Dissecting 6 Popular Hangover Cures—and How They Work

Rachel Krause
bagels Dissecting 6 Popular Hangover Cures—and How They Work

Photo: Christina Reid / EyeEm/Getty

Vicious hangovers happen to the best of us, and they have been happening to the best of us since practically the beginning of time. Feeling terrible the day after drinking has been the motivation behind many great novels and works of art, but for the rest of us, it’s more likely to set us up for an entire day spent moaning in front of the TV.

As with most things, the best cure for a hangover is prevention, but when prevention fails, we turn to the optimistically-named “hangover cures.” They tend to act more as placebos rather than actual solutions, but hey, we take what we can get. Some people swear by a particular soda, others by an overwhelmingly greasy meal—here, we break down 6 popular hangover cures, and what makes them work.

A group of Chinese researchers hypothesized that the things you consume after drinking alcohol could affect the way your body metabolizes alcohol, potentially serving to alleviate hangover symptoms the morning after. Sprite was found to accelerate the breakdown of acetaldehyde, the nasty first metabolite of ethanol that causes most of alcohol’s adverse effects, thereby reducing the amount of time spent suffering.

Experts say the idea needs a bit more research behind it before it can be crowned the one true hangover cure, but if it works for you, then chug away.

Simple carbs, like crackers and toast, will raise your blood sugar, which usually isn’t a good thing, but alcohol can cause your blood sugar levels to drop, making this one situation in which that rise is actually beneficial. Choose something bland and starchy—which is probably what you’ll want to eat anyway—to help manage your blood sugar and soak up some of that alcohol.

MORE: 20 Healthy (Alcoholic) Drinks to Sip

Alcohol is way dehydrating, and your body needs electrolytes, like potassium, to replenish and regulate those ever-important hydration levels, as well as just keep your body functioning the way that it’s meant to (but often doesn’t after a night of heavy drinking, let’s be honest). Gatorade, Pedialyte, and coconut water are all viable options, but go for the coconut water if you can—it’s packed with far more vitamins and electrolytes than your standard sports drink, and it’ll really work to help hydrate, too.

Activated charcoal
Activated charcoal has been around forever, but it’s lately being hailed as a kind of panacea for all sorts of digestive issues and otherwise as it absorbs impurities from the digestive tract. Think about it, unpleasant as it is: when someone who’s had way too much to drink has to get their stomach pumped, they use activated charcoal to clear it out. On a lesser scale, popping an activated charcoal pill will do the same, so if your hangover symptoms err on the side of abdominal distress, it’s a pretty good bet.

Tomato juice
As far as relatively virtuous hangover cures go (we’re talking anything that isn’t a bacon, egg, and cheese sandwich or a “hair of the dog” morning cocktail), tomato juice ranks high on the scale, due it’s lycopene-factor. Lycopene is a wonder pigment, packed with antioxidants, that reduces inflammation within the body and helps blood flow to help you feel a little less like a zombie and a little more like your pre-drinking self. Tomato is also full of easily absorbed vitamins, namely A and C, and is hydrating, too.

If you can afford to head back to bed for another few hours, we strongly advise that you do. It’s truly the best way to combat a hangover, as it gives your body a chance to recharge and heal on its own. You’ll feel worse if you get less sleep, Gantt Galloway, a senior scientist in addiction confirmed. Plus, we tend to sleep poorly after drinking, and nothing makes a hangover worse than sleep deprivation to go along with it. Drink a glass of water, take a couple Tylenol, and crawl back beneath the blankets. You’ll feel better in the morning … er, late afternoon.

MORE: 5 Ways to Avoid a Tequila Hangover