Looking for a natural hangover remedy to help make you feel a little better in the morning?
Well, you’re not alone. People have been on the search for a natural hangover remedy since the begging of time. Or at least, since alcohol was first consumed which is apparently over 9000 years ago!(1)
In this article, we’re going to take a look at all the natural remedies you can try at home based on the currently available research studies.
What are the causes of a hangover?
To know which natural remedies will work for a hangover, we first need to go over how alcohol affects your body in the first place.
Firstly, alcohol is a diuretic which means it makes your kidneys flush out more water. It does so by blocking the production of a hormone in your brain called antidiuretic hormone (ADH). For example, for every glass of wine you drink, you’ll lose approximately 120mls of extra water. Therefore, if you’ve had several drinks over the course of your night out, the extra fluid loss adds up causing dehydration.
Secondly, when alcohol is metabolized in by your liver, it produces toxic by-products such as acetaldehyde. In normal circumstances, your liver quickly breaks down acetaldehyde into a non-harmful waste product. However, in periods of over-indulgence, acetaldehyde levels can build up which wreaks havoc on your insides. This is because acetaldehyde is a highly reactive substance that reacts with your cells causing inflammation.
Finally, alcohol significantly reduces your sleep quality. Although you can fall asleep much easier after you’ve had a couple of drinks. It certainly doesn’t mean the quality of your sleep will be good. This is because alcohol blocks your brain from reaching the REM stage of sleep. REM sleep is required to fully reset your brain and without it, you won’t feel fully rested. 8 hours of sleep after a few glasses of wine is not the same as 8 hours of sleep without any alcohol!
In summary, these are just some of the ways in which alcohol causes hangovers. A natural hangover remedy will need to counteract some of the damage mentioned above to have some positive effect on your hangover.
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What to look for in a natural hangover remedy
Before we get started, it’s important to mention that hangovers are a sign from your body that you’ve been drinking more than your body can handle.
As we mentioned earlier, there are several different causes of a hangover including dehydration, poor sleep quality and toxic by-products of alcohol metabolism to mention just a few.
Ultimately, this results in hangover symptoms including:
- Nausea and vomiting
- Dry mouth and dehydration
- Poor concentration and focus
Therefore, any natural hangover remedy should ideally have some effect on these symptoms. In fairness, most of these symptoms are due to dehydration and a lack of sleep. So, taking it easy, drinking plenty of fluid and taking naps is usually all that’s required to recover.
That said, there are some natural hangover remedies that could help speed up recovery by boosting your body’s antioxidant defenses to fight inflammation. Next up, we’ve picked out some natural hangover remedies which have been shown in research studies to help ease symptoms.
Best natural hangover remedies
Research into herbal remedies is limited in most cases and usually based on traditional use. Therefore, the natural hangover remedies mentioned have not been rigorously tested and most of the research is preliminary at best. We will highlight the natural remedies which have less evidence than others.
Nausea is arguably one of the worst symptoms of a hangover. Waking up in the morning feeling dizzy and sick is far from ideal.
Ginger is a research-backed anti-nausea remedy which is still recommended by doctors to ease symptoms of morning sickness in pregnant women.(2)
In addition, some research has shown that ginger could also reduce muscle pain, although the verdict from the NHS is that more research needs to be done on this topic.(3)
Nevertheless, ginger is safe to take and a great starting point to try and settle your stomach. You could even make your own natural hangover tea by chopping a few slices and adding it to hot water.
Peppermint oil is also a research-backed first-line remedy in IBS symptoms. Alcohol is well-known to be an exacerbating factor in IBS causing symptoms such as diarrhea, bloating and abdominal pain.(4)
Therefore, peppermint easily makes it onto our list of natural hangover remedies that could help settle upset stomachs.
It has a low side effect profile and is easily accessible in any reputable health store. Furthermore, you may even have some peppermint tea hidden away in your cupboards which will save you from a trip to the shops.
Chamomile tea has been used for centuries to settle anxious nerves. There are also research studies that have shown it has the potential to improve general anxiety disorder when given long term.(5)
That said, research is still in its early stages and requires more evaluation.
Nevertheless, drinking chamomile tea as a natural hangover remedy is certainly worth a try.
Also known as the oriental raisin tree, this eastern plant has received a lot of attention as a natural hangover remedy in recent years.
The active ingredient is called Dihydromyricetin has been shown to increase alcohol metabolism in rats.
It’s been theorized that taking dihydromyricetin while alcohol is still in the bloodstream can facilitate its clearance. Therefore, reducing the burden on your liver and allowing your body to clear as much alcohol from your system before it causes damage.
That said, this hasn’t been proven in humans as yet.
In 2014 a small study in 25 men looked at the effect of red ginseng after drinking alcohol. They found that overall hangover severity was reduced.(6)
The researches think that the anti-hangover effects are related to the active ingredient in ginseng, called ginsenosides. This is because ginsenosides have been shown to have anti-inflammatory properties.(7)
The results are interesting but the study is very small and only included men.
Prickly pear cactus
In 2004, a research group for New Orleans tested prickly pear extract on 64 subjects and found it to reduce hangover symptoms.(8)
The researchers explain that the active ingredients in prickly pear have anti-inflammatory properties which are thought to mediate its hangover reducing effect.
Some of the natural hangover remedies mentioned above shown promising results in prelimenary studies but require more research in larger studies.
Side effects to consider
If you’re taking any other medicine or trying one of these natural hangover remedies for the first time, it’s important to be aware of potential side effects.
Some herbal remedies could reduce or enhance the effects of the medicine you’re taking. That’s why if you’re taking any prescribed medication, you should always speak to your doctor first before taking supplements.
Things to avoid
Now that we’ve covered some options you could consider trying, there are a few natural hangover remedies you’ll probably want to avoid.
Coffee for a hangover is one of the oldest tricks in the book.
But it could make you feel worse. It’s a stimulant and therefore will make you feel more on edge and worsen hangover shakes.
Furthermore, caffeine is a diuretic which means it makes your kidneys produce more urine. Therefore, adding to the dehydration caused by alcohol.
On the flip side, caffeine could give you a short term energy boost so there are pros and cons to its use as a hangover remedy.
You’ve probably heard that going for a run or “sweating out toxins” when hungover will make you feel better.
Unfortunately, this natural hangover remedy won’t do you much good and sweating out toxins is a myth.
Exercise after drinking alcohol will further add to the stress your body is already under.
Taking Kudzu before drinking has been shown to reduce overall alcohol intake by potentiating its effects. It’s thought to block enzymes involved in the breakdown of alcohol.(9)
Another study has shown that blocking these enzymes increases acetaldehyde levels which a toxic substance.(10)
Therefore, rather than a natural hangover remedy, kudzu may have a role in managing alcohol dependence in the future. But not enough is known at this stage.
Anything else to consider?
Hangovers are a sign from your body that you’ve had too much for your body to handle. The best way to prevent hangovers is to drink less alcohol, eat before going out and keep well hydrated.
Trying to “cure” your hangover with a natural remedy will only have limited positive effects. That’s why prevention is key when it comes to hangovers.
That brings us to the end of our look into natural hangover remedies that could help ease some of your symptoms.
We’ve walked you through the basic things you need to know about how alcohol affects your body. In addition we’ve listed some herbal extracts that have been shown in research studies to help.
An important point to take on board is that the research into herbal extracts is very limited and any positive outcomes from the studies above should be taken with a pinch of salt.
Most importantly, it’s important to remember that a magic natural hangover cure doesn’t exist and the best thing to do is prevent it from happening in the first place.
If you’re interested in other natural hangover remedies, check out our article on the best tea for a hangover.