Historically, hangovers have led the recently boozy to ingest some vile things: Cowboys slurped down rabbit poop and Victorian-era Brits drank soot. Our willingness to swallow literal waste has waned slightly, but willingness to ingest just about anything to make the pain stop has not. As the hangover remedy industry continues to invent new treatments, the drunk public — predictably perhaps — continues to go for it.
The reality is, the throbbing headache and systemic malaise following a night of boozing aren’t going to be eased by adding substances to your body; what it really comes down to is getting toxic compounds out. Ethanol’s toxic byproducts — like acetaldehyde and methanol — pooling in our bloodstreams, are the real wellspring of morning-after distress, according to the British Medical Journal. No magic chemical, as far as we know, can flush them out. Still that doesn’t mean we haven’t tried to find — or fabricate — one. Here are six commercial hangover cures, ranked from dumb to most dumb.
If the juice from young coconuts were as restorative as Rihanna’s luminous form makes them seem, hangovers wouldn’t exist in the tropics, where coconut water is ubiquitous. And yet partygoers and locals in the Caribbean and South East Asia wake up, inevitably, face down and pasty-mouthed on beaches wherever coconut palms grow. The idea is that the antioxidants packed into coconut water replace those lost as the body cleans up the destruction caused by booze-induced oxidative stress, while the water’s natural electrolytes, like potassium, replace those lost while pissing out last night’s flight of beers. It probably doesn’t hurt to replenish your body’s ability to dispatch damage control, but the antioxidants in coconut water probably aren’t clearing toxins out immediately. If coconut water is actually helping, it’s because drinking enough of it — like any liquid — flushes alcohol’s metabolites out the natural way.
Pharrell and Miley Cyrus swear by Pedialyte, which is essentially Gatorade for babies who crap out their electrolytes — that is, salts — during bouts of diarrhea. An estimated one-third of all bottles are sold to adults, the company reports. With an ingredient list including potassium citrate, sodium citrate, and acesulfame potassium, Pedialyte is essentially a primary-colored synthetic version of coconut water, artificially sweetened to undrinkablity.
“Berocca puts back what a hectic lifestyle takes away,” a Roche ad claimed in 2005. The fizzy European hangover killer has been around for decades, but it only appeared stateside in 2014. The tablets, like orange-flavored Alka-Seltzers, are packed with B vitamins, calcium, and other minerals lost over a night of drinking. Vitamin B and its derivatives, in particular, are thought to be essential to the brain and central nervous system. It probably won’t hurt to have them in your system, but they won’t do anything to flush out the hurt, either.
A drink called Hut-gae Condition has been curing South Korean hangovers since the 1970s (and there have been many — the country has the highest per capita booze consumption rate in Asia), even making a cameo in the video for the Psy-Snoop Dogg collab “Hangover.” Hut-Gae Condition started off with a blend of 15 percent raisin tree fruit juice, but the most recent upgrade increased the amount of juice to 30 percent. It’s also got a blend of lotus extract, a thing called milk vetch root, and glutathione, an antioxidant that’s thought to detoxify the liver. There’s one study, published in the Journal of Medicinal Food by a team of South Korean scientists (seriously, the hangover industry is worth some $126 million annually), suggesting that glutathione-enriched yeast could decrease the amount of acetaldehyde and alcohol in the liver — but only slightly, and only in rats.
Hangover Ice Cream
Last month, a chain of South Korean convenience stores announced the introduction of the Gyeondyo-bar, a grapefruit-flavored ice cream bar which name translates, roughly, to “hang in there.” The salvation-promising dessert contains a small amount of juice from the oriental raisin tree fruit — Hovenia dulcis — which has been used traditionally in Japanese, Chinese, and Korean medicine as a hangover treatment, but there isn’t much science to back it up. Only a single science paper, published in 2012 in the Journal of Neuroscience, has shown its active ingredient, dihydromyricetin, could reduce the effects of drunkenness — but again, only slightly. And only in rats.
Bytox Hangover Prevention Patch
Like a nicotine patch for heavy drinkers, this vitamin-packed stick-on developed by Dr. Leonard Grossman, a plastic and reconstructive surgeon, is meant to deliver a slow trickle of essential nutrients — like vitamins A, B, D, E, and K, together with folic acid — to the bloodstream over the course of several hours. Imbibing vitamins, Grossman argues, is a waste because they’re excreted too quickly to be useful. That’s fair. But stating that “The loss of these nutrients adversely affects the central nervous system, which creates the condition we all know as the ‘the hangover’”? Sorry Lenny, but that’s straight-up wrong.