Hangovers have been a part of human history for millennia. As long as alcohol has been consumed, people have sought remedies to alleviate the aftereffects of a night of indulgence. The search for the ultimate hangover cure has led to some intriguing, unconventional, and sometimes bizarre practices from various cultures around the world. In this blog post, we will dive into some of the most intriguing hangover remedies from different corners of the globe and explore their historical significance and potential effectiveness.
Ancient Origins of Hangovers
The desire to alleviate the unpleasant symptoms of a hangover is not a new phenomenon. In the earliest days of fermentation, overripe fruit was mixed with yeasts in the air to create natural alcohols. Sometimes these sweet alcohol sugars actually tricked entire animal species into thinking it was a good source of nutrition, leading to the intoxication of many ancient animals. Humans, however, have historically been more intentional with their intake. As a matter of fact, the Greek cult of Dionysus would worship their wine-loving god by indulging in alcohol excess -- simultaneously scribing the whole thing and giving us the first modern record of a hangover.
Hangover Remedies Over Time
The history of hangovers and their remedies can be divided into two intriguing categories: methods that sound like scary, obscure repellents and elaborate meals that could feed an army. In an ancient Egyptian medical papyrus recently discovered, there was a suggestion to create a garland using the chamaedaphne shrub. The Greeks advised wearing a carefully selected assortment of plants on one's head to prevent drunkenness. Interestingly, many plants associated with the god Dionysus, such as ivy, laurel, and asphodel, were also utilized for medicinal purposes. It is unclear whether the mythology surrounding these plants or their usage for hangover treatment came first. For those uninterested in shrubbery, ancient remedies included casting spells on beers before consuming them or consuming alcohol only after a frog had accidentally drowned in it, although the drinker's involvement in the drowning remains open to interpretation.
Another peculiar remedy involved cabbage. Depending on one's opinion of this sturdy green vegetable, it was either fortunately or unfortunately consumed rather than worn. Many cultures, from the Greeks and Egyptians to more modern times, advocated for cabbage in various forms as a hangover remedy, whether raw or in the form of sauerkraut. For the more adventurous individuals, the Roman philosopher Pliny the Elder suggested consuming raw owl's eggs or fried canary. By the Middle Ages, a popular remedy was to ingest raw eel and bitter almonds.
Although these food remedies have fallen out of favor for hangover relief today, there are other questionable cures that have persisted. For instance, "rollmops" refers to a dish of pickled herring rolled around a savory filling, which likely originated in the Middle Ages but is now part of a balanced hangover breakfast known as "Katerfrühstück." Bravely inclined Scandinavians could turn to "surströmming," a famously pungent canned and fermented herring, considered the world's smelliest food. In Korea, the preferred remedy is "haejangguk," a hangover soup. While it often resembles a beef and vegetable stew, it can also include congealed blood for an extra rejuvenating effect.
One particularly unappetizing hangover remedy involves rabbit dung tea. Modern gardeners suggest steeping bunny droppings in hot water to provide extra nutrients to plants, as it contains nitrogen, potassium, and minerals. However, some American cowboys reportedly thought it would be more beneficial to drink the tea themselves in order to alleviate their hangover pains.
Throughout history, there has been a symbiotic relationship between drinking and eating, especially in the context of restaurants where they are almost inseparable. While some individuals attempting to cure hangovers have created truly repulsive concoctions—perhaps with the intention of inducing regurgitation to expel the remnants of the previous night's excesses—humanity has also transformed the hangover meal into something truly delightful.
The British, in particular, have made significant contributions to the hangover culinary landscape. They invented the notorious full English breakfast, a monstrosity enjoyed in the early morning hours. However, their late-night revelry also led to the emergence of the most important gastronomic creation of the 20th century: brunch. Before "brunch" became synonymous with waiting in line, it started as a hangover remedy. In an 1895 essay titled "Brunch: a Plea," British writer Guy Beringer implored for the invention of this mid-morning meal to "brighten the lives of Saturday-night carousers." Beringer proposed a new meal served around noon, beginning with tea or coffee, marmalade, and other breakfast staples, before progressing to heartier dishes. It was a brilliant idea indeed.
As brunch gained popularity, the variety of foods on the menu expanded. Eels and dung drinks were gladly abandoned in favor of eggs, carbohydrates, and coffee in all their glory. One favorite hangover remedy born from brunch is Eggs Benedict. Humans naturally gravitate toward fatty foods as an energy source, and alcohol can intensify these cravings. A 2004 study discovered a chemical called galanin, which not only increases the desire for fatty foods but is also produced in higher quantities when alcohol is consumed, creating a never-ending cycle of brunching and drinking.
Restaurants today cleverly advertise brunch specials specifically designed to alleviate hangovers. For example, Red Robin introduced a "cure burger" consisting of chili, cheddar, bacon, mushrooms, and a runny egg, served with unlimited fries. Other establishments feature their heaviest and most carb-laden brunch items on a special "hangover menu."
DHM As an Effective Remedy
Throughout history, various cultures, particularly in Asia, have turned to dihydromyricetin (DHM) as a cure for hangovers. DHM, also known as ampelopsin, is an herbal remedy that has been used for centuries. Recent research conducted by the USC School of Pharmacy sheds light on how DHM works and its potential benefits. The study found that DHM activates a series of metabolic changes that aid in the faster metabolization of alcohol, providing relief from headaches and benefiting the liver. These findings highlight the usefulness of DHM as a dietary supplement to alleviate the acute effects of alcohol and mitigate long-term risks, making it an appealing solution for binge drinking, alcoholism, and liver damage.
DHM is derived from the fruit of the Japanese raisin tree and has been traditionally used in China for liver ailments for centuries. Its precise mechanism of action remains unclear, but the study identified several significant effects of DHM. It triggers the liver to produce more enzymes that break down ethanol, enhances the efficiency of these enzymes, reduces lipid accumulation in the liver tissue caused by heavy alcohol consumption, and reduces inflammatory agents that contribute to liver damage. These findings support the idea that DHM acts on multiple pathways to promote liver health, counteract ethanol-induced injuries, and reduce the negative effects of alcohol consumption. That’s why, when trying to cure a hangover, consuming DHM in one way or another (like in NextDay) is a good idea.
Hangover Remedies from Around the World
Hangovers are a universal experience, and different cultures have developed their own unique remedies to combat the unpleasant aftermath of a night of revelry. From aphrodisiacs to unconventional soup ingredients, these hangover cures from around the world may seem bizarre but could just save the day when you're feeling the effects of overindulgence.
In Peru, the number one hangover cure is Leche de Tigre, or Tiger's Milk, an intriguing concoction named for its color and potential energizing properties. This legendary cocktail consists of onions, garlic, chilies, coriander, lemon juice, salt, and pepper, but the secret ingredient is fish. Packed with citrus, protein, and electrolytes, this blend may sound perfect on paper, but its taste might not live up to the expectations.
Sicily takes a different approach with its hangover remedy, considering dried bull penises to be a great cure. Believed to revitalize the body and stimulate the system to counteract the absorption of toxins, this unconventional remedy is not for the faint of heart.
Mexico has its own spicy solution called Menudo, a chili-pepper-based soup cooked with tripe (cow's stomach). This fiery broth is believed to flush out alcohol from the system vigorously, providing relief from the hangover blues.
Meanwhile, in Mongolia, tomato juice takes center stage as a hangover cure, mixed with an unexpected ingredient: pickled sheep eyeballs. Although the purpose of the eyeballs remains unclear, the combination of tomato juice and protein might just do the trick.
If you prefer the "hair of the dog" approach, Denmark offers Reparationsbajer, a gluten-free pale ale with citrus hints of orange and grapefruit and a malty, hoppy finish. This recovery beer packs a punch with 5.8% alcohol content, providing a literal "repair" for the hangover.
On the opposite end of the Scandinavian spectrum, Norway's answer to hangovers is lutefisk, a dish consisting of dried fish and lye. The excess oils from the fish are believed to absorb alcohol and aid in the body's detoxification process, helping you recover faster from the dreaded hangover.
While these hangover cures may seem unusual, they showcase the diverse and inventive ways people around the world tackle the consequences of a night of indulgence. Whether you prefer aphrodisiacs, unconventional ingredients, or specific culinary traditions, exploring these cultural remedies can be a fascinating journey in the quest to alleviate the dreaded hangover.