Hangovers, congeners and cures

doggie bagIt’s not even January 1 and there’s an article about hangovers! Joan Acocella writes in the New Yorker about the phenomenon that Egyptians call “still drunk,” the Japanese “two days drunk,” the Chinese “drunk overnight” and the Danes “carpenters in the forehead.”

While drinking to excess without a resulting hangover might sound like something technology should have fixed by now (in a world of fat-free desserts, how could they not?), Acocella doesn’t suggest much in the way of a cures. But she does talk about various causes. To wit:

The severity of a hangover depends, of course, on how much you drank the night before, but that is not the only determinant…And what kind of alcohol did you drink? In general, darker drinks, such as red wine and whiskey, have higher levels of congeners—impurities produced by the fermentation process, or added to enhance flavor—than do light-colored drinks such as white wine, gin, and vodka. The greater the congener content, the uglier the morning.

Does that red-white difference ring true for you? What about “natural” winemaking? Partisans of sake often tout its purity and some even go so far to say that it doesn’t give headaches. I’ve never put that to the test.

And as to the cure, she suggests wearing sunglasses and moping around. Just kidding. Folklore often dictates the “hair of the dog.” But I’d steer clear of this morning-after twist from a Ukrainian in the story: “two shots of vodka, then a cigarette, then another shot of vodka.” She counsels to avoid Tylenol since it increases toxicity to the liver. For prevention, she points to advocates of drinking lots of water, a glass of milk or eating a meal prior to drinking. And, of course, consuming alcohol in moderation.

A Few Too Many,” By Joan Acocella, The New Yorker

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10 Responses to “Hangovers, congeners and cures”


  1. “Consuming alcohol in moderation to prevent a hangover.” Brought to you by the creators of the abstinence program in high school. 🙂


  2. This topic reminds me of a cartoon I did a few months ago: http://www.redwinebuzz.com/headache3sml.PNG


  3. In my college/fraternity days, I followed this regimen: an electrolyte-rich drink (Gatorade), a very meaty and fatty meal the day after, a miller lite, and a nap.

    In med school I had a friend who swore by this method: a liter of water, tylenol and an oxygen mask with a low flow rate as he slept.

    I was reluctant to punish my liver anymore with tylenol and felt ibuprofen or aspirin would not be kind on an already irritated stomach.

    I have since become an advocate of moderation and drinking on a full stomach.


  4. 1. I can attest to the fact that sake will leave you with a hangover if you drink enough of it.
    2. ibuprofen and alcohol don’t mix. The label on the ibuprofen bottle specifically warns against the practice since it can put you in the hospital. I think the same is true for tylenol.
    3. the congener theory sounds dubious to me.


  5. Gatorade’s the cure – drink before bed, every time you wake up in the night, and the next morning. And lots of water. Been adding the POM juice the “morning after” lately, to great effect…the placebo effect is a wonderful thing…(http://www.theonion.com/content/node/39082)


  6. Arthur is smart to be cautions about the meds. I know a doctor who swore by taking a stong ibuprofen pill before drinking and proclaimed he never got a hangover or headache. Recently, he went to the EMR and had a lengthy section of his large intestine removed and now excretes through a colostomy. I don’t think Tylenol is a good idea either. Maybe people should sip wine and have a glass of water on hand to alternate between sips. Having lots of food with your beverage is a good idea, too. I’ve also found that going to bed drunk is a bad idea (unless you have company in the same situation). Try to stay awake until you sober up a bit. I speak from experience!


  7. when push comes to shove and that happens more often than one would like, a high quality complex Vitamin B (which is severely depleted from overindulgence) and a banana milk shake (courtesy of Sara Snow) to replace electrolytes, potassium and soothe the stomach is the way to go.

    and while you’re at it, you can indulge in some of my artist picks:

    http://thespiritworld.net/2008/05/08/port-not/


  8. Two words, Milk Thistle. in the words of my Roommate “oh, your liver just needs to dump it’s toxins, here, drink a mouthful of this” and I’ve got to say, I’m not one that usually really into Herbal Remedies, but i felt like a million bucks after about 5 minutes. but then again i also keep a 1 to 1 water to booze ratio when I’m drinking.


  9. i am into herbal remedies and you’re absolutely right about milk thistle but i didn’t think it had such an immediate effect! i figure we should make it a mainstay as a supplement.


  10. Doctor Recommended ‘Smart Shot’ Zaps Alcohol Toxicity, Hangover
    Helps liver naturally flush booze poison 30 times more toxic than alcohol itself

    Cheerz® IntelliShot™, a 1.5 ounce, flavored functional shot/mixer heads off potential hangovers before they start by helping the body to naturally process acetaldehyde, a powerful muscle poison produced as the liver breaks down alcohol believed to be 30 times more toxic than alcohol itself, according to a study by Dr. Victor Preedy of King’s College in London, England.

    Dr. Dirk P. Slaker, a gastroenterologist and hepatologist from the Department of Internal Medicine at St. John’s Mercy Medical Center in St. Louis, says, “Based on my experience as a liver transplant specialist and my anecdotal observations both personally and with family members, as a supplement the Cheerz product has significant beneficial biological effects in assisting the liver in the metabolism of alcohol, and is remarkably effective in reducing the symptomatic effects of alcohol toxicity with responsible social use.”

    “The Cheerz product appeals to me as it specifically targets acetaldehyde metabolism,” says Dr. John Paul Shen of San Diego, California. “There is growing evidence that acetaldehyde is a main cause of hangover symptoms and also Asian flush. In this respect it is completely different from other purported anti-hangover products, many of which are simply activated charcoal or repackaged vitamins. By helping to remove this toxic chemical from the body, Cheerz can alleviate hangover and flushing symptoms.”

    Cheerz works biologically with alcohol metabolism to help slow and reduce the initial conversion of alcohol into acetaldehyde, speed up its conversion into harmless acetic acid, and scavenge unmetabolized acetaldehyde.

    Cheerz IntelliTabs™ are currently available in Las Vegas at major resorts including Wynn and The Palms. The company is negotiating domestic and international distribution to ship the shots to liquor retailers and nightclubs by the end of the year. Cheerz IntelliShot™ and IntelliTabs™ are available online at http://www.CheerzHangover.com.


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