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Hangover Supplements: What Works The Best To Prevent Hangovers?

Afterdrink Author Kathy Caldwell
Kathy Caldwell

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Evidence based

What supplements are good for hangovers? It’s a good question and one that doesn’t exactly have a straightforward answer.

If you’ve landed on this page, chances are you’re looking for a supplement that can mitigate some of the damage caused by drinking alcohol.

Supplements come in all shapes and sizes. You can opt for vitamins, herbal extracts, amino acids, and minerals to name a few.

But which supplements are actually good for hangovers? and do any of them work?

In this article, we aim to clear things up by taking a closer look at these questions. We’ll also examine the available research to see if there is any research-backed evidence that hangover supplements work.

So, with the introductions out of the way, let’s start taking a closer look at hangover supplements and which ones work the best.

Table of contents

Causes of a hangover

Before we get into which supplements are good for hangovers, we first need to understand what the causes of a hangover are. After all, it’s the only way to really know which supplements could be good for hangovers.

To put it simply, hangovers are caused by drinking too much alcohol in a short period of time. Essentially, they are a sign from your body that you’ve had a few too many drinks for your body to handle.

Exactly how alcohol causes hangovers is a lot less clear. However, scientists agree that there are many different factors that play a part. These include(1):

1) Dehydration

One of the main causes of a hangover is dehydration. Alcohol is a diuretic which means it makes your kidneys flush out excess water. That’s because alcohol blocks the release of a hormone called ADH from your pituitary gland (in your brain).

This hormone is responsible for allowing your kidneys to hold water in your bloodstream, instead of flushing it out.

As a result, drinking alcohol all night can lead to excess water loss and dehydration.

2) Inflammation

Another major cause of hangovers is inflammation. When alcohol is metabolized in your liver, toxic by-products such as acetaldehyde are formed. If drinking within your limits, your liver breaks down acetaldehyde into acetic acid which is harmless.

However, if you’ve been drinking a lot, acetaldehyde levels start to build. Acetaldehyde is a highly volatile substance that reacts with your cells causing inflammation.(2)

3) Congeners

Darker colored drinks contain more congeners. This is the name given to the compounds in alcoholic drinks that give them their distinctive aroma and flavor. They are formed when alcohol is fermented from grapes or grains and also when drinks like red wine and whiskey are aged.

Unfortunately, congeners make hangovers a lot worse and studies have proven this.(3)

It’s because they, like acetaldehyde, are “biologically active” which means they can interact with your cells causing even more inflammation. For example, one such congener is methanol which is broken down into formaldehyde. And formaldehyde is even more toxic than acetaldehyde.

That’s why whiskey hangovers can be worse than other drinks.

4) Sleep

An overlooked cause for hangovers is that your sleep quality is significantly reduced if you’ve been drinking. Alcohol blocks your brain from reaching the REM stage of sleep which is essential for waking up feeling rested.

It explains why sleeping 8 hours after a few drinks doesn’t feel the same sleeping 8 hours with no alcohol in your system.

In summary: These are just some of the recognized causes of a hangover. In combination, they cause the hangover symptoms you are probably more than familiar with.

Hangover supplements are clearly not going to have any effect on hydration and sleep. The only thing that’ll fix those problems is to drink water and rest.

So, if that’s the case, where do hangover supplements fit in? That’s what we’re going to get into next.

What are hangover supplements?

The term “hangover supplements” is broadly used to describe natural ingredients which, in some way or another, are good for hangovers.

That means individual ingredients such as vitamins, amino acids, and herbal extracts which are known to have anti-hangover properties in some way or another.

On the other hand, nowadays you’ll find a whole array of supplements that are specifically designed to support your body in battling the negative effects of alcohol. These so-called hangover supplements will usually combine a selection of natural ingredients mentioned above so that the effects are more potent.

Regardless of how the supplement is packaged, it’s the individual ingredients that are important to know about. And next up, we’re going to examine these ingredients in closer detail.

What supplements are good for hangovers?

Before we start this section, it’s important for us to highlight that the research into supplements for hangovers is pretty limited.

Only a handful of studies exist and most (if not all of them) are small scale and do not come close to the rigorous standards that drug trials adhere to. Therefore, any reported improvement in hangover symptoms should be taken with a pinch of salt.

With that said, supplements for hangovers are thought to work in one of two ways:

1) As antioxidants that neutralize the toxic by-products produced from alcohol metabolism. Therefore, potentially reducing inflammation.

2) Support your liver in metabolizing alcohol and its by-products

Vitamins

Vitamin B1 (Thiamine): It’s well-known that vitamin B1 requirements go up if drinking in excess. Especially in chronic alcohol use. A study in a US emergency department also showed that vitamin B1 levels drop in those who have been binge drinking. Whether it actually helps prevent hangovers hasn’t been tested.(4)

Vitamin B6 (Pyridoxine): There’s an old study from 1976 which showed that giving vitamin B6 before drinking reduced hangover symptoms by 50%. Whether it’s actually true or not is unclear because the study hasn’t been repeated. However, we do know that the B vitamins are important in the metabolism of alcohol.(5)

Herbal extracts

Dihydromyricetin (DHM):

dihydromyricetin


Dihydromyricetin (DHM) is extracted from the Japanese raisin tree (Hovenia Dulcis). There’s a lot of interest in DHM for hangover prevention as a couple of studies have shown that it speeds up alcohol metabolism. It’s thought that if DHM is taken during or before you drink alcohol, it helps your liver process alcohol more efficiently. Therefore, preventing (or reducing) hangover symptoms.(6)(7)

How exactly DHM works is less clear. Also, the studies mentioned above are very early stage and performed in rodents. Nevertheless, it’s a promising supplement for hangover prevention.

AfterDrink contains all the vitamin, amino acid, and herbal extracts mentioned in this article in one supplement.

Korean Ginseng:

Korean ginseng


A small study of 25 men in Korea found that giving ginseng before drinking reduced hangover symptoms. They researchers think that it’s because ginseng speeds up alcohol metabolism somehow.(8)

Prickly Pear Extract:

prickly pear


A study including 64 people carried out in the US showed that prickly pear extract given five hours before drinking reduced hangover symptoms. The researchers think it’s because prickly pear extract is high in antioxidants and therefore reduces inflammation.(9)

Ginger:

ginger


There are no studies looking at ginger specifically as a supplement for hangover prevention. That said, it’s a research-backed natural anti nausea remedy that works. Therefore, if hangover nausea is a problem for you, you could always try ginger tea or supplements to help.

Amino acids

N-acetyl-cysteine:
N-Acetyl-Cysteine, also known as NAC, is commonly used as a liver detox supplement. It’s used in emergency departments around the world to treat acetaminophen overdose. It works by increasing glutathione levels in the liver which is a potent antioxidant.

That said, the doses used in hospitals are much higher and administered intravenously. Therefore it can’t be compared to oral supplements.

NAC is also commonly used as a supplement for hangovers. But studies have shown that it’s not effective.

Minerals – Magnesium, Zinc, Selenium

Drinking alcohol in excess can deplete essential minerals such as magnesium, zinc, and selenium. They are important for keeping the enzymes in your cells working. It’s thought that drinking either increases the body’s requirement of these minerals, or the diuretic action of alcohol flushes them out from your kidneys.

Either way, some studies mention that people with deficiencies in these minerals experience hangovers more severely.(10)(11)

Whether taking mineral supplements to help reduce hangover symptoms is unproven.

In summary: Despite the limited evidence base, there are quite a few potential hangover supplement candidates to chose from. Most of the research has been carried out in herbal supplements.

When to take hangover supplements

After knowing which supplements could potentially help with hangovers, the next most important question is when is the best time to take hangover supplements.

Well, in the research studies mentioned above, the supplements were given before alcohol was consumed. Therefore, basing it on the research studies mentioned above, it’s probably best to take hangover supplements before, or at the very latest, straight after you’ve been drinking alcohol.

Now, there’s no concrete rule for this. As we’ve said before, the research into hangover supplements is very much limited.

However, logic would say that there’s not much point taking a load of vitamins, minerals, and herbal extracts when you’ve already got a hangover. That’s because, by this stage, alcohol has done its damage.

The exception to this rule is ginger, where you may see benefit from taking it for hangover-associated nausea.

AfterDrink contains all the vitamin, amino acid, and herbal extracts mentioned in this article in one supplement.

Are hangover supplements a cure?

So, now on to the all-important questions, do hangover supplements completely prevent or cure hangovers?

Unfortunately, the answer is that they definitely do not.

If you’re expecting to take any supplement in the hope that you’ll wake up with no hangover, you’re pretty much guaranteed to be disappointed.

As we mentioned earlier, hangovers are caused by many different factors including dehydration, poor sleep quality, and inflammation.

Therefore, supplements for “hangover prevention” should be seen as a support aid, rather than a solution to your hangover woes.

What is the best supplement for hangover prevention?

It’s clear from the available studies that there are a few potential hangover supplement candidates that could be beneficial.

What’s even more clear is that there’s no magic bullet when it comes to hangover supplements. It’s likely that a combination of ingredients is the best way forward.

That’s why the best supplements for hangover prevention are ones that combine the nutrients from vitamins, amino acids, and all the herbal extracts mentioned above. That way, you’re covered from all angles.

Anything else to consider?

Hangovers are ultimately caused by drinking too much alcohol. Looking for hangover supplements as the solution is the wrong approach.

The best way to prevent a hangover is to drink less, eat before going out and drink plenty of water.

Also, it’s if you’re planning on trying hangover supplements, it’s important to check the label to make sure you don’t have any allergies to the ingredients. In addition, it may be the first time you’re trying many of the herbal supplements mentioned here, so be wary of adverse reactions.

This is especially important if you’re taking any regular medication as they could interact. That’s why it’s best to speak to your doctor before trying new supplements.

Hangover supplements – Final words

That brings us to the end of our detailed look into hangover supplements.

We’ve walked you through all the hangover supplements which could potentially help based on research studies. However, the studies in this area of science are few and far between.

We’ve explained that hangovers happen because you’ve been drinking too much alcohol for your body to handle. There is no single cause for hangovers and several different factors are involved.

Hangover supplements can support your liver during periods of overindulgence. But they will not completely prevent hangover symptoms. And, they’re definitely not a magic cure.

With that said, there are a few interesting ingredients which have shown promising results in studies that you could try. All of which are included in AfterDrink.

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