Original Publish Date 03/17/2000
Alcohol is a strong toxin to both the liver and the nervous system, and it irritates the upper digestive tract and urinary system as well. The morning after a binge, you also feel the effects of dehydration. It certainly seems that everyone has a cure for a hangover: Sailors claim saltwater is the antidote; the Egyptians ate boiled cabbage as a preventive; today, many folks claim it’s the hair of the dog that’ll stop the hammering. Believe what you will.
I probably don’t need to say that moderation is the best way to avoid hangovers. It makes sense to imbibe as much water as possible while you’re drinking alcohol, to avoid dehydration. Taking aspirin before drinking, though popular, doesn’t help. The best and only sure-fire remedy is time: As your body metabolizes the toxic overdose, symptoms subside. If you have access to pure oxygen in a canister you can try inhaling some to see if it speeds recovery, but I doubt this is practical for most people. I recommend taking a B-complex vitamin supplement plus extra thiamin (100 mgs) to counter the B-vitamin depletion caused by alcohol. But I really don’t know of any hangover treatment that works as well as putting time between yourself and the night before.
Be aware that you should pick your poison wisely. Since alcohol is exempt from most labeling requirements, it may contain additives that can trigger asthma, migraines, and other reactions. Whenever possible, choose quality brands. The extra money you pour out for a premium cocktail may tax your wallet, but your liver will thank you.
Some distilled beverages are rich in substances called congeners, toxic impurities that can greatly add to your woes. Bourbon, rum, and cognac are particularly dirty. Champagne and some sweet wines are also notorious causes of hangovers. Vodka, being just pure alcohol and water, is the cleanest. It’s always a good idea to pace yourself, and to eat if you have more than a drink or two.
My drink of choice is sake, which seems pretty clean to me. I don’t get a hangover from it, even when I drink more than normal. Kampai!
Andrew Weil, M.D