If a hangover is an experience you’re familiar with, then you might have your own go-to hangover cure to try and get yourself back from that painful, zombie-fied state.
However, we have bad news: new research suggests that most of these cures don’t have any solid science behind them.
Through a review of 21 placebo-controlled trials that had previously been carried out on a total of 386 participants, the researchers found the scientific evidence for the effectiveness of any so-called hangover cure was dubious at best.
In particular, the way that these experiments are run and assessed needs to be improved – with a standardized scale used to weigh up hangover symptoms, for example, rather than relying on self-reporting.
“Our study has found that evidence on these hangover remedies is of very low quality and there is a need to provide more rigorous assessment,” says epidemiologist Emmert Roberts, from King’s College London in the UK.
“For now, the surest way of preventing hangover symptoms is to abstain from alcohol or drink in moderation.”
The 21 studies looked at a variety of hangover cures, including clove extract, red ginseng, Korean pear juice – some of which you may have tried at one time or another.
While hangover symptoms did improve in some cases, the methods used to collect and assess data weren’t of a robust enough standard.
None of the supposed remedies was tested in more than one study, and none of the reported results have since been independently replicated. Sampling was another problem, with eight studies involving exclusively male participants.
The researchers also noticed considerable differences across the previous studies in terms of the amount of alcohol consumed, and variations in contributing factors like the amount of food eaten beforehand. Improvements in all of these areas might reveal which hangover cures, if any, are actually effective.
“Numerous remedies make claims to be effective against hangover symptoms with many marketed as hangover ‘cures’,” write the researchers in their published paper. “However up-to-date scientific examination of the literature is lacking.”
While clove extract, tolfenamic acid (a migraine treatment), and vitamin B6-analog pyritinol show the most promise as hangover cures based on this review, the evidence isn’t yet strong enough – and further studies will be required to confirm their effectiveness.
Given our species’ fondness for booze, it’s perhaps not surprising that there’s so much interest in the potential of hangover remedies and even hangover-busting gadgets that promise to quickly reverse the ill effects of one or two drinks too many.
However it’s important to bear in mind the damage that binge drinking can do beyond having a rough time of it the next morning, even down to our essential cognitive processes. Perhaps it’s best that the hangover remains as a warning.
“Hangover symptoms can cause significant distress and affect people’s employment and academic performance,” says Roberts.
“Given the continuing speculation in the media as to which hangover remedies work or not, the question around the effectiveness of substances that claim to treat or prevent a hangover appears to be one with considerable public interest.”
The research has been published in Addiction.