MAINZ, Germany — There are countless old wives’ tales claiming to be the perfect hangover remedy for that throbbing headache the morning after a long night out. Could an actual cure be on the horizon? Researchers from Johannes Gutenberg University in Germany have created one of the few hangover remedies that is backed by scientific experimentation.
Researchers tested their hangover cure made of specific plant extracts, vitamins and minerals, and antioxidant compounds against placebo hangover cures, and they found that their concoction did a better job of reducing hangover symptoms.
The plant extracts include Barbados cherry (Acerola), prickly pear, ginkgo biloba, willow and ginger root. The vitamins and minerals include magnesium, potassium, sodium bicarbonate, zinc, riboflavin, thiamin and folic acid. The antioxidant compounds include steviol glycosides and inulin. Many of these ingredients have been shown to ease many of the physical and psychological symptoms that come with drinking a lot of alcohol.
Researchers recruited 214 adults aged 18-65 to participate in their study. Participants were placed in one of three groups: one group that got the full hangover concoction, a second group that got a hangover concoction with the vitamins, minerals and antioxidant compounds, and a third group that had a placebo cure that only had glucose.
The participants were invited to drink as much beer, white wine, or white wine spritzer as they wanted during a four-hour window. 45 minutes before and immediately after the drinking time, they had their experimental or control hangover cure. Blood and urine samples and blood pressure measurements were taken before and after they drank their booze. Researchers also tracked how much the participants drank, and the number of times they urinated over the four-hour period.
After having 12-hours to sober up, participants gave additional blood and urine samples and had their blood pressure measured again. They also filled out questionnaires about the severity of their hangovers.
Even though all of the participants drank about the same amount of alcohol (0.62mL/min), the participants that drank the full hangover cure had improved hangover symptoms compared to participants that had the glucose control beverage. The average headache intensity was 34% less severe, nausea symptoms decreased by 42%, feelings of indifference fell by an average of 27%, and restlessness by 41%.
Researchers think that the plant extracts are some of the most important ingredients in their hangover cure. There weren’t any significant differences between the intensity of the symptoms felt by those that had the cure without the plant extracts and those that had the glucose placebo. Furthermore, the five plant extracts used have been associated with curbing the physiological impact of alcohol in previously published experimental studies.
“The underlying mechanisms remain to be unravelled and surely need further investigation,” says the research team.
Results of this experiment also suggest that a common belief about the cause of hangovers may be a myth. Alcohol is a dehydrant, so it causes people to urinate more frequently and excrete excess electrolytes. People think that this loss of electrolytes might cause hangovers. However, since the hangover cure made of vitamins and minerals didn’t reduce the severity of the hangover symptoms, it is unlikely that hangovers are caused by an electrolyte insufficiency.
The scientists report one final observation. “Our results suggest that alcohol-induced increased fluid excretion does not necessarily lead to a significant dehydration process.” The amount of alcohol someone drinks is not strongly associated with the amount of water that is measured in their body. It doesn’t seem like dehydration is the cause of the hangovers.
“It seems to be clear that hangover symptoms are predominantly caused by alcohol and its metabolites,” the authors conclude.
The study is published in BMJ Nutrition, Prevention and Health.