Alcohol hangovers account for an estimated $3.5 billion in lost wages each year in Britain, mostly due to absence from work. A hangover can lead to impaired memory, poor coordination, lightheadedness, nausea, and concentration difficulties. The exact cause of hangovers is poorly understood, but there are numerous “hangover cures” marketed on the Internet.

In the December 24-31, 2005 issue of the British Medical Journal , researchers looked at research on the effectiveness of hangover cures, but did not find compelling evidence that an effective cure exists.

About the Study

After completing a comprehensive search for scientific literature on hangover cures, the researchers of this study found eight randomized trials testing medical interventions for preventing or treating an alcohol hangover. The trials each investigated different agents and supplements, including borage, artichoke, prickly pear, a yeast-based preparation, tropisetron, propanolol, tolfenamic acid, and table sugar.

The study on borage found a significant reduction in hangover severity, headache, laziness, and tiredness in people who took borage compared with those who took a placebo. In the yeast-based preparation trial, the preparation was associated with significant reductions in discomfort, restlessness, and impatience after consuming alcohol. When testing the effects of tolfenamic acid in participants who had consumed alcohol, researchers found that headache, nausea, vomiting, thirst, dry mouth, tremor, and irritation were significantly reduced compared to participants taking a placebo. Studies investigating the other agents and supplements did not find beneficial effects.

How Does This Affect You?

So should you take borage, a yeast-based preparation, or tolfenamic acid the next time you overindulge? Not necessarily. The number of trials testing the effects of hangover remedies is severely limited, and the beneficial effects associated with these remedies were only reported in a single trial, most of which had a small sample size and study design flaws.

Why is the evidence on hangover cures so limited? There are ethical concerns associated with this type of research, since alleviation of hangover symptoms may lead to increased alcohol intake. Until more evidence is available, the only surefire way to avoid the symptoms associated with a hangover is to moderate your reverie the night before.