Scientists try, fail to find a DIY hangover cure that actually works


Photo: Jamie Squire (Getty Images)

No one really knows how to cure a hangover, a new collection of scientific studies has found. The review found little good evidence for any particular hangover treatment, with existing studies being generally of low quality.

The review was conducted by researchers in the UK and supported by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR), the largest government funder of clinical research in the country. The team reviewed 21 different clinical studies testing different putative hangover treatments. These include curcumin (the main ingredient that gives turmeric spice its bright yellow color), red ginseng, NSAID pain relievers such as loxoprofen, probiotics, artichoke extract, pear juice, and the supplement n-acetyl-l-cysteine ​​(NAC).

Most studies found no benefit for hangover symptoms from these treatments, the team found. And even for those who did find a statistically significant effect for some symptoms, the researchers weren’t too impressed with the quality of the data collected. None of the studies looked at the same hangover treatment, nor were any results independently replicated by other researchers, which is necessary to validate whether something in medicine is working as advertised.

The team also noted some notable flaws in many hangover treatment experiments. For example, in eight of the studies, women were completely excluded. Studies also had very different designs from each other, which can make it difficult to compare results. Some related to food, some not, and various types of alcohol were used to get people drunk. Other common hangover remedies, such as acetaminophen or aspirin, have seemingly never been studied in randomized controlled trials.

The findings were: published in the magazine Addiction.

“We have a limited number of poor-quality studies investigating hangover treatments,” lead author Emmert Roberts, a clinical researcher at the National Addiction Center at King’s College London, told Gizmodo in an email.

Of the different treatments they studied, three seemed to show promise compared to placebo. These were clove extract, tolfenamic acid (an NSAID pain reliever available in the UK) and pyritinol (a analog of vitamin B6). These treatments most likely warrant a rigorous clinical trial, Roberts said. Ideally, future studies should use more universal and validated standards, including one for measuring hangover symptoms. They must also be pre-registered, relatively large and more representative of the population, including women.

For now, however, there is only one clear method to avoid a hangover. “The surest way to avoid hangover symptoms is to drink in moderation or abstain from alcohol,” Roberts said. “However, very low-quality evidence suggests that clove extract, tolfenamic acid, and pyritinol have the strongest evidence for reducing overall hangover symptoms compared to placebo, and they all appeared to be safe.”


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