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A Cure for the Common Hangover

In this season of being merry, there may be a morning or two when you've woken up, cracked one eye open, and then heard the thunderous roar of Christmas bells ringing -- in your head. Ding, dong, ding. What's done is done and we're not here to lecture, we're here to help.
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Frank Sinatra once said, "I feel sorry for people who don't drink. They wake up in the morning and that's as good as they're going to feel all day."

In this season full of eating, drinking and being merry, there may be a morning or two when you've woken up, cracked one eye open, and then heard the thunderous roar of Christmas bells ringing -- in your head. Ding, dong, ding. And while you count the minutes 'til 3 p.m., when the worst of your vodka flu will be behind you, you vow you will never touch another drop again. Until New Year's Eve. But then that's it.

If wine dates back to at least 7000 BC ancient Mesopotamia, why, in the name of Bacchus, hasn't someone found a way to train that infernal dog from biting you?

Well, you could argue you bit yourself, and you should of had a glass of water and maybe something to eat for every glass of hooch, but what's done is done and we're not here to lecture, we're here to help.

Speaking of which, some will say the only way to shake it off is the hair of the dog, leading to the ever-so-popular Bloody Caesars (or Bloody Marys) with breakfast. Tasty yes, but for some, including yours truly, it is physically impossible to drink more when already suffering from too much of a good thing.

It is important to note that wicked hangovers are arguably the least damaging of what too much alcohol can do; studies have linked booze to a host of scary maladies including increased risk of cancer, strokes and liver damage. But again, we're just talking about your garden variety -- maybe even extreme -- hangover, and offering some ways to help make it through the foggy, painful day.

Recently, there was a story about a bunch of gents who travelled to New Orleans for some sort of boys' weekend. Conveniently, these boys were also doctors and remembered to bring along a pill that would cure hangovers faster than you can say "tequila shot."

Now being well aware that some pharmaceuticals available in the U.S. are not available here and vice-versa, we gave our family doc a call to find out the dirt.

"I can't think of anything prescription-wise," said Dr. Tammy Hermant, a Toronto-based practitioner and head of the MidTown Health & Wellness clinic. "Aside from something like Gravol or Tylenol... you'd be treating those symptoms like dehydration or stomach upset, I can't think of anything specifically that's used for a hangover."

And while an ibuprofen may ease the headache, Hermant warns it may not be the best option.

"It's absorbed in the stomach, so it can irritate the stomach lining."

However, there is a possibility Mother Nature may be able to lend a hand. Lately we've been hearing rumblings about the possibilities of the natural remedy milk thistle leading the charge in the war against hangovers.

As a natural way to help the liver process and eliminate toxins, it may help fight ill effects of over-imbibing.

"Yes milk thistle is [liver]-protective but it isn't the type of thing that you can take one dose and expect to have benefits," says Maggie Amos, a Toronto naturopath.

"It needs to build in your system and takes at least seven days. So do you really want to take something for seven days just to maybe help with an upcoming hangover?"

Instead, Amos suggests the homeopathic Nux Vomica -- which may have a dual role this holiday season.

"Colubrina (Nux Vomica) is a homeopathic remedy that is typically prescribed for over indulgence, whether it be over-eating or drinking in excess!"

Nux Vomica is derived from the poisonous Strychnine tree, found in South East Asia, and was reportedly widely used as medicine before World War II. It is used as a natural way to treat a slew of ailments including nausea, headache, vomiting and even heartburn.

(Of course, you all know to never self-medicate, as it could be very dangerous depending on your health, but we need to say it: Natural or otherwise, always consult a physician before taking any sort of drug).

If drugs aren't your thing, but you're still craving comfort in Mother Nature's arms, consider a shot of pickle juice. We can't think of anything that would turn our stomachs faster in that fragile state, but Eastern Europeans look to the briney fluid to get them back in ship-shape. We have a friend who turned to it one particularly tough morning and she says she stopped throwing up and her headache went away.

But whether you seek natural assistance, pharmaceutical reinforcements, or simply walk it off, make sure you sleep in, and drink lots of water or sports drinks to replace lost electrolytes and then come join us at the greasy spoon for a communal feast of fat and salt. Because with hangovers, as in life, misery loves company.