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Health & Relationships

18 of the best hangover cures that actually work

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A wise man once said drinking alcohol is like borrowing fun from tomorrow. He might've been right, but here are our tips on how to stop a hangover.

girl hungover with water bottle

Credit: ShotPrime Studio - Shutterstock

So you got utterly debauched last night, didn't you? While you may have had a great night out, now it's time to wade through the motions of regret, self-pity and a heavy head.

Alcohol can take up to 11 hours to leave your system, but these tried and tested tips will help you to recover faster.

We can't promise an instant miracle cure for hangovers, but we can offer the next best thing. It depends on what poison you chose and how well your body can cope with seeing it off. We can, however, offer some very effective tips on becoming human once again.

This article contains tips on how to prevent a hangover and how to cure one too. We'll walk you through what to do before you embark on your night out and finish up with how to handle the morning after.

How to cure a hangover

These are the best hangover cures:

  1. Line your stomach with carbohydrates before you go out

    pesto pasta salad

    Wondering how to not feel sick after drinking? There are some steps you can take to prevent a monster hangover.

    You've probably heard people waffling on about how dangerous it is to go out on an empty stomach – and it turns out there's truth to that.

    Devour a nice greasy meal before drinking, as the fat will help to line the walls of your stomach. This slows down the rate of alcohol absorption, which means you'll be less likely to wake up with a splitting headache. A pasta dish is a great option, as are bangers and mash or a hearty portion of beans on toast.

    Drinking a pint of milk will also have the same effect, and a shot of olive oil helps too. Yum.

  2. Drink water in between pints and before bed

    Drinking alcohol blocks the creation of a chemical called vasopressin. This means that your kidneys will send water straight to the bladder instead of retaining it in the body – and is the reason you need so many toilet trips once you 'break the seal'.

    Drinking booze can expel up to four times as much water, quickly leading to dehydration: the main cause of those dreaded hangover headaches and dry mouths.

    Want to wake up feeling fresh (and amazed)? Simply have a glass of water between each alcoholic drink and make sure you have a few when you get home too.

  3. Stick to drinks that are light in colour

    As you've probably already figured from trial and error/being a pro pub connoisseur, different types of alcohol produce different types of hangovers.

    This is down to the congeners in the drink – something which is produced when the alcohol is fermented. Basically, the more congeners there are the more rotten your hangover is likely to be.

    As a rule, there are more congeners in darker drinks such as red wine, whiskey or dark rum. White wine, vodka and gin, on the other hand, contain much less, so are a better choice (but may still leave you feeling rough!).

  4. Don't overdo it on the dance moves

    Now we all love a good dance, but don't overdo it or you'll feel like a zombie in the morning.

    Science tells us that if you totally exhaust yourself, you'll end up getting even more dehydrated and depleting your energy levels much faster.

  5. Pace yourself

    It's our duty here to remind you that the NHS recommends drinking no more than 14 units of alcohol per week (spread across three or more days). To put this in perspective, a small glass of wine is about 1.5 units and a pint of beer is somewhere between two and three.

    It takes your body around one hour to break down one unit of alcohol (basically a shot). Cross this line and your hangover is cooking.

    We know that students will probably go over these limits, but it is worth thinking about how much you're drinking and how to pace yourself.

    If you leave a gap between finishing your first drink and starting your next drink, you'll give your body a chance to process the alcohol you're drinking and lessen the hangover effect.

  6. Keep off fizzy mixers

    It's no secret that pacing yourself and drinking some soft drinks is a smart idea, but be careful what you choose. Drinking fizzy drinks will actually speed up the rate at which alcohol is absorbed into your system and so rather defeat the point of introducing non-alcoholic drinks into the equation.

    And, before you ask, this also applies if the alcoholic drink you're glugging is fizzy too. So, a vodka orange or apple juice would be a better choice than a vodka coke mixer, for example.

  7. Avoid mixing drinks

    You probably knew this anyway, but mixing different types of alcohol never really ends well in the hangover stakes.

    Because different types of alcohol have different levels of congeners as well as other chemicals, they'll all have a slightly different effect on you.

    Add it all together and the result is a mixed-up mess and a banging headache. Pick your poison of choice and stick to it.

  8. Walk home

    First off, it's best not to walk home alone drunk, so find your buddy first. And don't attempt to walk in heels.

    This aside, walking home can help you to sober up and clear your head, making for a much less painful morning. And the walk home is also the perfect time to pick up a few snacks to help you sober up.

  9. Take the right painkillers

    pink pills from a bottle

    When looking for a way to cure your hangover headache, your first thought will probably be to reach for some painkillers. While that's not a bad shout, you'll have to pick the right ones.

    The most effective is ibuprofen, but only the recommended dose.

    Aspirin will do the trick in relieving a headache, but it can soon wreak havoc if you've got a sensitive stomach and potentially make you feel even worse.

    Ideally, if you're still functioning before you slump into bed after a big night, knock back an ibuprofen with a cup of water to help you along.

  10. Replace lost salts

    Dehydration is the biggest reason you feel so bad. Water will help, but isotonic drinks like Lucozade Sport and Powerade go another step. These can work wonders on hangovers, as they're designed to replace sugars and salts quickly. If you want to be super organised, make sure to buy some and store them in your fridge before your night out.

    If you're really in a bad way, take a Dioralyte sachet. Yes, we know them for treating diarrhoea (which you may well have) but being hungover puts your body in a similar position with depleted salts and minerals.

  11. Try borage capsules

    Borage capsules have been proven to be one of the best hangover cures.

    There are all sorts of products claiming to be 'hangover cures'. Things like Berocca can help but they can also be a little pricey and scientists aren't all that convinced. Some suggest you benefit more from the water you drink with them than the tablets themselves.

    That said, some of you swear by them, so don't write anything off if it works for you.

  12. Eat well the next day

    Eating, even if it seems like the worst idea in the world, is really important for getting you on the road to recovery. You can't eat just any old food, but there are a few options.

    Depending on how bad you feel, the trusty fry-up is always a great option as it helps replace fatty acids and break down the alcohol in your liver. Eggs are particular savours here as they contain something called taurine, which has been shown to even reverse the liver damage caused by alcohol.

    If you're feeling a bit too delicate to face a fry-up, a safer option to get you going would be some mild flavoured carbohydrates such as wholemeal toast or crackers. These should give you a boost without upsetting your fragile stomach too much.

    Drinking too much can also deplete your potassium levels, so eating some bananas in the morning will also help (a swift banana before bed is also a great shout if you can remember!).

    Alcohol is a depressant and can set off bouts of anxiety – it's called 'hangxiety' for a reason. Find out more about how alcohol can impact your mental health on DrinkAware's website.
  13. Drink tea and fruit juice

    But food isn't the only thing that helps as a hangover cure. Here are the best drinks for a hangover:

    • Fruit juice – Helps by giving you a sugary kick and energy, as well as getting rid of the toxins in your body while replacing some of the essential minerals you've lost.
    • Milk – Replaces the calcium you've lost
    • Ginger tea – Can help with nausea
    • Milk thistle tea – Said to be one of the best hangover remedies
    • Boiled water with honey and lemon – Will help boost your blood sugar and vitamins.

    Coffee may be the obvious port-of-call for most sufferers, but it's actually a diuretic and causes your body to lose water quickly. Coffee is also a big cause of those horrible sweats and heart palpitations we're all prone to when we've had a night out – our advice is to avoid coffee like the plague.

  14. Exercise the toxins out of your system

    Okay, this one might seem like the last thing you want to do when you feel like your brain might roll right out of your skull, but hear us out.

    Some fresh air and light exercise will release endorphins and give you that mental kick you need to get you back to your normal state. Accompanied by lots and lots of water, of course, to stay hydrated.

  15. Don't be fooled by the hair of the dog method

    Hair of the dog? Forget it!

    Drinking more might ease your pain for a few hours but it will only make the crash even worse when you get to that point. In short, you're perpetuating the cycle, not dealing with the problem (i.e. your banging head).

    It's also a slippery slope to constant drinking, which is by no means healthy or desirable.

  16. Have a long shower

    Freshening up can do wonders for your mind. If you're not already late for lectures then jump right on in there with your rubber duck.

    Be careful not to make it too hot, otherwise, the heat can go to your head and make you nauseous. A great option is to shower with the window open for a bit of fresh air too – bliss!

  17. Sleep it off

    woman sleeping in eye mask

    Credit: Diego Cervo – Shutterstock

    One of the other side effects of drinking is the disruption of your sleep cycle, which is one of the reasons you still feel a bit pants even if you did get a decent amount of sleep.

    Combat this the only way you know how – just sleep some more! If you're not going to be productive anyway, you might as well just admit defeat, and instead, focus on getting the sleep you need to get back on form.

    If you're finding it difficult to get some shut-eye, distract yourself with something enjoyable but not too taxing, like streaming a film or series. Planet Earth is our go-to hangover comfort telly.

  18. Wear some sunglasses

    Along with all the other joys of a hangover, you might also find yourself prey to hypersensitivity to things like bright lights or loud music.

    Make sure everyone turns it down a notch for the day (or grab some earplugs if you're worried about this making you unpopular) and if you need to leave the house, put on your best sunnies. No one will even question it (unless it's raining).

    You might even want to take them with you on your night out if you're planning on staying out until the early hours of the morning and have a long walk home!

Need some inspiration for fun things to do to distract yourself from your hangover? Check out our favourite activities for under £20.

Owen Burek


Owen is the founder of Save the Student, the leading student money website he started in 2007. He's passionate about educating young people about personal finance and ways to make extra money. Owen has appeared on BBC News and writes for major publications including The Guardian, Entrepreneur and HuffPost.
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