Herbal Hangover Cures

Now that we’re well into the festive season, it’s pretty likely that there’ll be a little over indulgence with the food and drink, so here’s a quick guide to the herbal cures.

Hangovers are a mixture of dehydration and alcohol poisoning, where your body creates toxic bi-products as it tries to process the alcohol. In the UK we have quite a reputation for enjoying a drink, but as time goes by it’s starting to become less socially acceptable to go too overboard. Obviously a good way to go is to try and get a reasonable balance, where you’re reasonably merry rather than heading off to get your stomach pumped in the nearest A&E. Many people find it better to drink ‘spacers’ where they alternate alcoholic and soft drinks, and your night out will be cheaper that way too.

So bearing in mind that the ‘morning after’ feeling you get comes from poisoning and dehydration, a good hangover cure requires a two pronged approach which addresses both. If you’re going out for a night on the town, keep yourself well hydrated during the day, aiming for 1½ – 2 litres of water, diluted fruit juice or herbal teas. Have a glass of water before bed too, and keep another next to you in case you need it during the night. This is my tried and tested method, and I can honestly say that at 33 years old I have only had 2 killer hangovers!

Milk thistle capsules can help to soothe your liver, enabling it to cope better with the additional load, but many people find it harder to get drunk if they take them before going out. Take one capsule with a snack before bed, and another with food when you wake up. Dandelion root coffee will also help, but avoid real coffee until you’re all better.

Nausea can be helped by drinking warm drinks, and fresh ginger tea is particularly helpful. Other ones you could try include chamomile, lemon balm, limeflower, or peppermint, and you can drink as much as you like. Sipping them will be easier on your stomach and you’ll probably notice that you’ll hardly use the loo at all until you’re properly rehydrated, so keep going until then.

The headache feeling is mostly due to dehydration, and if you haven’t had enough water to drink on a normal day, you may get a hangover type headache. Again, drinking copious amounts of herb teas will help.

I find it pretty much impossible to resist all the Christmas food, and I’m sure most people would agree. We’re all prone to overdoing it a bit as part of the celebrating, so if you’re about to embark on a heavy meal, particularly with meat, you could try taking an aperitif beforehand.

Aperitifs were commonly used in France to prepare the digestive system for a heavy meal, and one of the most famous is Absinthe, which comes from the herb Mugwort (Artemesia absinthium). The drink was taken a short time before dinner as its bitter taste stimulated the digestive processes. Bitters encourage production of all the digestive enzymes found in saliva, stomach acid, bile, and the pancreas, so that you can get maximum absorption and nutrition from your meal. You could try taking some Gentian or Mugwort drops in a mouthful of water about 10-15 minutes before you eat, but avoid them if you’re pregnant or trying for a baby. The bitter taste may not be pleasant, but it’s what does the job, so the herbs won’t work as well if you put them into something that tastes nicer.

As well as the herbs I’ve mentioned, Vitamin C will also be helpful, and Patrick Holford recommends 1000mg every two hours for upto 12 hours. Potassium depletion may also be a problem, so when you feel like eating, ripe bananas (with the brown sugar spots) and dandelion coffee will help to top up your levels.

So I hope you have a very happy herbal Christmas. Enjoy yourself, and I’ll see you next year when we’ll look at detoxing and weight loss.

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