Published March 20, 2014
If your famous last words—"just one more"—routinely turns into three or four, you might have already sought the help of one of the many so-called hangover cures currently on the market. These powders, pills, and miracle beverages promise a night's worth of poor choices without any (okay, some) of the morning-after regrets.
But do they really work? We ran some of the most popular formulas out there by alcohol metabolism expert James M. Schaefer, Ph.D., and nutritionist Jaime Mass, M.S., R.D., L.D./N., founder of Jaime Mass Nutritionals LLC.
The Claim: Throw it back up to an hour before or while drinking to help neutralize and process the toxins that contribute to hangovers.
The Review: Given its ingredients, this one has a pretty good shot of delivering on its promises. Thiamine, for instance, is a B vitamin that can run low following a night of overindulging, and deficiencies are linked with classic hangover symptoms like fatigue and off-kilter balance. Milk thistle, another key ingredient, is known to support liver health, Mass says. This drink's not perfect, though. While zero carbs, calories, and sugars sounds good in theory, your body needs all three to get back in shape. And keep in mind, the label warns against taking it if you have diarrhea or abdominal pain. It also contains aloe vera, which can actually worsen such already-unpleasant symptoms.
The Claim: Mix one pouch with water and drink just before going to bed and again in the morning to help rehydrate and replace lost electrolytes from drinking.
The Review: While primarily designed to hydrate athletes, not guys suffering from splitting headaches, it can also help ease post-drink dehydration, says its website. And if it's good enough for professional surfers, basketball players, and triathletes, it's probably good enough for the average drunk, says Mass. Each little pouch contains six times the electrolytes—including sodium potassium, magnesium, citrate, and chloride—of the average sports drink. Most important, it gets a load of fluids in you, which is the No. 1 thing a dehydrated body needs, Schaefer says. It doesn't have much in the way of carbs or sugar, but it still provides a little boost to help get your blood-sugar levels back up.
Bytox Hangover Prevention Patch
The Claim: Stick the patch on a hairless spot of your body at least 45 minutes before consuming alcohol and keep it on for at least eight hours after you stop, and the patch will replenish lost vitamins and acids.
The Review: If you're a fan of seasickness patches, this one might be worth a go. It has loads of B vitamins, but without ordering some lab tests, it's hard to know exactly how and if this one works, Schaefer says. Word around the office, though, is that it works like pretty darn well.
The Claim: Get your liver back in the game so it can rid your body of hangover-causing toxins.
The Review: "Some of the active ingredients are quite redeeming when it comes to detoxifying and providing powerful antioxidants," Mass says. It also includes milk thistle, picrorhiza root, and ginseng, all of which have been shown to ease alcohol's effects. Plus, the sodium and potassium here can help get hydration and electrolyte levels closer to where they need to be for your head to stop pounding, Schaefer says.
The Claim: Hold the liquid in your mouth for 15 seconds, swallow, and then chase it with at least 12 ounces of water. In 30 minutes, it will slash the number of toxins in your body and strengthen your liver.
The Review: While the liquid comes from a so-called "propriety blend of herbal ingredients," we were able to find out it contains turmeric-root extract, astragalus, and poria, all of which have been used in traditional herbal medicines for centuries and have been found to promote general markers of good health. "It's possible this combination of extracts could support a healthy inflammatory response," Mass says. But the research just isn't there to back them up as a hangover remedy quite yet. Of course, there's only one way to know for sure.
Blowfish for Hangovers
The Claim: The morning after, dissolve two tablets in two cups of water and drink up to help rehydrate, restore alertness, and relieve headaches.
The Review: While it contains some sodium, which can help your body absorb lost water, its main ingredients are aspirin (500 mg) and caffeine (60 mg), meaning it's pretty much the same as drinking coffee and popping Tylenol the day-after, Schaefer says. Also, since the tablets are approved by the Food and Drug Administration, even if they don't quell your hangover, they're considered safe to take. "However, it's important to understand that this product isn't looking to support the body, liver, or toxic concerns associated with alcohol consumption," Mass says. So don't get your hopes too high.
Nature Made Energy B12 Adult Gummies
The Claim: Eat two gummies a day to support cellular energy production.
The Review: Although these are more general health supplement than hangover cure, B12 has recently become code for "hangover relief." However, your body can't easily absorb B12 through your gut, Mass says. Plus, without getting too science-y about it, the gummies contain a synthetic rather than an active form of B12, which is difficult for many people to convert into useable B12. If you're hell-bent on taking B12 post-binge, look for methylcobalamin in a dissolvable tablet that gets into your bloodstream via your mouth's tissues, rather than your stomach's.
The Claim: Developed by a registered nurse, these lozenges are meant to be taken with water to replace lost vitamins and curb headaches, upset stomachs, dry mouth, and mild dehydration.
The Review: "It's great to see a product with vitamin C," says Mass. "We need this to power up our antioxidant system in the body and fight off alcohol byproducts and toxins," Mass says. They're also are full of B vitamins, which we already know are great for hangovers, and if you opt for the ginger-flavored tablets, you could reap some of the root's stomach-settling benefits.
The Claim: Take three capsules before drinking and then again at the end of your night. Or, if you want to up your liver's health in general, take one capsule daily.
The Review: "It has a decent amount of vitamin C, a nice B-complex, and a blend for the liver that includes milk thistle and N-acytel-cysteine, which boosts levels of glutathione, another important antioxidant that helps fight the toxic effects of alcohol's metabolic byproducts. They're not adding ingredients at low doses just for the sake of putting it on the label; it appears each ingredient is well thought out," Mass says.