Unbearable thirst, a pounding headache, and a room that just won’t stop spinning.
The tell-tale signs that you’re battling a killer hangover.
The worst part is, nothing can help except time. Praying to the hangover Gods to please make the spinning stop and take away your nausea won’t erase last night’s bad decisions.
You’re getting desperate and are willing to try just about anything to feel better.
Enter: the hair of the dog hangover cure. You’ve probably tried it at least once or know someone who has.
It’s the theory that you can cure a hangover by drinking more alcohol.
Sound ridiculous? Most people would agree while others swear by it as their tried-and-true hangover remedy.
This article will explain all there is to know about the hair of the dog hangover cure so you can decide if it’s fact or fiction.
Grab a comfy spot next to the porcelain throne and let’s get started!
What Does Hair of the Dog Mean
Before you start chasing Fido around the house trying to snip a lock of his fur, keep reading. The hair of the dog is a myth that dates back hundreds of years (and has nothing to do with your pooch).
The theory is that in order to cure a killer hangover from last night, you should consume more alcohol the next morning. The phrase itself is actually derived from the saying, “If this dog do you bite, soon as out of your bed, take a hair of the tail the next day.”
A more common version is “hair of the dog that bit you.” Essentially, it means that the cause of your ailment may be the cure. In this case, the source of your pain and discomfort is alcohol, therefore, drinking more alcohol will cure your hangover.
Hair of the dog origins
This hangover cure may sound like something straight out of the frat house rule book, but sadly, it dates back much farther than that.
While the phrase has nothing to do with actual dogs today, the history behind it does. As early as the 1800s, people in Scotland placed hair from the dog who bit a human on the wound to help cure and prevent rabies.
The first reference to alcohol using this phrase surfaced in apocryphal poems at the time of Aristophanes. As time marched on, more and more people tested out the hair of the dog theory to help ease hangover symptoms.
In fact, many hotels in the 1930s served cocktails called the Corpse Reviver.
Does the Hair of the Dog Work to Cure Hangovers?
Avid drinkers spanning hundreds of years can’t be wrong, right? Well, not quite.
While there are some scientific theories that support the hair of the dog approach, it’s not a guaranteed solution.
Here are just a few reasons why firm believers of this cure still exist.
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It Raises Your Blood Alcohol Level
What most people don’t realize is that hangover symptoms are actually the body’s first signs of alcohol withdrawal. The most common symptoms are dehydration, headache, and nausea.
As your body’s blood-alcohol level slowly drops, your symptoms increase – with the worst of them hitting as your blood alcohol level returns to zero. This is where the hair of the dog theory was born.
If you continue drinking alcohol, your blood alcohol level will start to rise again, making you feel better. While this may sound like a good idea, in truth, you’re just delaying the inevitable – and making matters worse in the process.
The truth is, you’ll eventually need to stop drinking. And when you do, your blood alcohol levels will drop to zero and the hangover symptoms will return. Some doctors claim the hangover will be even worse the second time around.
It may even lead to a two-day hangover which is as horrifying as it sounds.
Doctors suggest waiting 48 hours after a drinking binge to put any more alcohol into your body. This gives your bloodstream plenty of time to purge last night’s bad decisions and regroup for round two.
This is one of the main reasons people reach for the bottle in the first place. Drinking alcohol triggers your brain to release feel-good hormones known as endorphins. Endorphins elicit feelings of pleasure, relaxation, and happiness.
Let’s face it – when a hangover has you feeling like death, endorphins sound pretty great. The bad news is, as the alcohol is metabolized and leaves your body, the endorphin levels decrease as well.
This up and down of emotions can lead to alcoholism and addiction in some people. They crave that high and keep drinking until they achieve it.
Risks of Using This Hangover Method
Even after having all the information and knowing that your hangover symptoms will eventually catch up to you, some people still think the hair of the dog cure is worth a shot.
If this describes you, there are a few things you should know before cracking a beer or taking a shot following a night of heavy drinking. There are risks involved with this method and here are just a few.
More Intense Symptoms
Trying to cure alcohol with more alcohol just isn’t practical. You’ll eventually stop drinking and then your body needs to metabolize even more alcohol than before. This means more intense hangover symptoms that last even longer.
It can take a full two days for your body to completely purge itself of alcohol. If you go on a bender Friday night, then wake Saturday and start drinking more, by the time you stop drinking Saturday night you’re looking at at least Monday before you feel half-way human again.
Dehydration, nausea, and headaches will likely keep you in bed all day Sunday and part of Monday hating yourself and regretting your decisions. Instead of prolonging your hangover, it’s best to grin and bear it and push through on day one.
Adding More Unwanted Chemicals Into Your Body
All alcohol contains congeners, which are natural by-products that form when alcohol is made. Different types of alcohol contain different levels of congeners, with darker booze like bourbon and scotch boosting higher levels than lighter varieties like vodka and white wine.
Several different compounds fall under the category of congeners including methanol, acetone, and tannins. Once your body breaks these compounds down, they actually turn into toxic chemicals in your body.
Toxins like formic acid, formaldehyde, and acetaldehyde react with your cells and cause an inflammatory response. These chemicals are also to blame for more intense hangover symptoms.
Methanol is one of the most problematic congeners and is commonly found in whiskey, wine, and beer (among others).
Trying to cure a hangover with more alcohol is just adding more congeners to your body, which will ultimately turn into more toxic chemicals, wreaking havoc on your internal system.
Risk of Addiction
This is one of the main reasons to avoid the hair of the dog method to cure a hangover – it can be a slippery slope into alcoholism. It was already said that alcohol releases feel-good hormones that make users feel happy and relaxed. This is in stark contrast to the feelings of hangover withdrawal.
It makes sense, to some, that drinking more alcohol will eliminate withdrawal symptoms and make them feel good again. And while this is true, the hangover will always be waiting at the end of your last drink.
But what if there was never a last drink? Some people fall into an unhealthy pattern of continually drinking to keep those endorphins flowing. If they never allow their body’s blood alcohol level to drop, they’ll never experience a nasty hangover.
This is a theory that can easily lead to alcohol abuse, which carries much more serious and life-changing consequences than a simple hangover.
Most Popular Hair of the Dog Drinks
Despite all the evidence here, some people are still curious about the hair of the dog hangover cure and want to give it a go. If this describes you, there are a few things you should know – like which drinks are best.
According to some bartenders and hair of the dog advocates, these are the drinks that top the list:
Bloody Mary – (Arguably the most popular)
Fernet and Coke
Many of these drinks combine alcohol and mixers that offer a slight pick-me-up. Just remember one of science’s most basic principles – what goes up must come down.
Drinking, Drinking and More Drinking
We’ve all been there. One or two cocktails with dinner turn into shots at the bar and before you know it, you’re swearing off alcohol forever.
When you wake up with a nasty hangover you’ll do just about anything to make it go away. The hair of the dog remedy is just one hangover cure in a long-list of superstitions and myths boozers swear by.
If you want to give it a try, just remember that your hangover will eventually catch up with you. Also, be aware of alcohol abuse warning signs.
In the meantime, check out our post on the best hangover supplements