Do any of these hangover cures really work? (Getty Images )
If New Year's Eve is the biggest party night of the year, then New Year's Day can readily be described as one huge hangover.
To keep from ringing in 2012 with a ringing headache, nausea, dizziness, dry mouth and a general sense of regret, people will try almost anything. From spicy drinks to over-the-counter pills to more alcohol, aka "hair of the dog," everyone seems to have a suggestion for their favorite "cure."
In early December, the FDA-regulated over-the-counter hangover pill hit the market. A combination of aspirin, caffeine and a stomach soother, the pill called Blowfish is currently available in New York City stores or online at forhangovers.com for $11 for 12 pills.
Blowfish creator Brenna Haysom says that the pills stand apart as a more reliable hangover cure than simple vitamin supplements thanks to their caffeine and effervescent components, meant to help kick hangovers the morning after, rather than prevent them the night before. Although the pills are FDA regulated and made of FDA-approved components, the Blowfish pill did not go through the new drug approval process, says Haysom.
Most other hangover remedies and cures are not FDA-approved to relieve the symptoms of a hangover, and little research has been done to look into why certain cures may work on some people while others do nothing.
"[I'm] not sure why the medical community doesn't pay more attention to hangovers," says Haysom. "Partly I think because it's an entirely preventable condition and some people believe hangovers are good because they keep people from drinking too much."
While rush-shipping on Blowfish in time for New Year's Eve madness isn't a possibility for Chicagoans, there still are plenty of rumored hangover preventers and cures available, from marketed pills to DIY vitamin combinations. But do they actually work? We decided to test five purported hangover cures against a few nights out on the town. After a few weeks of morning-after testing, here are our unscientific results. Keep in mind that every hangover is different, and prices seen here may vary by location.
What it is: Billed as a "hangover prevention remedy," these stick-to-your-skin patches are chock-full of vitamins (including 4160 of your daily vitamin B12, according to the package) to help restore balance to your dehydrated body. The package advises to wear one before heading out to drink and continue wearing it for eight hours after drinking.
Where to get it: Order online at bytox.com, $2.99 per patch
The experiment: After several rounds of beer and more than one celebratory shot of whiskey with out-of-town friends, I got back to my friend's apartment and tipsily slapped another Bytox patch on my arm for good measure. Hey, if one works, two must be great, right?
The result: The only lasting effects of this patch seemed to be the red marks left on my arms when I had to yank them off like a Band-Aid the next morning. I was squarely at home in hangover city. Perhaps I should have relied less on the vitamins and paid more attention to one particular direction on the package: "Stay well hydrated."
Activated charcoal tablets
What it is: Pills containing a carbon powder known for its absorption capabilities. Activated carbon often is used to keep poison from being absorbed into the body.
Where to get it: Nature's Way Activated Charcoal tablets are available in most grocery store and drugstores. $11.25 for 100 capsules
The dosage: I had heard from a bartender friend that the best way to use these pills was to pop one prior to going out and two once I got home. After a night of BYOB sushi with friends (and a healthy four glasses of red wine), I took just one more pill after I got home.
The result: The charcoal pill seemed to make the wine have a lesser effect on me while we were at the restaurant. The next day I still felt a little fuzzy, but better than I normally would have.
What it is: A oral electrolyte solution marketed to parents to help children replace fluids when sick. It's not marketed as a hangover preventer, but some people swear by it.
Where to get it: The children's medicine aisle of most major pharmacies. $5.49 per bottle
The dosage: Pedialyte has been a go-to remedy for me for a few years now. When other people reach for Gatorade, I reach for this bottle. So after heading out on a Tuesday night to check out a new sports bar, I decided to balance the pitcher of beer I helped drink with equal parts purple-tinted liquid.
The result: Just like chugging water before bed will help you immensely the next morning, so does chugging Pedialyte. Rehydration is the only simple key to preventing hangovers so, naturally, I felt pretty good the next morning. Fair warning: The "unflavored" variety is just plain gross. Go grape.
What it is: This over-the-counter pill contains a blend of homeopathic remedies to help ease symptoms such as noise sensitivity, nausea, headache and dry mouth.
Where to get it: Many CVS and Walgreens locations. $2 for four capsules