Even though you may feel like you’re dying after a night of heavy drinking, the medical community has never clearly defined the concept of a hangover.
You know what a hangover is. It follows a long night out, and may prompt questions like: Why am I so sweaty? Where did that bruise come from? Whose number is on my forearm?
“They are commonly identified as a general collection of symptoms many people develop when over-drinking, including headache, nausea, upset stomach, irritability and anxiety,” said Dr. Maya S. Benitez, a family medicine physician with Cedars-Sinai Medical Group in Culver City. “Dehydration, electrolyte imbalance and increased inflammation could all potentially cause these symptoms.”
And because science hasn’t clearly defined what a hangover is, Benitez said, there isn’t a specific treatment for one.
“The best cure — and the only one I know for sure — is to generally avoid over-drinking altogether,” Benitez said. “The best treatment is to treat the common symptoms.”
The doctor suggested hydration, some form of ginger product, vitamin B6, antacids for upset stomach and Advil for a headache.
If you don’t heed that advice and instead accept that third martini, there are dozens of hangover remedies that promise to erase your previous evening’s transgressions.
In the name of science, I put five readily available cures to the test, dosing myself with three alcoholic beverages to see how the remedies helped with the morning after.
Ingredients include: a blend of Chinese giant hyssop, beefsteak plant and taurine.
Directions: Take two capsules with water before you start drinking.
Effect: The capsules smelled like something out of my Chinese grandmother’s medicine cabinet. About an hour after I took the pills, I started to feel loopy. I was so preoccupied by the feeling of my heart about to leap out of my chest that I didn’t feel how drunk I was.
Verdict: Did they prevent a hangover the next day? No.
Ingredients include: vitamins plus a blend of milk thistle seed extract, stevia and Citrus Bioflavonoid Peel Powder Complex.
Directions: Pour the contents of the packet into water and drink before you go to bed after drinking.
Effect: The pale yellow powder makes a drink the color of hot Cheetos that tastes like fruit punch and smells like the pineapple tiki cocktail that started this mess. It does not go down easy but tastes better (by “better” I mean you can swallow it) if the water is cold.
Verdict: The hangover monster was still creeping around my head at my 10:30 a.m. meeting. Apparently the name of the product is accurate — the next day will be OK, but not better for having drunk the gross fruit punch-flavored drink.
Ingredients include: aspirin and caffeine.
Directions: Drop two tablets in water and drink the morning after you drink.
Effect: This is your average effervescent tablet with some caffeine and aspirin in the mix. It tasted like a watered-down lemon lime soda with a little salt sprinkled in. The bubbles are good if you’re feeling nauseous, and it dulls the pain of a headache. But like the others, it won’t completely erase the hangover.
Verdict: Worthwhile but not magical. I’m looking for magic here.
Ingredients include: dihydromyricetin, acai berry, ashwaganda, ginger root, grape seed and turmeric.
Directions: Slap the patch onto an area with little or no hair before you start drinking.
Effect: The patch is about the size of a Scrabble tile. When I woke up the next morning, I experienced no headache or nausea — and I was able to complete an hourlong workout.
Verdict: By far the most effective of the bunch. I’m not saying that I’m going to buy a bunch and keep them in my purse, but I’m not saying that I’m not.
Ingredients include: acai berry, vitamins A, B12, B2, B3, B5 and B6, and green tea extract.
Directions: Apply to a dry, hairless area before you start drinking. Keep the patch on for eight hours after you stop.
Effect: The patch is about the size of a small Post-it note. I had a little less energy than with the Rebound patch but I found my hangover symptoms (headache, nausea) to be minimal.
Verdict: The lesser of the two patches but effective.