Waking up after a heavy night, feeling at death’s door and wondering how you’ll get through the day, is never fun. And it’s tempting to try any weird and wonderful concoction that promises to ease your hangover.
But you might as well stir up eye of newt and toe of frog, according to the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience at King’s College London, which found little evidence that hangover cures do any good.
But finding a magic potion would help soothe brains and boost business.
Dr Emmert Roberts, clinical research fellow at King’s College London, said: “Hangover symptoms can cause significant distress and affect people’s employment and academic performance.
“Given the continuing speculation as to which hangover remedies work or not, the question around the effectiveness of substances that claim to treat or prevent a hangover appears to be one with considerable public interest”.
To tackle the uncertainty, researchers from King’s College and the Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust examined the current evidence for treatments by scrutinising 21 trials of hangover remedies. But only seven substances showed some sign of potential benefits for throbbing heads and dodgy stomachs – and even then the evidence was iffy.
Clove extract, anti-inflammatory drug tolfenamic acid and pyritinol – a substance resembling two vitamin B6 molecules attached together – were the top three with the strongest evidence for combating a hangover. And 12 of the substances, including prickly pear, naproxen and artichoke, were found to have had no effect on symptoms compared with a placebo.
All evidence was very low quality, usually because of poor methodology or imprecise measurements.
In addition, no two studies reported on the same hangover cure so no comparisons could be made and no results independently confirmed.
Of the 21 studies, eight were conducted exclusively with men. So I leave you to draw your own conclusions on how useful they are.
Recording when the alcohol was drunk was also poor and there were considerable differences in the type of alcohol too, from whisky and vodka to wine and beer, and whether participants ate food at the same time to line their stomachs.
To mean anything, future studies should be more rigorous in measuring hangover symptoms.
Furthermore, women must be involved in this kind of research.
“Our study has found that evidence on these hangover remedies is of very low quality and there is a need to provide more rigorous assessment,” says Dr Roberts.
“For now, the surest way of preventing any hangover symptoms is to abstain from alcohol or to drink in moderation.” Good luck!