There’s nothing like a hangover to take away the previous night’s afterglow. It’s a sort of instant karma that always comes calling for its’ due. Fortunately, there are several safe and effective hangover supplements that can help.
Hangovers can be characterized by a number of symptoms such as headaches, fatigue, nausea, and increased anxiety. The following natural compounds have scientific support as natural hangover cures:
- N-Acetyl Cysteine
- Milk Thistle
- B Vitamins
- Dihydromyricetin (DHM)
- Vitamin C
As common as hangovers are they aren’t well-defined. Individual factors such as genes, dietary state, and even lifestyle habits dictate how one might respond to large doses of alcohol. For example, certain genes may reduce the rate at which the liver clears away alcohol. There’s no herb or supplement for that.
Fighting off a hangover is about symptom management. For this article, I’m using the list of hangover symptoms outlined by Doctors Robert Swift and Dena Davidson in their 1998 paper titled Alcohol Hangovers: Mechanisms and Mediators which are as follows:
|Constitutional||Fatigue, weakness, and thirst|
|Pain||Headache and muscle aches|
|Digestive||Nausea, vomiting, and stomach pain|
|Sleep||Decreased sleep quality, particularly REM sleep|
|Sensory||Vertigo and sensitivity to light and sound|
|Cognitive||Decreased attention and concentration|
|Mood||Depression, anxiety, and irritability|
|Physical Tension||Tremors, sweating, and increased heart rate/blood pressure|
Hangover Supplements & Herbs
Below you’ll find a list of natural herbs and supplements all of which have scientific support for helping address the symptoms listed above. I’ll make no claims as to which might be the best natural hangover cure or wager a guess as to the effect of combining different compounds. You should ask your doctor about that.
N-Acetyl Cysteine (NAC)
This is an amino acid supplement that serves as a precursor to glutathione—the body’s most abundant antioxidant. NAC also scarfs up free radicals which can help reduce hangover-related inflammation.
NAC is often taken with Vitamin E and Vitamin A to maximize its free-radical lowering action. NAC is considered a general detox supporting supplement. Animal studies have shown promise for NAC being used to lessen hangover symptoms (R). Early clinical trials in humans have not confirmed these results (R).
NAC might help reduce inflammation-related symptoms directly, but its real contribution is supporting detox in general. It’s like the Swiss Army Knife of detox support.
Alternatively, a reduced glutathione supplement may also provide hangover support similar to NAC. My personal experience has been more favorable towards Glutathione supplements than NAC.
This herb is sold as a liver support aid and contains the active compound silibin (a.k.a. silybinin). In Europe, it’s registered as a clinically-approved treatment for liver toxicity resulting from poisoning. Alcohol might be tons of fun but it is a poison.
Milk Thistle is so effective at supporting the liver that clinical trials are underway to investigate its ability to treat poisoning from certain deadly mushrooms (R).
Milk thistle is available as a liquid tincture, capsules, or even tea. Dosage for milk thistle isn’t well established. Human studies commonly report ranges of 10-50 mg/kg body weight per day. That’s as high as 3,100 mg for a person weighing 150 pounds. Many Milk Thistle supplements come in doses of 150mg capsules.
B12 is one of the most essential nutrients out there—supporting new cell formation, DNA health, brain health, and proper nerve functioning. It also helps detoxify the body by removing homocysteine—a biomarker used to predict higher risk of certain diseases, especially alcoholism.
Higher Vitamin B12 levels have been associated with lower levels of homocysteine in alcoholics (R) though other studies have failed to observe this connection in non-alcoholics (R).
Homocysteine gets quickly converted into other compounds in the body. These conversions rely on Vitamins B12, B6, and B9—a deficiency in one possibly contributing to higher levels of homocysteine.
Studies have also shown that Vitamin B3 (as nicotinic acid) helps reduce hangover severity (R). This was observed when higher levels of B3 were present before drinking suggesting that a B3 supplement should be taken before drinking to help avoid a hangover.
Here comes the first curveball: certain probiotics might help detox the nasty stuff leftover from drinking all night. Research has shown Lactobacillus Rhamnosus may help lower levels of certain alcohol-poisoning chemicals in the digestive tract and liver (R) as well as lowering the negative effects of leaky gut syndrome.
That last bit might seem a bit random, but human studies have shown that alcohol abuse causes leaky gut syndrome albeit only temporarily (R). Leaky gut syndrome, characterized by the digestive tract letting in larger-than-normal compounds, can cause symptoms ranging from brain fog to arthritis (R).
Probiotics such as Lactobacillus Rhamnosus GG have been found effective in helping treat symptoms of leaky gut in chronic situations. I believe it’s reasonable to think it could be effective in treating temporary leaky gut issues resulting from heavy alcohol consumption. I’ve not seen any research specific to that use.
This compound might be hard to pronounce but it’s one of the best natural hangover cures out there. DHM is a natural compound extracted from the Japanese Raisin Tree and has been used to treat hangovers throughout human history.
Animal studies have shown DHM to lower the effects of alcohol and as well as hangover symptoms such as anxiety and brain fog (R). Other research, among both animals and human models, have shown DHM to provide the following benefits (R):
- Free Radical Scavenger
- Lower Inflammation
- Learning & Memory Support
- Improved Collagen Production
- Stabilized Blood Sugar Levels
Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant that’s shown great benefit in lowering inflammation, improving collagen synthesis, supporting normal energy levels, and even killing certain cancers in high doses (R).
Vitamin C also helps metabolize alcohol which may help lessen the inebriation of alcohol as well as the negative symptoms of a resulting hangover. One small study found that when Vitamin C was taken while drinking, alcohol was metabolized significantly faster (R).
That same study also found that Vitamin C helped improve motor function and coordination during drinking but had no benefit on cognitive ability. In other words; Vitamin C might help you walk a straight line but it won’t help you recite the alphabet backward.
The supplements listed here all have some degree of scientific support for helping make a hangover less intense. Some have direct evidence while some are more indirect. Some should be taken before drinking, some during, and others after.
It’s important to research what form of supplements you take. Some supplements, such as Vitamin B6, may actually cause symptoms to worsen if the wrong form is taken. Not all supplements are high risk for this, but it never hurts to do your due diligence before trying a new compound.
It’s important to recognize that everyone is likely to respond differently to nutritional therapies. It’s a good idea to talk with your doctor before taking any new supplements. Also, it’s crucial to only buy supplements from trustworthy brands to ensure you’re getting a pure and potent product. Otherwise, you may as well just be taking cellulose powder and crossing your fingers.