Global hangover cures promising to relieve the woes from excessive drinking are almost as common the range of alcoholic beverages available.
The fact there’s no real cure for a hangover. But, some certain foods and drinks may be able to relieve the pain of hangover symptoms like a sore head, nausea and drowsiness. Here are some remedies, based on fact and myth, that people around the world turn to for overcoming a hangover.
Consuming white fish after a big night of drinking may sound unusual but in Norway, it’s a traditional hangover food that also forms part of a typical Christmas feast or New Year’s Day meal. Lutefisk, a dried salty whitefish soaked in lye and broiled, is believed to be so rich in fish oil that it can soak up the excess alcohol in your body.
There’s not much hard research to suggest that fish oils do as the Norwegian traditional claims it does. However, a study published in PLOS ONE in 2014 does show that omega-3 fish oil could help protect against alcohol-related neuro-damage. The researchers found that in brain cells exposed to high levels of alcohol, a fish oil compound protected against inflammation and neuronal cell death. However, the research applies more to chronic drinkers over the long-term than a one-off festive night resulting in a hangover.
A go-to hangover cure from Mexico that’s sure to be delicious, whether it really heals hangover symptoms or not, is the traditional dish chilaquiles: fried corn tortillas soaked and cooked in hot salsa, topped with cheese, beans and fried eggs. The spicy flavours and mix of textures are believed to help combat a nasty hangover. Although there’s no real evidence to suggest that this popular Mexican remedy works, it’s known that eggs are a great source of protein that are gentle on the stomach. On the other side, fatty foods cooked with lots of oil may further irritate an already vulnerable tummy.
Lemonade in China
Chinese researchers from Sun Yat-sen University in China published a paper in Food & Function in 2013 detailing 57 different herbal and carbonated drinks studied and their impacts on the two enzymes that break down alcohol in the body.
The study found that herbal teas slowed down the process, extending the pain of a hangover. However, a beverage called ‘xue bi’, assumed to be similar to lemonade or Sprite, was shown to accelerate the enzyme’s work and potentially shorten the length of a hangover.
However, shortly after the study was released, the UK’s NHS cautioned people from downing litres of lemonade in a bid to cure a hangover because of the results of this study.
It notes that the test was conducted in a lab and not on people. “Therefore, it is not clear what effects, if any, these drinks have on these enzymes in the body, or on a hangover,” the NHS says online. More research is needed to prove the hangover potential of a simple glass of lemonade.
“A beverage made from a blend of sweet lime, pear, and coconut water could be used to overcome hangover."
India: pear, lime and coconut water
Researchers from India’s Institute of Chemical Technology opted to turn their back on old wives’ tales and unveil a potential scientific remedy for drinking too much booze, investigating various foods that could relieve a hangover.
The scientists tested fruits, vegetables, cereals, pulses, dairy products, spices and other miscellaneous products (ascorbic acid, cocoa sample, tea, coffee, egg yolk and date samples) for their in vitro effects and antioxidant properties.
While few of the foods tested reaped any outcome, the researchers did develop a hangover recipe using pear (65 per cent), sweet lime (25 per cent) and coconut water (10 per cent).
Turns out that the combination of these fruit-based products was able to boost the activity of the two enzymes, which help process alcohol in the body. “A beverage made from a blend of sweet lime, pear, and coconut water could be used to overcome hangover,” the 2019 study reads.
More evidence of the benefits of this particular hangover remedy is needed, as are tests conducted on people.
In the meantime, if all else fails and you need a quick, low-risk hangover meal to go with the fruit drink that won’t cause any harm (even if it doesn’t work), the researchers have a recipe suggestion: “the consumption of this beverage with cheese, cucumber, and tomatoes may further alleviate the hangover symptoms.”
Previous studies show that these food products may also boost the activity of an enzyme that would increase the rate of alcohol metabolism.
Fool-proof advice to avoid a hangover
If there was one hangover cure that’s guaranteed to work, it’s drinking in moderation – not excess.
“Although many theories about hangover remedies exist, prevention is definitely better than any supposed cure,” DrinkWise CEO, Simon Strahan, tells SBS.
Strahan explains that the average person metabolises one standard drink an hour, but this can change based factors such as gender, size and how much you have had to eat.
“It’s important to remember that the volume of a standard drink changes between different types of alcohol, so it’s helpful to understand how many standard drinks there are in a typical pour of your favourite drink and keep track of how much you’ve had.”
To calculate the amount of alcohol you're consuming and avoid the possibility of a hangover, you can use the DrinkWise Standard Drinks Calculator, available online.