I Tested and Ranked the 20 Best Hangover Cures
Alcohol: It makes conversation easier, urination more frequent, and reading much, much more difficult. That last point might hit particularly hard for the people who came here via frantically Googling "How Do I Cure a Hangover" either the night of or the morning after. Well the bad news is that there's no magic bullet, no panacea pill, no mystery herb that can retroactively erase your consumption.
The good news? There are at least 20 ways to help massage a headbanger of a hangover into a whisper of an ailment. Below, I take them all for a hazy-eyed test drive (in the name of science!). For a full conversation on hangovers, drinking, and decision-making in general, you can check out this episode of Thrillist's Best (and the Rest) podcast.
And if you are incredibly impatient (or really, really hurting) you can skip to the end of the article for my patented four-step H.E.A.L.™ Hangover Cure system. It's saved my life on more than one occasion. Hopefully it can do the same for you.
20. Drinking more
Why is "hair of the dog" occupying the bottom slot on this list? It's not so much a hangover cure as a hangover delayer. It doesn't help to fix your ailments, it just prolongs the suffering by keeping you inebriated. But if you have the time, power, money, and gag reflex to just keep drinking for the rest of your life so you never get hungover (a method colloquially known as "the Keith Richards") I guess that makes it an effective method? And more power to you. Some of us just have careers, families, and stomach linings to worry about…
19. Rubbing a slice of lemon under your armpit
My friend who hails from D.R. gave me the skinny on this traditional Caribbean hangover prevention: Before drinking, you rub a lemon in the armpit of your "drinking arm" (the arm you hold your drinks with). While this method obviously did not work, it did give my right pit a distinct citrus musk, like I used a bottle of Pledge as deodorant. But yeah this definitely did not work, and he might have been playing a trick on me. Either way, it kind of stung. This is the absolute last time I rub fruit in my armpits. Hopefully.
If I don't drink coffee in the morning -- whether I'm hungover or not -- I don't really feel normal. So yeah, it made me feel better. But that doesn't make it a hangover "cure," per se, it just means my body is semi-addicted to caffeine (a problem in its own right). In reality, the coffee I'm drinking when my body is drying out from a night of whiskey shots and tequila lollipops with real worms inside is probably just making me more dehydrated, which only pokes the slumbering hangover bear slaughtering my insides. Look, I'm not telling you to not drink coffee when you're hungover. It legit might make you feel better if that's normally the coal that makes your train roll. I'm just telling you it might make your hangover worse.
17. Pickle juice
Sure, your grandpa (and Dr. Oz, who pretty much has the medical authority and acumen of your average grandpa) swears by pickle juice and its electrolyte-boosting salts for the morning after. But he neglects the obvious problem: When you're already miserable, the last thing you want to do is chug a half-pint of pickle juice while fighting spurts of dry heaves. If there's one thing that tastes worse than pickle juice going down, it's pickle juice coming back up.
16. Coconut water
See above, replace "pickle juice" with "carton of Satan's urine cut with 40-year-old hamster milk." Also, I hate coconut water.
15. Activated charcoal
The science behind using activated charcoal to battle the morning weirds asserts that charcoal will "suck" the toxins out of your stomach, effectively absorbing the alcohol and giving your gut a clean slate. This did not happen for me. The only thing the charcoal "activated" was my debit card and a four-minute conversation with the meathead at GNC who sagely advised me to avoid hangovers by pairing every drink with a Red Bull. But it gets some credit for at least not making things worse. It's like having Mark Sanchez on your team as a third-string QB: no harm done.
Another cure that old-timers tout relentlessly, Alka-Seltzer apparently will neutralize the stomach acid churning in the depths of your stomach. And yeah, it kind of did. So right now we're moving into the "cures" that actually do help. But the problem here is that Alka-Seltzer only neutralizes one aspect of your hangover. It doesn't deal with the headaches, the fatigue, or the crushing sense of dreadful guilt. So it's kind of one-dimensional and cannot rise any higher on this list. Though the fizzling sound is nice.
13. Pedialyte and/or Gatorade
For those without children or drinking issues, Pedialyte is like supercharged Gatorade for babies. It's filled to the brim with electrolytes, and over the years has developed a reputation as a hangover cure, much to the delight of its marketing department. And while it did give me a boost of energy -- my electrolytes were tingling! -- other specialty products do the same with less (more on those later) while not making you feel like an 8-year-old with a tummy ache. I prefer Gatorade -- Pedialytes sporty older brother -- personally.
Like Pedialyte, Advil -- while a valid, supplemental way to help bury a hangover -- cannot do the job on its own sugar-coated volition. It will help with your head and to quell that whole "hey, did I get hit by an Amtrak train last night, by any chance?" achy feeling -- but cure your hangover it will not. Even when dipped in ranch.
This is something I do personally the morning after a particularly raucous mixer. I'm not sure if this is more of a nostalgia-fueled, conditioned placebo effect, but the Coke genuinely seems to settle my stomach, give me the perfect concentrated dose of caffeine, and improve my mood. It also helps if you can find a can with your name on it, as some unspoken moral support.
Speaking of puking (a phrase you almost never want to hear), upchucking definitely will help assuage many of your symptoms -- particularly nausea. Its ruthless effectiveness at doing so can't be understated. However, having the contents of your stomach come out of your mouth is pretty damn unpleasant. So if you're the kind of person that just wants to bite the bullet and/or rip off the BAND-AID, this might be your method of choice. If you prefer to keep your bile inside your stomach, try something else.
9. Pho/ramen/chicken noodle soup
I believe that food is the best medicine for almost everything -- despite that time I had to be hospitalized for three months after trying to treat my appendicitis with Pop-Tarts. A hot bowl of soup after a rough night can often be the ideal solution to your hangover woes. The mix of sodium, broth, and noodles is like a culinary hangover panacea, but therein lies the problem: You have to eat it. Some people simply cannot eat when they are hungover. Soups tend to be pungent meals that can be hard to stomach when your insides are walking a tightrope. While it worked for me, I had to recognize that occasionally my hangovers come accompanied by a tornado of stomachaches and nausea that would simply leave this solution invalid. Also chopsticks and the morning shakes were not exactly made for each other. Ditto for spoons.
These over-the-counter hangover pills and powders are often met with speculation and distrust. I mean, it does seem too good to be true, right? Potions like DripDrop and Drinkwel aren't magic, but they are loaded with vitamins and electrolytes that are designed to get you hydrated fast. They're like doses of supercharged Pedialyte, which in turn is like supercharged Gatorade. These will definitely help with hydration issues like fatigue and headaches, and will generally make you feel better. The only real drawback is that they are hard to find, and will probably require your order them online in anticipation that you will soon be so hungover that you'll need specialty potions to recover -- which kind of makes you question what you are doing with your life. So yeah, your sense of self-worth might take a small dent.
7. Bacon, egg, and cheese sandwich
I really, really wanted this to be higher. I've pretty much sworn by this method since the first time I sipped alcohol, which was obviously on my 21st birthday. Is my brain just pre-wired to respond to the grease-laden combination of the eggs and bacon? Does the bread soak up the booze swirling in my stomach? Does the layer of cheddar awaken endorphins in my spinal cord that fill my body with a crack-like sense of affirmation and goodwill? I'm not sure. But if you are well enough to scarf one of these suckers down, it can't hurt.
6. Smoking weed
- Settles stomach
- Sense of euphoria
- Helps headache
- Increases appetite
- Makes you high (also a pro, but not if you have stuff to do)
- Possibly illegal... but also who cares
5. A shit-ton of water
While this may seem like an obvious solution to dehydration, drinking too much water can end up causing more problems for your body. Namely, filling your gut with a gallon of water, which can lead to vomiting. Hydration is super-important in nursing yourself back to working shape, but there are smarter, more efficient ways to take you there. That being said, it is important to properly hydrate -- and while there are better ways, this is not a bad way, per se. You just have to make sure you don't overdo it. You don't want all that stuff sloshing around inside your body, especially on an empty stomach. That will only make things worse.
4. McVities digestive biscuits
In many ways, I consider this to be my hangover secret weapon. McVities are a British digestive biscuit; they're wholly unoffensive, go down easy, and -- when you crush an entire sleeve before bedtime -- they'll make sure you wake up without a lingering sense of nausea (and dread). They are a simple, elegant biscuit, that aid a simple and elegant solution to one major symptom of the common hangover. They also have a hilarious, very English commercial that's certainly worth a watch... especially whilst hungover.
3. IV drip
I have insider information that over-partying doctors and surgeons have been stringing themselves up to IVs the morning after for decades, and for good reason: This shit definitely gives you a boost. If you don't have a medical degree, outfits like New York's IV Doc will come to your home or office -- nurse in tow -- and deliver a calculated cocktail of vitamins, saline, nausea medication, and more straight into your veins. It's an… odd experience. It literally feels like ice water running through your veins (not in a clutch, Ray Allen type of way, but like you're mainlining a Slurpee) and it's pretty pricey and elaborate. But if you need to quell a hangover MF'ing ASAP because you have a big presentation or are about to be sworn in as a United States senator, this is probably the best way to do it. Unless you are afraid of needles, obviously. Or nurses. Or IV poles.
2. Physical exercise
I ran. I did a bunch of push-ups. I did a shit-ton of sit-ups. And I ran some more. At first, it was a glimpse of hell through rapidly fading beer goggles. Then I turned the corner (as I was turning a corner, actually) and I felt the booze gushing out of my pores -- I mean, along with the sweat. All this exertion led to a lot of water drinking, and I found myself hydrating properly without getting too nauseous. The fresh air helped clear my head. The endorphins that were released told my brain, "Hey, don't feel too bad about what happened last night -- but also remember to ask your doctor about the next available STI screening, OK?"
Huh. I guess treating your body like a temple actually does counteract the aftershocks of treating your body like an amusement park. Who'd have thunk it? Oh right, every single medical professional, scientist, and nervous mother since the beginning of time. I guess we should have been listening all along.
1. H.E.A.L.™ Hangover Cure System
If there's anything I learned from trying all of these cures, it's that one single cure or remedy won't do the trick. You need a multitude of solutions that combine both heavy preparation the night (or day, if you're degenerate!) you are drinking, and a lot of willpower the next day. I believe there is a simple, four-step way to combat a hangover like a goddamn professional drinker. Just remember: H.E.A.L.
Hydrate profusely the night before -- whether that means alternating water with alcohol when you're out, or chugging a bottle of water before going to bed. This is the first, and perhaps most important, part of the system.
Eat something before you go to bed. Like I said way back at No. 4, McVities Digestive Biscuits are my personal go-to, but the choice is yours. Just make sure there is something in your stomach that doesn't rhyme with schmalcohol.
Aerobics, as soon as you wake up! OK this part sucks, but getting up, moving, and getting a sweat going is the only way to suffocate the general malaise of a hangover -- both physical, and metaphysical. Combine with a shower afterwards, and you should start to feel the pangs of the hangover ooze out of your pores. [Note: If you can afford and/or arrange an IV Doc visit, it's a viable substitute.]
Live your life like you aren't hungover. Mind over matter. Fake it, until you make it. If you stay sedentary, and let the hangover define your day, you will not overcome. As someone who has personally been to work hungover hundreds of times (if any of my superiors are reading this... yeah, sorry) I firmly believe this is the only thing that can truly stop a hangover dead in its tracks. Time heals all wounds... including the hangover. Go out there and do your best, kids.
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