Hangover Cures 'Lack Scientific Evidence'

Peter Russell

January 02, 2022

New Year revellers are never short of advice on how to recover from drinking too much alcohol, but the disappointing reality is that the effectiveness of many so-called 'hangover cures' lack good scientific evidence.

That is the conclusion of UK researchers who carried out a systematic review of placebo-controlled, randomised trials of a range of substances touted as aids to dealing with the aftermath of drinking too much alcohol.

The study, published in the scientific journal  Addiction , found only very low-quality evidence of efficacy to support any pharmacologically active intervention for the treatment or prevention of alcohol-induced hangover.

However, three substances – clove extract, tolfenamic acid, and pyritinol – were associated with improved outcomes compared to placebo, but the researchers said evidence that they worked was still of low quality and needed further rigorous assessment.

Emmert Roberts, an MRC clinical research fellow, who led the study, said: "Given the continuing speculation in the media as to which hangover remedies work or not, the question around the effectiveness of substances that claim to treat or prevent a hangover appears to be one with considerable public interest."

The researchers reviewed 21 studies involving 386 participants. No two studies reported on the same intervention, ruling out a meta-analysis.

Imprecise Data Concerns

Methodological concerns and imprecision were cited for efficacy outcomes being rated as very low quality.

When compared with placebo, individual studies reported a statistically significant reduction in the mean percentage score of overall hangover symptom for clove extract (42.5% vs. 19.0%), tolfenamic acid 84.0% vs. 50.0%), and pyritinol (34.1% vs. 16.2%).

Among limitations of the analysis were that 8 of the studies were conducted exclusively with male participants.

Also, the studies did not generally assess how and when participants consumed alcohol.

None of the studies involved paracetamol or aspirin.

"Our study has found that evidence on these hangover remedies is of very low quality and there is a need to provide more rigorous assessment, commented Dr Roberts, who added that: "For now, the surest way of preventing hangover symptoms is to abstain from alcohol or drink in moderation."

Substances in the studies included Curcumin, Duolac ProAP4, L-cysteine, N-Acetyl-L-Cysteine, Rapid Recovery, (L-cysteine, thiamine, pyridoxine and ascorbic acid), Loxoprofen, SJP-001 (naproxen and fexofenadine), Phyllpro, Clovinol (extract of clove buds), Hovenia dulcis Thunb. fruit extract, Polysaccharide rich extract of Acanthopanax, Red Ginseng, Korean Pear Juice, L-ornithine, Prickly Pear, Artichoke extract, 'Morning-Fit' (dried yeast, thiamine nitrate, pyridoxine hydrochloride, and riboflavin), Propranolol, Tolfenamic acid, Chlormethiazole, and Pyritinol.

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