Wouldn’t it be great if you could have all the inhibition-breaking fun that downing more than a few glasses of wine or champagne brings without the headachy, stomach-turning, kill-me-now pain of a hangover?
Well, according to the promises of so-called hangover pills like Bytox, Cheers, Blowfish, Liquid IV, Morning Recovery, and Flyby, you can. Hangover pills, powders, and patches all claim to drastically cut back on the icky feelings of a hangover by packing hangover-fixing ingredients like vitamins, electrolytes, caffeine, pain relievers like Aspirin, and more. But do hangover pills really work?
To dig into this, you first have to understand what a hangover is, and what causes it.
But that’s actually pretty complicated, and even scientists who’ve dedicated themselves to researching hangovers don’t have a clear answer about what causes one (other than drinking too much), according to the Alcohol Hangover Research Group. There simply isn’t much research on hangovers available.
A paper in the journal Alcohol and Alcoholism called hangovers “a puzzling phenomenon.” Right now, the best scientific answer available regarding what causes a hangover is that many different things combine to cause the symptoms we feel after an alcohol binge, including: dehydration, hormonal alterations, dysregulated cytokine pathways (cytokines help play a role in reducing inflammation, so it’s no good when those pathways get messed up), and, in general, the toxic effects of alcohol.
As WH reported previously, ethanol (a type of alcohol in booze) impacts the body and brain and messes with a lot of your physiological systems. The liver has to process ethanol and its toxic byproduct, acetaldehyde. And as a result, your blood sugar levels are disrupted and your body gets flooded with inflammatory compounds, Stacy Sims, PhD, an exercise physiologist and nutrition researcher and WH advisor, previously told WH.
You also might be eating and sleeping poorly when you drink—leading you to feel crappy in the morning. Or, the mixers used in whatever alcohol you drank can also play a part in how you feel the morning after, according to the aforementioned research paper. That’s also one reason why it’s difficult to actually study hangovers—drinking in a lab by no means mimics playing a drinking game with your friends.
This lack of research is one reason that no scientifically proven hangover cure exists.
If we don’t know exactly what causes a hangover, there’s no foolproof way to develop a cure. Yet, lots of people have anecdotal evidence about things that help. Some people swear by pickle juice, some say to indulge in “hair of the dog” (aka, another drink in the morning, like a Bloody Mary), and some folks now buy those hangover pills in bulk because they feel like the supplements take some of the edge off.
Some of what helps your hangover may have to do with the placebo phenomenon—that if you believe it’s helping, then it just might make a difference for you.
This debate of “does it work or not for hangovers?” also comes up often with hangover drinks, or ones packed with electrolytes (think: Pedialyte or Gatorade). And the same issue comes into play: Unless you know for sure the cause of the hangover, it’s kinda tough to know if vitamins, electrolytes, and other ingredients in drinks or supplements would help fix the underlying problem.
For example: “If the reason for your hangover really is related to electrolytes being out of balance, then perhaps replacing them could be helpful,” Ginger Hultin, RD, a Seattle-based registered dietitian, spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, and owner of ChampagneNutrition, previously told WH. “It’s very hard to know if this is the cause of a hangover unless your doctor is analyzing a blood test.”
But hey, there’s lots of power in the placebo effect—and there’s also still a chance that hangover pills are actually doing something right.
According to many of the descriptions on these supplements and patches, hangover pills include many of the same ingredients in a “banana bag,” an IV bag full of vitamins and electrolytes that has been used in hospitals to treat people who come in with alcohol poisoning.
Banana bags typically include: thiamine (also known as vitamin B1), magnesium, folic acid, and some mix of other vitamins. While a banana bag isn’t considered a hangover “cure,” doctors do use it to replace essential electrolytes and vitamins that get lost after a night of heavy drinking and it’s said to cut back on the head-pounding and nausea.
Following in the banana bag’s footprint, hangover supplements like Bytox and Morning Recovery use similar ingredients. Bytox includes lots of different B vitamins as well as folic acid, while Morning Recovery has some lesser-known extracts (e.g., green tea or Korean pear extract), but also more legit-sounding ingredients like vitamin B, potassium, and magnesium.
Another example: One of the most popular tablet options, Blowfish, features caffeine and Aspirin, so if you have a headache, there’s def a chance those ingredients would help you out. But would it help a nauseous, upset belly? Tough to say.
Overall, you’d be hard-pressed to find a doctor or dietitian who would say hangover supplements are a cure—but there’s also probably no big harm in trying these supplements for yourself. For the most part, doctors will tell you that the only way to get over a hangover is to wait it out and drink lots of water.
But if you want to try anything and everything to feel even a little bit better, go for it—as long as you check with your doc to make sure none of the ingredients in a hangover supplement will interact badly with any other meds you’re on. And remember, supplements aren’t regulated by the FDA—so proceed at your own risk.
Maybe you’ll be out a few bucks if they don’t work, and maybe they’ll make you feel 1,000 times better in half the time. The jury is out.
The hangover pills, patches, and powders ahead are the ones that people have anecdotally deemed the best hangover pills of 2019. Find your best match.
Blowfish for Hangovers – 25 Single PacksBlowfish for Hangoversamazon.com$59.99SHOP NOW
What it is: Tablets that dissolve in water and are designed to start helping your hangover in 15 minutes. You pop two in a glass of water, and it tastes lemony. It’s the only hangover supplement that is approved by the FDA.
How to use it: Take it in the morning when you wake up with a hangover.
Main ingredients: Aspirin and caffeine (so it’s kind of like just popping an Aspirin with a cup of coffee).
Who it’s for: Someone with a bad hangover headache. It also might be helpful for anyone who can’t stomach coffee in the morning but craves the caffeine kick to help with head pain. If you’re someone who doesn’t tolerate caffeine well, Blowfish probably isn’t for you.
Honest Amazon review: “OK, the truth is if you drink a bottle of tequila and try to go to work on 3 hours of sleep, ain’t nothing going to help. However, if you are like me and sometimes have too much fun during the week and find yourself getting home at one in the morning feeling great only having to wake up in four hours and face a school full of kids, then you need Blowfish. Look, nothing medically will ‘cure’ a hangover, but Blowfish will make you feel better. No, you aren’t going to suddenly do cartwheels because you miraculously instantly feel better. But you know what, when 30-40 minutes later you are at work and not thinking about how bad you feel that’s the moment when you realize, wow, I guess that stuff did it’s job. I also work in a bar so I heard about this stuff when it first came out and I’ve been using it for months. It has a nice smoothing taste which allows me to get it down. I often wouldn’t take aspirin in the morning because it alone would make me throw up.”
Bytox The Hangover PatchBytoxamazon.com$19.95SHOP NOW
What it is: A sticky patch that you put on your body that’s packed with vitamins and minerals that get released in order to supposedly help prevent a hangover.
How to use it: Stick a patch on (to a hairless part of your body!) at least 45 minutes *before* you start drinking, then leave it on for at least 8 hours post-drinking. Stay hydrated the whole time, too.
Main ingredients: Acai berry, vitamin A, a cocktail of various B vitamins (B12, folic acid, etc.), green tea extract. The thinking is that alcohol is a diuretic that depletes nutrients and vitamins from your bod, so this patch in theory would help you avoid that depletion. Oh, and green tea extract is, well, caffeine.
Who it’s for: Because the ingredients in Bytox are natural, anyone should be okay to try these, for the most part. But be careful if you have sensitive skin, as the adhesive on these patches may be irritating. And if you have a sensitive nose, apparently these have a bit of an odd scent.
Honest Amazon review: “Used it 3 times so far, and each time woke up feeling great. Just had one of those nights when you wake up with your clothes on from yesterday, and now i’m writing this review. Just ordered 2 more packs, and will make sure i’m stocked. It smells like vitamins, and you’ll still be a little tired depending on how much you sleep, but no severe hangover symptoms at all.”
Flyby Hangover Cure & Prevention Pills (30 Capsules) – Dihydromyricetin (DHM), Chlorophyll, Prickly Pear, N-Acetyl-Cysteine, Milk Thistle for Morning After Alcohol Recovery & Aid – Certified OrganicFLYBYamazon.com$17.97SHOP NOW
What it is: Pills that pack vitamins and are designed to work preventively to avoid a bad hangover.
How to use it: You take three capsules with water right before you go out and then another three capsules right before going to sleep.
Main ingredients: Chlorophyll, B vitamins (B1, B2, B6, folic acid, pantothenic acid and B12), and magnesium.
Who it’s right for: These pills are gluten-free and vegan, so if you fall into those camps, Flyby might be your best bet. Some reviews also point out that it seems to work (at least anecdotally) for those who drink wine, as opposed to spirits and/or beer.
Honest Amazon review: “Used the product/pills for the first time this past weekend. Had 3 beers and 2 vodka and clubs between 630PM and 10PM. Took 3 pills before drinking with a big glass or water and then took another 3 before bed with a big glass of water. These pills didn’t help at all with feeling hungover the next morning. Always hope that there is a magic pill for feeling like garbage the night after drinking but once again disappointed that there’s not! I have a friend that drinks mostly wine and he said that they help? So maybe there’s a connection with wine and these helping but they didn’t help with beer and vodka.”
Cheers (Formerly Thrive+) Hangover CureCHEERSamazon.com$34.44SHOP NOW
What it is: A pill that’s designed to be an after-alcohol aid (similar to Flyby). The company also makes a powder electrolytes supplement, if that’s more you’re thing—but the after-alcohol aid is the most popular item. The company conducted a human study for its granted patent, and the people in the study who used the pills felt an average of 50 percent better the next day across eight symptoms (headaches, nausea, poor focus, low energy, etc.) than the people who didn’t.
How to use it: Take two to four capsules right after your last beverage, or right before bed after your night of drinking.
Main ingredients: Vitamins B, C, & E, electrolytes, dihydromyricetin (which is said to promote liver health), milk thistle, prickly pear
Who it’s right for: Anyone who doesn’t mind taking pills and spending $ on supps.
Honest Amazon review: “I was skeptical, but the ingredients all have published scientific studies backing them so I figured for roughly $3.00 per hangover, I’ll give it a try. (I would pay $300 to get rid of some of my hangovers). Drank heavily, took 3 caps at night before bed. Usually wake up with heart palpitations, nausea, sweating, headache etc. used twice so far and I have only woken up tired. You definitely still feel like you drank, but this is the absolute only product I’ve tried that has quelled the symptoms of a hangover. A must have, from someone in the medical field.”
Liquid I.V. Hydration Multiplier, Electrolyte Powder, Easy Open Packets, Supplement Drink Mix (Lemon Lime, 16 Count)Liquid I.V.amazon.com$24.94SHOP NOW
What it is: This Amazon bestseller (it has over 2,500 positive reviews) is an electrolyte powder designed to help with hydration. It’s not marketed as a hangover fix specifically, and many athletes use it for hydration purposes.
How to use it: Pour a packet into a glass or bottle of water, mix it, and drink. Enjoy it before going out and/or when you wake up feeling like crap.
Main ingredients: Electrolytes, B vitamins, and vitamin C
Who it’s right for: Someone who is dehydrated after drinking, or anyone who wants to hydrate and get a boost of vitamins and minerals.
Honest Amazon review: “This stuff will wipe out a hangover in no time!! Also if you play intense sports or sweat a ton in the gym, this will help you hydrate afterward. The taste is kind of like a saltier version of yellow Gatorade. Best way I can describe it. It’s not the best tasting stuff but it works a lot better than Gatorade or the other leading sports drinks out there. It should go without saying, but you will need to drink water in conjunction. If you only drink this mixed with water, it will just dehydrate you because of all the salt. This product is designed to help you retain more of the water you drink.”
Morning RecoveryMorning Recoveryamazon.com$35.99SHOP NOW
What it is: A bottled beverage with a lemon taste, designed to either help prevent hangover symptoms or alleviate them once they’ve started.
How to use it: Drink a full bottle right before your first drink, between drinks, or up to one hour after your last drink.
Main ingredients: Dihydromyricetin, electrolytes, milk thistle
Who it’s right for: Anyone who would prefer to sip something lemony (without having to make it yourself) over popping a pill or wearing a patch.
Honest Amazon review: “Hands down the best hangover prevention I have sampled – it has me drinking like a college freshman on probation again. Typically after a night of heavy drinking, I tend to binge watching clips of the Olympics to remind myself what energetic people look like. But one serving of this bad boy before I go out, and I don’t have to cancel my plans because I went out the night before. Not only that, but this product has dynamically changed my recovery process. I used to seek shelter in fried food and unholy volumes of soup. But that is in the past – I am no longer at the whims of my sensitive stomach because I can avoid being hungover all together. Trust me when I tell you, the other products don’t hold a candle to this weekend saving elixir.”
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