Natural Hangover Remedies: Helpful or Not?

Prickly pear fruit
Alberto Bogo/Stocksy United

Searching for the best hangover remedies seems to be an age-old challenge many of us have confronted at one time (or a few times). Of course, the best way to avoid a hangover is to avoid alcohol or drink in moderation. But if you do end up over-consuming alcohol, the only surefire way to get rid of a hangover is to wait it out. 

Try these tactics to reduce your hangover symptoms:

  • Increase your intake of fructose, a type of sugar shown to help the body burn alcohol faster. Fructose is found naturally in honey, apples, pears, bananas, pineapples, berries, sweet potatoes, and a number of other fruits and vegetables.
  • Replenish your depleted salt and potassium stores by consuming bouillon soup.
  • Drink plenty of water.
  • Rest and/or return to sleep.

Remedies for a Hangover

There are no natural remedies proven to get rid of a hangover entirely. However, some natural remedies are suggested by alternative medicine proponents to help soothe hangover symptoms. Here's a look at the science behind several substances often touted as natural hangover cures:

1) Prickly Pear Cactus

Prickly pear cactus extract may have a moderate effect on reducing hangover symptoms, according to a 2004 study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine. For the study, 64 healthy volunteers were randomly assigned to receive 1,600 IU of prickly pear extract or a placebo five hours before consuming alcohol. Two weeks later, the experiment was repeated with the prickly pear extract and placebo reversed.

Among the 55 volunteers who completed both experiments, researchers found that nausea and dry mouth were significantly reduced by prickly pear extract. Additionally, prickly pear extract appeared to lower inflammation (a biological process thought to contribute to several hangover symptoms, such as memory problems and decreased appetite).

2) Artichoke

For a 2003 study from the Canadian Medical Association Journal, researchers assigned 15 healthy adults to take either placebo capsules or artichoke supplements before and after consuming alcohol. Results showed that artichoke extract was not effective in preventing hangover symptoms.

3) Kudzu Concerns

In a 2007 report published in the journal Alcohol, scientists state that kudzu root is "an inappropriate herb for use in herbal hangover remedies." Sizing up the available research on kudzu's effectiveness as a hangover treatment, the report's authors found that use of kudzu at the time of high alcohol consumption may augment alcohol's toxic effects.

Hangover Pain

Some proponents of herbal medicine suggest that certain herbs can help alleviate the pain associated with hangovers. But while research indicates that herbs like white willow bark and ginger can offer pain-relieving benefits, scientists have yet to test the effects of these herbs on hangover-related pain.

When using standard medication for relief of hangover pain, make sure to avoid any products containing acetaminophen (such as Tylenol). The National Institutes of Health warns that combining acetaminophen with alcohol may damage your liver.

Using Natural Remedies for a Hangover

To lessen your chances of suffering a hangover, try the following strategies when consuming alcohol:

  • Drink slowly, in moderation, and on a full stomach.
  • Drink a glass of water in between each alcohol beverage.
  • Stick to one type of alcohol.
  • Choose beverages (such as vodka and gin) made with fewer congeners (additives thought to increase hangover risk).

Although prickly pear cactus shows promise as a treatment for some hangover symptoms, more research is needed before any natural remedy can be recommended for hangover relief. It's also important to note that self-treating a condition and avoiding or delaying standard care may have serious consequences. If you're considering using alternative medicine for any health purpose, make sure to consult your primary care provider first.

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Article Sources

  • McGregor NR. Pueraria lobata (Kudzu root) hangover remedies and acetaldehyde-associated neoplasm risk. Alcohol. 2007 41(7):469-78.
  • National Institutes of Health. Hangover treatment: MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia. August 2011.
  • Pittler MH, White AR, Stevinson C, Ernst E. Effectiveness of artichoke extract in preventing alcohol-induced hangovers: a randomized controlled trial. CMAJ. 2003 9;169(12):1269-73.
  • Wiese J, McPherson S, Odden MC, Shlipak MG. Effect of Opuntia ficus indica on symptoms of the alcohol hangover. Arch Intern Med. 2004 28;164(12):1334-40.