‘No Evidence’ For Miracle Hangover Relief Pills Actually Working, Expert Says
Last night’s raging party may have seemed like a good idea at the time, but come sunrise your head is pounding and you’re not feeling too flash. So should you fork out for products claiming a miracle hangover cure?
In short – no. There is no solid evidence to back claims that an emerging raft of products can cure hangovers, a public health expert says.
There are a number of products marketed in Australia as providing hangover relief if taken either before or after drinking. Each of these products contains a combination of various B vitamins, herbs like milk thistle and kudzu root, and an amino acid known as cysteine.
But these products are not all that they’re made out to be, according to Ken Harvey, Associate Professor, School of Public Health and Preventive Medicine, Monash University.
In fact, he said there is no robust evidence the vitamins, herbs and amino acids contained in these products actually help with hangover prevention or recovery – making forking out for these products useless, Harvey told 10 daily.
“Since there is no evidence to support the fact that they work, it’s certainly in my opinion not worth people paying the money.”
Debunked: Vitamins and Amino Acids
While there is some research indicating that the vitamins and amino acids in these products could help hangovers, Harvey claimed this research is ridden with conflicts of interest and flaws in its methodology -- meaning that we can’t trust these findings.
He also claimed there is also a huge disparity in the kind and quantity of vitamins, amino acids and herbs used -- with some using three and others 33 -- meaning there’s no consensus on what works.
One French study reviewing a type of hangover cure found promising results -- but Harvey said the participants of the study weren’t given a placebo pill, and that the researchers were actually managers of the company.
Another evaluation of an Australian product is also unreliable, Harvey claimed, with the research used to support claims of a 70 percent improvement in hangover symptoms coming from a study including a small number of participants, problems with placebo controls and conflicts of interest.
“There’s no good evidence that these things work and what is really required is bigger studies that are better done but obviously sponsors would prefer to have a small promising study or no study at all and spend money on marketing,” he said.
Herbs: Hangover Heaven or Hell?
As for the herbs touted to provide hangover relief, most of the claims in support of them are also unfounded -- and Harvey said some of them, like milk thistle, can actually make your hangover worse.
The professor raised concerns with another key ingredient, kudzu root. This herb inhibits production of aldehyde dehydrogenase, an enzyme which breaks down acetaldehyde, the chemical believed to be responsible for nasty hangovers.
In doing so, it actually increases the amount of acetaldehyde -- the opposite of what a hangover cure should do.
“The science clearly shows that and there’s concern that if it is taken while people are having lots of alcohol they could actually do more damage," Harvey said.
"There’s evidence that if you consume lots of alcohol and take it on a long-term basis you’re more likely to get cancer.”
Evidence used to support claims of hangover relief from another ingredient, Japanese raisin tree, is also rife with flaws.
One study looking at the utility of this herb in alleviating hangover symptoms has a number of limitations – including a small sample size and issues with standardisation, Harvey said.
No Miracle Cure
So any claims of miracle hangover cures should be taken with a grain of salt because the bad news is that there are no miracle cures.
“There are no proven remedies to get rid of a hangover. The message is to drink moderately,” Harvey said.
That’s the bad news. But there is hope -- kind of. Curbing your alcohol consumption will not only save money in your pocket, but also your health
“There are simple things that you can do to minimise handover– don’t drink too much alcohol, be sensible, keep water fluids up," Harvey said.
"But essentially the main thing is don’t drink too much because of the many other bad things alcohol in excess does to the body.”