that you’re definitely not immune to hangovers anymore.
Now that you’ve taken up full residence on your couch, how do you cure a hangover—and stat? Let’s start by understanding why you feel like such garbage in the first place.
Hangovers are typically a three-in-one suckfest that include dehydration, hormone dysfunction, and a run-down immune system, says Dr. Kapil Sachdeva, M.D., neurologist at Northwestern Medicine’s Central DuPage Hospital. As a result, you experience the classic headache, nausea, dizziness, and indigestion that we’ve all become well-acquainted with through the years.
While some experts think the build-up of toxins (including one called acetaldehyde) is responsible for these issues, others blame congeners, or substances produced during the making-alcohol process, Dr. Sachdeva says.
Sadly though, there’s really no singular “best” way to treat hangovers, according to the pros. But before you throw in the towel and make yourself a Bloody Mary (which definitely does not help that hangover headache, BTW!!!), consider this helpful info from the experts on common hangover cures.
Besides just drinking less next time, obvi…
“Alcohol is a potent inhibitor of the sleep hormone melatonin,” explains naturopath Kasey Nichols, NMD. “When you go to sleep buzzed, alcohol inhibits your melatonin, and you can wake up tired even after eight hours of sleep.”
That said, “sleep can be particularly restorative for hangover symptoms,” according to Dr. Sachdeva. If you feel like complete ass in the morning—even after *technically* getting a full night’s sleep—do yourself a favor and swap bottomless brunch for a mid-afternoon nap.
THE VERDICT: Snooze > more booze.
That sugary stuff your mom gave you when you were home sick as a kid worked wonders on your stomach bug recovery. Fun fact, it can still come in clutch even though you’re a big bad grownup now. Pro-tip: drink it as soon as you get home, instead of immediately knocking out for the night.
“Pedialyte is a good option for hydrating before bed and throughout the next day after waking up with a hangover,” says Dr. Nichols. “The electrolytes and glucose in the solution significantly enhance the ability of water to be absorbed in the intestine and into the blood.” (FYI: Electrolytes are minerals that have an electric charge and help your body maintain proper fluid balance.)
THE VERDICT: Just as good as any other electrolyte or sports drink you might chug.
Legend has it that breaking a serious sweat after a night out helps you detox the alcohol out of your system and effectively kills your hangover, but it’s too little too late. “By the time you wake up with a hangover, most, if not all, of the alcohol you drank has already been metabolized by the liver,” says Dr. Nichols. (Unless you wake up still drunk, that is.)
Sadly, that means that sweating a lot—even if you’re practically napping in the sauna—is not only an ineffective alcohol-eliminator, but will also probably just make you more dehydrated and give your hangover more power.
THE VERDICT: Will only make things worse.
An actual IV is probably the most legit way to kill a hangover fast.
“What do you get in the hospital when severely dehydrated? An IV,” says Dr. Nichols. “IVs deliver vitamins and minerals directly into the bloodstream and counteract dehydration and its effects more quickly than other methods.”
Yes, an IV can significantly decrease hangover symptoms and how long your hangover lasts, but those fancy med-spa treatments aren’t cheap.
THE VERDICT: It works, but it’ll cost you.
Alcohol decreases the production of the anti-diuretic hormone that helps the body reabsorb and retain water, according to Dr. Kimberly Sackheim, M.D., a New York City-based pain-management specialist at NYU Langone. “Increasing water intake in general will help with this,” she says. By virtue of being liquid, soda may also help alleviate the dehydration that stems from drinking.
The caffeine in Coke, which constricts the brain’s blood vessels, can also help curb a pounding headache, says Kevin Strang, Ph.D., a distinguished faculty associate at University of Wisconsin Madison who has been teaching a course on how alcohol affects the body for 18 years. Meanwhile, Mexican soda can deliver additional benefits: Unlike U.S. versions filled with high-fructose corn syrup, Coke from our neighbors to the south is sweetened with plain old sugar that raises your body’s glucose levels even more quickly than conventional sodas, Strang explains.
This can help alleviate crankiness, a hangover symptom that occurs when your liver, which typically helps circulate blood sugars, is too tied up clearing alcohol from your system to perform the function properly.
THE VERDICT: “Absolutely—it will make you feel better,” Strang says.
Everything Bagel With All the Fixings
Alcohol impairs the kidneys’ ability to concentrate urine, so you end up losing extra sodium and potassium—aka electrolytes or substances that conduct electrical impulses—every time you hit the bar bathroom, Strang says. The resulting imbalance contributes to next-day symptoms like shaky hands and feet—but bagels, which tend to be super salty and also contain potassium, help replenish lost stores to make you feel better, according to Strang. Add cream cheese and bacon as suggested in the tweet above, and you’ll get a dose of protein, which neutralizes the irritating acids alcohol leaves in your stomach, he says.
THE VERDICT: It can help sop up stomach acid and aid with rehydration.
Chips and Dip
Spicy foods can worsen indigestion from consuming alcohol—one reason why Elizabeth Kovacs, Ph.D., the founder of an alcohol research program at University of Colorado Denver, doesn’t recommend eating chips and dip like salsa. “Spicy dip sounds horrible if your stomach and brain hurt,” she says. However, salty chips can definitely aid in rehydrating your poor, aching body.
THE VERDICT: Chips might help, but hold the super spicy salsa.
If last night’s indiscretions—cough, tequila—left your stomach irritated, Strang notes tomato juice may cause more trouble, but it’s not a terrible choice. “It’s an electrolyte solution with nice and healthy complex carbohydrates,” he says of the beverage, explaining that a liquid helps deliver sodium and potassium into your system quickly, while tomatoes deliver complex carbohydrates that improve blood sugar with longer-lasting results than simple sugars in soda.
At the end of the day (or a very, very late night), plain tomato juice beats its close, more fun cousin, the Bloody Mary. “It will just dehydrate your brain more and prolong your hangover,” Kovacs says of any alcoholic “remedy” that contains the hair of the dog that bit you.
THE VERDICT: Beats booze!
Cold Orange Juice
Because orange juice has an acid-neutralizing effect when it’s metabolized and delivers potassium, Strang says, it’s an A+ hangover hydrator. Although cold liquids could, in theory, reduce inflammation in the stomach the same way an ice pack reduces swelling in, say, a swollen knee, there’s no research suggesting chilled OJ beats the same stuff served at room temperature.
THE VERDICT: Good idea, but no ice needed.
Banana With Honey
Bananas deliver potassium, an electrolyte you lose when you sweat or pee. So if you hit the dance floor super hard, the fruit may help, Kovacs says.
The fruit also contains vitamins C and B6 which, Dr. Sackheim says, help neutralize free radicals that negatively affect the liver after drinking. The antioxidant Vitamin C, she continues, specifically prevents the conversion of alcohol to aldehyde, the organic compound that’s generated when your body breaks down booze and contributes to hangover symptoms. “Antioxidants can also help with headaches,” she says. “These can decrease damage to our cells which make up the body and can increase the energy after large intakes of alcohol, which can cause fatigue.”
Honey plays a role, too: “Fructose is a natural sugar that helps to metabolize alcohol,” Dr. Sackheim says, while Strang suggests that sugars in this snack send glucose to the blood stream quickly so you feel less irritable.
THE VERDICT: Eat up!
After drinking, all the feel-good brain chemicals that make imbibing so much fun take a nosedive, leaving you extra glum. “Exercise is a good antidote because it releases endorphins to psychologically counteract that lower feeling,” Strang says, noting that it’s extra important to replenish the fluids you lose when you sweat when you’re already dehydrated from the night before. That said, it’s worthwhile, since physical activity also loosens the constricted blood vessels that contribute to headaches, he says.
THE VERDICT: “It’s probably a good thing,” Kovacs says, provided you sip water throughout the workout.
Kovacs says any liquid can be helpful for hydration, but coconut water gets extra credit since, unlike water, it contains electrolytes. Replacing the sodium and potassium you lost last night helps your body perform cellular functions that bring you back to baseline.
Also, the addition of pineapple juice doesn’t just make the drink taste more like a piña colada. Strang says it adds extra sugar that can moderate your moodiness once it hits the bloodstream.
THE VERDICT: It beats water.
The Bottom Line
Compared to popping OTC painkillers, “It’s better to use natural remedies,” Dr. Sackheim says, noting that taking meds on an empty stomach after a large alcohol intake can lead to ulcers and other serious side effects, like liver damage.
Because it takes time for the booze to clear your system, the only way to guarantee your hangover goes away is to wait it out, Kovacs says. And if all else fails? Netflix and group texts exist.