Make It Stop
History's Craziest Hangover Cures
The headaches, fevers (and worse) you may experience on Thursday are nothing new. From raw eel to fried canary and milky Coca Cola, potion-mixers, scientists, and bartenders have long attempted to stave off the dread-ache of the hangover.
It’s bound to happen. The splitting headache that lasts for hours. The queasy stomach that can’t be settled. The inability to do anything besides binge-watch entire seasons on Netflix. Every year inevitably starts out with a hangover.
It’s a New Year’s Day curse and everyone has a solution.
Alcohol is a diuretic and a depressant. It drains your body of nutrients and vitamins, attacking the central nervous system and leaving you in a dehydrated, hazy state.
But, with today’s medical advancements and, well, the upsurge in booze culture, more and more research is being placed on preventing and curing the dreaded morning after—when too much champagne (which, by the way, you’re drinking all wrong), tequila, Fireball or beer has left you utterly debilitated.
And it’s become a billion-dollar industry.
Adhesive patches like Bytox, which are applied before you drink, promise to flood your body with a slew of multi-vitamins and green tea extract, beginning with your first sip of booze.
Canned drinks like Mercy contain up 5,000 percent of the daily value of certain vitamins. They can be ingested sporadically or used as a mixer throughout the night (though a can of Sprite seems to be the latest trick).
New York’s I.V. Doc will make house calls, administering bags of liquid vitamins, glutathione and amino acids straight to your veins soon after waking up. In an hour you’re back in action.
Science is on our side, but it wasn’t always such a painless (and tasteless) fix. So, in hoping for a better start to 2015, the Daily Beast is taking a look back at some of the craziest hangover remedies from throughout history that could still be used today.
The vegetable would be boiled in a pot of water and eaten before or after consuming wine, while some indulged in the broth that it created.
And the method has reason—cabbage contains chemicals that help neutralize alcohol’s effects on the liver during the metabolizing process.
The tradition has lasted ever since, being seen as a great natural hangover remedy throughout the world.
Roman philosopher and nobleman Pliny the Elder, who was a huge proponent of cabbage, also spoke of roasted sheep’s intestines and ground swallow beak, in bouncing back from booze while Egyptians would cast spells on their beer to prevent any negative effects.
Other remedies include raw owl’s eggs, which replenishes depleted amino acids, pickled sheep’s eye, and fried canary.
I guess we know how Bacchus kept his title as the god of wine and intoxication.
A Renaissance Awakening
“What’s a drunken man like,” Olivia asks the Clown in Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night. “Like a drowned man, a fool, and a madman: one draught about heat makes him a fool, the second mads him, and the third drowns him.”
And it seems Shakespeare was very familiar with boozing and its repercussions—over 360 references can be found throughout his writings. But he never seemed to find the perfect hangover remedy.
Raw eel seemed to be popular during and after the Middle Ages. Their logic: the sea-creature would come alive and drink up any remaining alcohol. Obviously.
In fact, eel is a great source of protein, calcium, and various vitamins (much more than eggs), so it actually could be a great way to replenish your body.
Elixirs from Enlightenment
By the late 1600s, chemists and herbalists had begun to concoct their own scientific mixtures for curing the hangover. English physician Jonathan Goddard created his eponymous remedy Goddard’s Drops, which contained ingredients like ammonia, the skull of a person hanged, and dried viper.
Herbalist Nicholas Culpeper suggested certain flowers with healing properties, like tea made from rosemary, or ajuga—a medicinal herb from the mint family—which has a mild narcotic affect. His most recommended plant was tree ivy—its juices sprayed up the nostrils.
We can’t imagine Marie Antoinette squirting liquid ivy up her nose after a night of drinking champagne. Just more cake and champagne for her.
The quickest way to cure a hangover—well, someone who had passed out from too much drinking—in the 19th century was shock therapy, according to The Medical Advisor, a semi-professional/semi-ridiculous health journal. It suggested pouring vinegar down the victim’s throat and then rubbing it on their temples.
If that didn’t work, strip them naked and throw a bucket of cold water on them.
At-home potions were also suggested, like Peppermint Water (iron sulphate, magnesia, peppermint water and nutmeg) and a Prairie Oyster (raw egg yolk, Worcester sauce, tabasco sauce, vinegar, salt and pepper).
Oh, and soot. Warm milk mixed with a spoonful of fireplace ashes seemed to also be popular among 19th century England. Granted, charcoal does have the ability to re-balance the acid/alkaline of the digestive system so—when mixed with milk—it wouldn’t be too different than over-the-counter antacids we find today.
The Wild West’s Solution
Pioneering America’s Wild West, cowboys didn’t always have access to sophisticated ingredients to ease alcohol’s potent side-effects—so they turned to the land for a solution, scooping up rabbit droppings and steeping them in hot water.
We say: You’re probably better off suffering through the headache than ingesting animal excrement.
F. Scott Fitzgerald once said, “Here’s to alcohol, the rose colored glasses of life.” And as the world steamrolled into the 20th century with its lavish Gatsby-esque parties and America fell into the Great Depression, hangover remedies became more widely available due to the dawning of advertisement and commercial products.
The first aspirin tablets were made in 1915. Alka-Seltzer was introduced in 1931.
The Bloody Mary—a go-to tomato-based vodka drink perfect for the morning after—was introduced in 1934, mixing both the “hair of the dog” and plenty of anti-oxidants to rid you of your blues.
Coca-Cola was a wildly popular drink and hangover remedy because, well, it contained cocaine. Yes, an amphetamine would put some pep back in your step, but when the narcotic was removed in 1906, other options had to be explored. So, bartenders added milk to cure a hangover.
The head banquet man at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in New York City started serving the concoction as a menu staple in 1938. He would shake a chilled Coke, and then spray the soda into a cold glass of milk. You would drink it, then “take a little nap and after that you feel wonderful,” according to a press agent.
And, with Coca-Cola announcing the launch of a new milk product, the beverage could be back in our hands before we know it. Just not in time for next year’s inaugural hangover.