10 Best Hangover Supplements and How They Work
The internet has been buzzing these days with an array of supplements claiming to prevent hangovers. But what exactly is in these supplements and how do they prevent hangovers after a night of drinking? Let’s explore the 10 best hangover supplements and how they work in your body.
What exactly is a hangover?
Before we dive into how these supplements work, let’s take a quick look at why hangovers happen in the first place. Hangovers are a set of symptoms that develop after drinking alcohol. The majority of these symptoms occur in the morning and slowly resolve throughout the day. There are many reasons hangovers occur, here are a few of the primary contributors:
- Alcohol gets metabolized by your liver into a toxic compound: a byproduct of alcohol metabolism in the liver is called acetaldehyde. Acetaldehyde is in fact very toxic! Therefore, the more you drink, the more your body is exposed to this toxic compound leading to symptoms such as inflammation and upset stomach.
- Alcohol leads to dehydration: booze is a diuretic and causes your body to produce more urine, leading to dehydration.
- Alcohol causes inflammation and irritation: alcohol triggers an inflammatory response from your immune system and irritates your stomach lining.
- Alcohol depletes your body of nutrients: Alcohol zaps your stores of nutrients, such as B-complex vitamins, which can greatly contribute to hangover symptoms.
- Alcohol disrupts the chemical balance in your brain: Alcohol binds to a neurochemical called GABA, as alcohol gets metabolized your brain responds to the imbalance by blasting a neurochemical called glutamate. This imbalance disrupts sleep and many other neurochemical processes.
How do supplements prevent hangovers?
The currently available hangover supplements primarily help to reduce or even eliminate hangovers in a few ways:
- Supplements that impact how your liver metabolizes alcohol
- Supplements that support liver function
- Supplements that restore depleted nutrients
Let’s take a closer outlook at each category and explore the best hangover supplements and how they work in the battle against booze.
Hangover supplements that impact how your liver metabolizes alcohol
1. Dihydromyricetin (DHM)
Dihydromyricetin is a natural flavonoid derived from the fruit of the oriental raisin tree. DHM speeds up alcohol metabolism in your liver by increasing the activity of two enzymes that break down alcohol – alcohol dehydrogenase (ADH) and acetaldehyde dehydrogenase (ALDH). Faster conversion from alcohol to acetate means less inflammation and cellular damage caused by acetaldehyde. In simple terms, you’re getting the poison out of your system faster.
DHM also protects and helps repair alcohol-induced liver damage via changes in lipid metabolism and helps prevent fat accumulation in the liver. Additionally, it reduces inflammation by reducing the expression of proinflammatory cytokines and chemokines associated with unhealthy liver changes.
How does DHM work? Some of these effects may be explained by DHM-induced changes to NAD+, or nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide. NAD+ is a central metabolic coenzyme/cosubstrate that is involved in cellular energy metabolism and energy production. Boosting NAD+ has an array of health benefits including repairing damaged DNA, circadian rhythm regulation, and supporting your cellular defence system
2. Red Ginseng
Red ginseng, also known as panax ginseng, is a popular Korean herbal remedy with an array of health benefits. Red ginseng significantly reduces plasma alcohol levels after drinking, which in turn reduces the impact of toxic byproducts on your system. It has also been shown in studies to reduce symptoms of hangovers.
How does red ginseng work? Red ginseng has a beneficial impact on ADH activity, increasing your liver’s ability to metabolize alcohol. Additionally, it has antioxidant effects that may mitigate hangover symptoms by removing hepatotoxic metabolites from the blood. It can be taken before or after drinking, and in combination with other anti-hangover supplements with positive effects.
Hangover supplements that support liver function
3. N-Acetyl-Cysteine (NAC)
NAC is an antioxidant that comes from the amino acid L-cysteine. When excessive amounts of alcohol are consumed, your liver is unable to effectively reduce the toxic stress of byproducts such as acetaldehyde. NAC helps by increasing intracellular glutathione concentrations.
Glutathione is an antioxidant that is essential for reducing damage from free radicals and it gets depleted during alcohol metabolism. Under normal circumstances, you must wait 8-24 hours for your body to replenish its glutathione stores. However, NAC acts as a glutathione donor, assisting your liver in breaking down booze and its toxic byproducts. As such, NAC is an excellent wingman to other hangover supplements such as DHM.
It’s best to take NAC about 30 minutes prior to drinking. Do not take NAC after you have started drinking as it may aggravate liver damage. To be safe, refrain from NAC for around 24 hours after drinking, or once your hangover has passed.
However, it is actually harmful to take NAC after you drink, so if you forget to take these before you start sipping on martinis, do not make up for it when you get home. Another thing to note is the more drinks you have, the less effective NAC will be because as with most medications, it can only work up to a certain extent. But hey, if you can remember to take this supplement before going out, you will thank yourself in the morning. As a note, there is evidence that NAC may be more effective at reducing symptoms of hangovers in women compared to men.
4. Milk Thistle
Milk Thistle is a prickly flowering herb grown in warm climates. This powerful antioxidant can help neutralize harmful free radicals that are produced as your body metabolizes alcohol. The active compounds in milk thistle are collectively known as silymarin.
Studies show that silymarin has antioxidant effects and also helps to detoxify some of the harmful compounds in alcohol, which protects your liver from damage. It also appears to help reduce inflammation. Milk thistle is not a powerful standalone supplement for hangovers but works well when combined with other supplements such as DHM.
5. Prickly Pear
Prickly Pear is a flowering plant in the cactus family. Prickly pear is very high in polyphenols which gives it potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Studies have found that it can reduce certain hangover symptoms such as nausea, dry mouth, and appetite loss. The benefits of prickly pear appear to occur due to its ability to reduce inflammation. It also helps by protecting the liver from alcohol-related damage. Overall, prickly pear works well as a companion to other hangover-reducing substances but may not be very effective on its own.
Hangover supplements that restore depleted nutrients
Alcohol rids your body of magnesium which can contribute to hangover headaches. Replenishing your stores by supplementing the night before and the next morning can help mitigate negative side effects such as headaches.
7. B Vitamins
B vitamins are essential for many bodily functions (such as alcohol metabolism) and get depleted when we drink. Take a B 12 supplement or B-complex before you drink and the next morning. You can also wear a B12 patch on your night out.
8. Vitamin C
Vitamin C is an essential nutrient you must obtain through diet. It has powerful antioxidant effects and may even help reduce inflammation in your liver. Alcohol use is associated with vitamin c deficiency which has led to its popularity as a potential anti-hangover supplement. While there isn’t much evidence that it actually prevents or cures hangovers, there is certainly no harm in taking a dose of vitamin C before or after drinking.
Drinking alcohol depletes your body of electrolytes which help with bodily processes such as nerve and muscle function. Electrolyte mixtures and pre-made drinks come packed with certain minerals — such as sodium, potassium, magnesium, and calcium — which help regulate fluid levels in your blood plasma and your body. Electrolytes are commonly consumed in the morning after drinking to help replenish these stores. However, you can also consume them before and during drinking to help with hydration. Electrolytes aren’t a hangover cure but they can help decrease certain symptoms like dehydration-induced headaches.
This one may seem like a no-brainer but it’s important to recognize that ample water intake during and after drinking can make a massive difference when it comes to reducing a hangover. Aim to drink one glass of water for every alcoholic beverage and keep plenty of hydration near your bed for when you settle down at the end of the night. Dehydration is one of the major causes of hangover symptoms and it gets a lot harder to “undo” the effects once your bodily fluids are depleted. Staying on top of hydration is one of the most important measures you can take to reduce hangovers.
Tips for Chosing Your Hangover Supplement
You can skip the struggle and choose from our Rested Health-approved supplements. We’ve scoured the internet and found the best sources so you don’t have to. If you’d like to venture on your own, follow these guidelines for choosing a high-quality supplement.
At the end of the day, there is no guaranteed way to completely prevent hangovers. You can try different combinations of supplements and types of alcohol to try and find a plan that works best for you to eliminate hangover symptoms. The only true way to reduce the negative effects of alcohol is to reduce or even eliminate your intake. If that’s not on the table, give these supplements a try and find what works best for you and take a look at our 5 steps to a hangover-free morning.