Can vitamin C, coffee or 'hair of the dog' really help a hangover? Dr Sarah Jarvis tells us which hangover cures work and which ones we should avoid.
While no-one would recommend drinking to excess, chances are that we've all had times when we've had a little bit too much to drink. The symtoms of a hangover are easy to spot - tiredness, thirst, nausea and a pounding headache - and are unpleasant enough to make you desperate for a quick-fix cure. But does such a thing exist? We asked Dr Sarah Jarvis, a medical advisor to Drinkaware, to tell us what makes a hangover worse, what might make it better, and what has no effect at all.
Does mixing drinks make a hangover worse?
Possibly, but largely because you are more likely to underestimate your intake and therefore may drink more. All alcohol can cause hangovers, but dark drinks (such as port or dark spirits) tend to be the worst offenders because they contain congeners (chemicals which contribute to their taste and colour). Mixing drinks means you’re more likely to have drinks containing congeners.
Does taking a painkiller before bed help a hangover?
Probably not – most painkillers only work for a few hours, so their effect is likely to have worn off by the morning.
Does eating before bed absorb the alcohol and help a hangover?
No – by the time you get to bed, the alcohol will have left your stomach and been absorbed into your bloodstream, so it’s too late to have any effect on absorbing alcohol. Aim to eat before drinking (and drink in moderation) instead.
Does a morning drink (‘hair of the dog’) help a hangover?
Categorically not. It may conceivably postpone the inevitable hangover, but it's likely to be worse when you do get it.
Does taking vitamin C help a hangover?
No – there is absolutely no evidence for this. The celebrities seen having intravenous infusions of vitamins and minerals to prevent or treat hangovers are kidding themselves and wasting their money!
Does coffee help a hangover?
Possibly slightly. Hangovers are caused by a combination of your body having been hit with a dose of toxin (alcohol), the effect of congeners, lack of quality sleep (your body’s sleep rhythm is disturbed by alcohol so you’re likely to wake early, having had poor quality sleep) and dehydration. In moderate quantities, coffee can help to rehydrate you. Caffeine can also raise your levels of alertness, but it won’t help with other aspects of the hangover.
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Despite our best intentions, many of us get carried away every now and then. If you’re feeling a little worse for wear read our guide to easing the effects of alcohol the morning after.
This article was last reviewed on 21st November 2018 by Dr Sarah Jarvis.
Dr Sarah Jarvis is a general practitioner working in Shepherd's Bush, London, England, and she also works in the mass media to promote health. She was educated at Millfield and qualified as a medical doctor in July 1986 from University of Oxford. She is the health and medical reporter for The One Show and is a medical advisor to Drinkaware.
All health content on bbcgoodfood.com is provided for general information only, and should not be treated as a substitute for the medical advice of your own doctor or any other health care professional. If you have any concerns about your general health, you should contact your local health care provider. See our website terms and conditions for more information.
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