Ever since the invention of alcohol, humans have been searching for ways to ease the pain that comes with drinking too much of it. And to this day, just about everyone has a go-to hangover “cure,” which could be anything from some hair of the dog, to a big, greasy meal to a sauna session. But now, companies are encouraging drinkers to abandon these homespun methods and embrace new products that specifically target hangovers.
From pills you swallow before a night out drinking to an Alka-Seltzer-like tablet you drop into water the morning after, each of these products comes with some hefty claims. For instance, Flyby, a pill containing everything from milk thistle to dihydromyricetin, says it’s “formulated to support liver function, replenish nutrients and metabolize toxins like acetaldehyde—so you wake up feeling better.” Then there’s Never Too Hungover, which claims to be the “most effective way to help prevent or recover from hangovers—or simply get a healthy energy, electrolyte, and multivitamin boost.”
The latest product to garner media attention is SunUp, a patent-pending citrus-flavored powder, which claims to “increase enzymes in the liver.” It was created by a Yale duo who, through Indiegogo, raised more than double the $20,000 they needed to manufacture a first run of the product. Drinkers are meant to mix it with water and slam it down before they hit the bars to help prime their body with “essential nutrients to combat alcohol toxicity.”
These companies certainly aren’t the only ones offering consumers relief from alcohol’s nasty effects. And while we’d be the first to celebrate a miracle hangover cure, popping a pill before a night out just seems too good to be true—and, according to one expert, that’s almost certainly the case.
“There’s no good evidence to support any of this,” says Majid Afshar, M.D., M.S.C.R., assistant professor at Loyola University Chicago in the Alcohol Research Program and Public Health Sciences. “These [products] are no different than someone who believes in alternative medicine or herbal remedies, and may want to try things based on anecdotal experience—but there’s no scientific evidence to support it.”
Dr. Afshar explains that the scientific community is still trying to understand how to quantify “hangover” and what, exactly, causes one. “Before we can even get to a place where we can say that there are interventions or therapies that work to reduce a hangover, we need to first understand how to measure a hangover,” he says.
Part of the difficulty in measuring a “hangover”—not to mention finding a remedy—is that the term “hangover” means different things to different people. For some, it’s a bad headache and a general lousy feeling that may go away after a few hours. For others, it can be more severe and cause symptoms like vomiting.
While the scientific community may still not know how to define a hangover, it is certain about the long-term effects alcohol has on the body—and that’s one of the biggest reasons Dr. Afshar is wary of these hangover “cures” and “drinking supplements.”
“To say that there’s an all-encompassing pill that can address all these variations is far-fetched,” says Dr. Afshar, adding that, more than anything, he thinks these products are likely to embolden drinkers to feel like they can drink more—and more often. “At the end of the day I’d say these companies are posing major ethical risks because they’re trying to condone a practice that we know is unhealthy and leads to poor health outcomes in the long term.”
And while he says a hangover remedy is too good to be true (womp, womp), he does offer this piece of wisdom: “What it all comes down to is reducing the amount of alcohol in our system and staying hydrated,” he says. “There’s nothing much more [you can do] than [take] aspirin the next day and drink plenty of water the night before.”
So, the next time you’re tempted to reach for one of these “miracle” products to prevent or cure a wicked hangover, consider downing a gallon of water instead and sticking to your usual bacon, egg and cheese.