bloody mary2

In excess – 10 ways to treat your hangover

Many of us enjoy a wee drink at the weekend – a dram, a lager, or a wee vodka.

Banish the pain and nausea of a heavy night on the lash with these good, not so good and downright weird hangover cures!

1. The older the better

For the ancient Greeks it was sheep lungs, the Romans believed that deep fried canaries would do the trick and the Assyrians swore by a potion made from the beaks of two birds and oil from the wood of the myrrh tree. Medieval Englanders swallowed a paste of bitter almonds and eels, whilst the Scots favoured the Highland Fling – hot buttermilk, corn flour, salt and pepper. In the American Wild West, tea made with rabbit droppings was a common remedy and English chimney sweeps ate ground soot to calm their stomachs after a night on the tiles.

2. The drugs might work

For many of the overly hungover, the medicine cabinet is the first port of call. A number of over-the-counter drugs can alleviate some of the side-effects of a heavy session: aspirin, ibuprofen, alka seltzer and berocca are just a few. Apparently during the Cold War the Russian Academy of Sciences spent 25 years researching and developing a ‘miracle’ drug called RU-21, for KGB agents who wanted to stay sober while getting their contacts drunk. It failed but is by all accounts an effective hangover cure.

3. Hair of the dog

This rather dubious hangover remedy refers to the Elizabethan method of treating dog bites, in which the hair of the animal in question was eaten by victims. Famous alcoholic pick-me-ups include the Bloody Mary (vodka, tomato juice and spices or flavourings), Black Velvet (equal parts champagne and fl at Guinness), and the Savoy Corpse Reviver (brandy, fernet branca and crème de menthe). Ernest Hemingway swore by a concoction of tomato juice and beer. This remedy might not work but it’s a sure fi re way of keeping the party going.

4. Food for thought

Eating increases the metabolism, allowing the toxins produced by alcohol to be broken down more rapidly, so it’s no surprise that food features prominently as a hangover cure across the world. What constitutes good hangover food varies considerably from country to country. For Australians it’s vegemite on toast, the Germans go for sour herring, whilst the Japanese consume pickled plums. Even less appetising are the Romanian remedy of tripe and the Mongolian pick-me up of pickled sheep eyes in tomato sauce. These are nothing, however, compared to Italy’s secret to a clear head: dried bull penis.

5. The full British

For many, the full English or Scottish fry-up is the hangover cure par excellence – with the bacon sandwich having similar properties. For any carnivore who has had a heavy night on the randan and who is confident they won’t vomit, the greasy fried breakfast is a tried and tested classic. Served with a cup of sweet tea, it might not actually help alleviate any of your symptoms but it’s the perfect excuse to indulge in a guilt-free calorie jamboree.

6. Made from girders

Many doctors stress the importance of staying away from fizzy drinks after an alcohol-fuelled evening because the carbon dioxide speeds up the absorption of alcohol into the bloodstream. However, the iconic Scottish drink, Irn Bru, is different. The Oxford Companion to Food calls it ‘important for its symbolic value as well as its refreshing qualities’ and highlights its value as a great hangover cure. Scottish butchers have also created what could be the daddy of hangover cures: the Irn Bru square sausage.

7. Prevention can be as good as cure

If you can accept beforehand that you are not going to ‘take it easy this time’, then there are a number of ways in which you can lessen the effects of your alcoholic excess. Drinking plenty of water both before and during the session will certainly help, and a pint of water before going to bed is also sensible. Of course drinking water takes up space for alcohol, so the Puerto Ricans have devised another preventative measure: they rub slices of lemon under their armpits prior to a drinking session.

8. The weird and wonderful

Some of the strangest hangover cures involve rituals. In Haiti, for example, they stick 13 black-headed pins into the cork of the bottle that caused the damage, which is fine as long as you didn’t drink a bottle of lager or a screw top wine. In Ireland, it is thought that burying the hungover individual up to their neck in a sandy riverbank will help. It would certainly take their mind off a mild headache.

9. Hangover-easy

Scientists believe one food in particular might be the key to curing hangovers: the humble egg. Egg yolk contains a substance that breaks down the toxin that creates the feeling of nausea, which is perhaps why a number of hangover cures involve eggs. The Romans used to eat owl eggs, whilst the prairie oyster, for example, also includes raw egg, Worcestershire sauce and Tabasco. In 1894, after a particularly heavy night, New York socialite Lemuel Benedict asked the kitchen at the Waldorf Astoria hotel to produce ‘some buttered toast, crisp bacon, two poached eggs, and a hooker of hollandaise sauce’, now known as eggs Benedict.

10. Let’s get physical

The last thing most people want to after a night of excess is to engage in physical activity but oxygen increases the metabolism, helping to break down toxins more quickly. An old scuba diving trick to clear the head is to take a few blasts of oxygen from the air tanks. So there may be some method in the madness of Edinburgh’s New Year’s Day loony dookers then – though a long walk would surely suffice. Several cultures also suggest a bout of slap and tickle with your spouse or partner as a hangover cure-all (although if you’ve said or did something you shouldn’t when you were drunk, see 1-9).