Since the beginning of time (or at least when alcohol was first discovered), human beings have been on the search for a hangover cure.
Medicines have been rather disappointing in solving this age-old problem and more people are turning towards natural alternatives.
Natural hangover cures are certainly not a new phenomenon and everyone has their own special potion.
But which natural hangover remedies actually work?
In this article, we’re going to take an in-depth look into all the research-backed natural hangover remedies.
By doing so we aim to provide a comprehensive guide on how natural ingredients could provide a solution to your hangover woes.
What causes a hangover?
To understand how natural hangover cures work, we first need to go over how hangovers affect your body in the first place.
Firstly, alcohol is a diuretic which means it makes you produce more urine. So even though you may be drinking over a liter of beer or wine on your night out, you’ll lose a lot more than this from the amount of urine you’re producing.
As a result, this can cause dehydration which leads to symptoms including a lack of energy, headache, and feeling light-headed.
However, we all know that drinking water alone doesn’t cure your hangover.
The next most important cause is from one of alcohols toxic by-products called acetaldehyde.
When you drink, alcohol is broken down in two steps. Firstly, to acetaldehyde and then to acetic acid.
While acetic acid is harmless, acetaldehyde is highly toxic and causes “free radical” or “oxidative” damage to the cells it comes into contact with.
In fact, most of your hangover symptoms can be attributed to the damage caused by acetaldehyde.
Your liver normally doesn’t allow acetaldehyde levels to build up. Unfortunately, during periods of over-indulgence, the workload is too much and eventually, your liver is overrun.
Hangovers are in large part caused by a combination of acetaldehyde buildup and dehydration.
Now that we’ve got the science out the way, let’s get straight into the best natural hangover cure ingredients.
The best natural hangover cures
We’ve picked out the best natural hangover cures based on published research that has shown them to have hangover preventing properties.
At this stage, It’s important to mention that most of the research carried out into natural ingredients are small scale.
Therefore, more research needs to be done to fully prove their benefits.
Also known as DHM, Dihydromyricetin is extracted from the Japanese raisin tree. It’s been used as a natural hangover cure in Asia for centuries.
In fact, DHM is very popular in countries like Japan and South Korea where you’ll find it sold in hangover cure products.
More recently, it’s been brought over to the USA and hangover cure supplements include DHM as their main ingredient.
The reason is, there have been a few studies recently which have shown that DHM increases the rate at which your liver breaks down alcohol and reduces intoxication.
In theory, this means less acetaldehyde build-up and therefore, reduced hangover severity.
Hangover nausea is arguably one of the worst symptoms you can have after a night of drinking.
Ginger is one of the most research-backed natural anti-sickness remedies there is. Several studies have shown that gingerol (which is the active ingredient in ginger), can help settle upset stomachs.
In fact, ginger tea is recommended first-line to help pregnant women who suffer from morning sickness.
If you’re someone who suffers from hangover nausea, ginger is a safe and effective natural hangover remedy to trial.
Milk thistle is one of the best known natural hangover cures. You’ll find it most “liver-health” supplements because research has shown that it has anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant properties.
So far, there aren’t any good studies which have specifically looked at milk thistle as a hangover cure.
So whether it actually works is up for debate.
That said, there are many people who swear by milk thistle.
There have been a few studies which have shown that red ginseng increases alcohol metabolism and reduces hangover severity.
In 2014, a group from South Korea tested this on 25 male volunteers after giving each 100ml of whiskey.
They found that alcohol concentrations in their bloodstream after drinking whiskey were much less if they were given ginseng.
Interestingly, hangover severity also decreased.
Although this was a very small study, the results are promising and red ginseng could be a good option as a natural hangover cure.
Prickly pear is another ingredient which has received significant attention in recent years as a natural hangover cure.
It’s a fruit of a particular type of cactus and its extract has been marketed as a powerful antioxidant.
This is because it has very high levels of polyphenol which a well-known antioxidant and anti-inflammatory.
One study from America has tested prickly pear specifically for hangovers on 64 subjects. They found that overall hangover severity was significantly reduced and think this is because of its anti-inflammatory properties.
To date, there has only been one study on prickly pear for hangovers so it’s still early days and needs more evaluation.
Turmeric is a traditional herbal remedy which is commonly used for its anti-inflammatory qualities. People who look for natural alternatives to conventional pain killers for joint pain typically use turmeric.
Turmerics active ingredient is curcumin which has been shown in studies to block inflammatory pathways.
Several hangover supplements utilize turmeric for this reason to counteract inflammation caused by the buildup of acetaldehyde.
It’s important to note there are no research studies which have proven this association and therefore turmerics use as a natural hangover cure is anecdotal.
The active ingredient from artichoke extract has similar properties to milk thistle.
A research group from the UK tested Artichoke on 15 healthy volunteers to see if it could work as a natural hangover cure.
They found no difference in hangover severity when compared to giving the volunteers placebo pills.
Another research group tested artichoke in mice and found it was protective against alcohol-induced liver injury.
Whether artichoke works for hangovers is still up for debate.
Do natural hangover cures work?
From the list of natural hangover remedies listed above, Dihydromyricetin, Prickly pear, and red Ginseng are the only ingredients which have been evaluated in hangover specific research studies.
We’ve mentioned it before and we’re going to do so again, the research carried out on natural ingredients is generally speaking very small and limited.
They are incomparable to actual drug trials so therefore whatever health benefit is reported needs to be taken with a pinch of salt.
That being said, there are many people in the world who use these ingredients as natural hangover cures and see a real benefit.
Furthermore, it’s important to mention that nothing will actually “cure” your hangover. These natural ingredients could potentially help to a limited extent, but expecting a miracle recovery will lead to disappointment.
How to take natural hangover cures
In all of the research studies mentioned, the natural ingredients were given before, during or straight after alcohol consumption.
Now, this is a very important point because often people tend to take their choice of remedy when they’re already hungover the day after a night of drinking.
If the ingredients were to have any effect, they would need to work as soon as the toxic by-products of alcohol are produced.
Essentially, this would mean as soon as you start drinking.
Therefore, trying to naturally cure your hangovers when you’re already hungover is a pointless exercise. The damage is already done by this stage.
Other natural hangover cures that could help
During our research, we came across a few other well-known supposed natural hangover cures that we thought deserved a mention.
Although the evidence base for these is significantly less, they are still used by millions of people worldwide.
There’s a lot of hype around coconut water as a natural hangover cure. It’s a refreshing drink that not only rehydrates you but also contains some vitamin C, magnesium, sodium and potassium.
Vitamin C is an antioxidant which can help clear free radicals produced from alcohol metabolism and magnesium levels are known to drop after heavy drinking.
So although there are no formal research studies, the idea that coconut water could work for hangovers is not so far-fetched.
The problem is, coconut water is usually drunk the morning after your night out and therefore you’re already hungover by this point.
Perhaps rehydrating with coconut water after your last drink is a better way to get good results.
Essential oils are concentrated extracts of herbal ingredients which are most commonly used as massage oils or for aromatherapy.
They have many perceived health benefits, however, they usually only work as a “symptomatic reliever”
This means that they can’t treat or cure any disease and but people see benefit from them as a calming tool because of the ambiance the nice smells create.
Commonly used essential oils for hangover symptom relief are rose water, lavender, and ginger.
Apple cider vinegar
A traditional folklore, apple cider vinegar is still used by many today as a hangover cure.
It’s basically vinegar produced from distilled apple sugar.
Apart from being plain old vinegar, it doesn’t really have any other ingredients in it.
So whether it works as a natural hangover cure is dubious, to say the least.
Probably one of the most well known natural hangover cures, charcoal pills are sold to prevent hangovers among other perceived health benefits.
Charcoal is actually used in hospitals worldwide to bind toxins in the guy after overdosing on certain chemicals or medicines.
That being said, charcoal doesn’t bind to everything and anything. And unfortunately, it’s been shown not to bind to alcohol.
Therefore it probably doesn’t work as a natural hangover prevention remedy.
If you look at any hangover prevention supplement on the market right now, they’ll always contain a selection of B-vitamins.
The reason is, they are essential cofactors for regenerating the metabolic enzymes required to break down food and drink you consume. This includes alcohol as well.
Once again, there’s been no research studies that look into whether B-vitamins can work as natural hangover cues so any evidence is anecdotal.
Things to avoid
Now that we’ve covered all the most popular natural hangover cures, we thought it’s important to mention some that should really be avoided.
Some of the ones we are going to list could even have very serious negative health implications.
Some natural hangover cure products include Kudzu root extract in their formula. One of the active ingredients in Kudzu is known to block an enzyme called ALDH2.
This enzyme breaks down acetaldehyde which is causing most of the problems associated with a hangover.
Therefore Kudzu is unlikely to help with hangovers and it may even make them a lot worse.
An Australian research group recommends avoiding this herb as a natural hangover remedy because of this reason.
Although it may seem like the obvious solution to your hangover woes, caffeine will only make matters worse.
Some people take caffeine after drinking in the hope that it increases alcohol clearance from your system. However, caffeine has no effect on the metabolism of alcohol.
In addition, caffeine is a diuretic which means that it makes you more dehydrated.
Furthermore, as a stimulant, caffeine will only worsen hangover related shakes, high heart rate, and sweating.
So overall, caffeine’s negative impacts far outweigh any benefits.
Anything else to consider
When it comes to hangovers, prevention is always the priority.
Sticking to the basics by drinking plenty of water and having a meal before going out will go a long way in reducing your hangovers the day after.
If you’re planning on going out to get wasted, nothing much will really help.
Conclusion – Final words
That brings us to the end of our look into the best natural hangover cures.
We’ve examined the current research which has shown some promising results for ingredients such as DHM, prickly pear and ginger.
It’s important to reiterate that the studies carried out so far are very small and few in numbers. We still need a lot more research into this area.
That being said, there are many people who use these natural ingredients and see a real difference in their hangover severity.
Nowadays you’ll find an array of hangover supplements which contain most, if not all of the ingredients mentioned in this article.
You can find out more by following the link below.