Dr Jess says: While these days, I’m a non-drinker (although I do enjoy a CBD drink occasionally), from my days as a student doctor, I’ve had some hangovers in my time! It’s easy to plan for nights out with the best of intentions, but it’s equally easy for things to get out of hand, especially at this time of year. While some Christmas parties may be cancelled, if you are going out drinking, here are my top six supplements to make the morning after the night before just that little bit easier to deal with:
1. Milk thistle. Ideal for helping the liver to process the after-effects of too much alcohol, Take before you get the party started to line your stomach and protect your liver from the worst effects. Milk thistle (Silybum marianum) seeds contain compounds that act as antioxidants, can prevent toxins binding to liver cells, reduce scarring and fibrosis and in animal studies has been shown to protect the liver from paracetamol damage, radiation, iron overload and alcohol. Silymarin, one of the active constituents, has been shown in animal studies to significantly improve alcoholic liver diseases.1 Though human trials are mixed for alcoholic liver disease, they do show an overall positive effect and that milk thistle is safe to take.2 Buy a good quality supplement and use it as directed. If you have an allergy to artichokes, ragweed, marigolds, chrysanthemums or kiwi fruit, you should avoid taking it, as you may be allergic.
2. Activated charcoal. If you know you have a big night ahead, activated charcoal is great to take when you get home before bed. Used for centuries to remove toxins, counteract poisoning and absorb excess gas, it has been shown to protect the stomach lining and gut microbiome from many of the other toxins consumed in alcoholic drinks, taking the pressure off your liver and kidneys. It is also great for treating trapped wind or indigestion if you are going to be eating indulgently too. It can help to calm upset stomachs and soak up some of the worst effects of overindulging.3 Try to find an organic activated charcoal powder that comes from coconut or bamboo. Take some (follow the instructions on the tub) diluted with water when you get home, before bed.
3. N-Acetyl Cysteine (NAC). A powerful antioxidant that is often used for treating inflammatory conditions, NAC helps to support the liver to eliminate toxins.4 It has also been shown to regulate blood sugar and may help to reduce other hangover symptoms, such as headaches, nausea and anxiety. It has also shown benefits in the treatment of alcoholic liver disease as an anti-inflammatory and to reduce brain and nerve inflammation from alcohol.5 Animal studies show it protects the liver against binge drinking effects6 and hangover studies in humans show mixed results, but a small study showed particularly women had an improvement in hangover symptoms nausea and weakness after taking NAC.7 Take a supplement the morning after the night before.
4. Red ginseng tea. The perfect drink the day after a big night out. An ancient Chinese hangover cure, red ginseng helps to boost the immune system and energy levels, making you feel ready to face the day. It has been shown to reduce blood alcohol levels8 (if there is still alcohol in your system) and a small pilot study in healthy men showed it was effective in reducing the severity of a hangover.9 Animal studies show red ginseng can have liver protective effects against alcohol.10 Red ginseng is also a natural nerve relaxant, helping to calm the body (and maybe stop you worrying about what you did last night)! It contains some B vitamins and is a source of vitamin C, making it the ideal drink after a big night out.
5. Vitamin C/coconut water. Another immune booster, vitamin C is ideal for helping to ease the symptoms of a hangover. Coconut water not only contains naturally high levels of vitamin C, but is also full of electrolytes, minerals and potassium to help replenish the body.11 It is ideal for hydrating the body effectively, making it the perfect hangover treatment.
6. Nux vomica 30c. Not everyone believes in the power of homoeopathy, but nux vomica 30 as a hangover cure might convince some! While the name might not sound appealing, it calms any sickness, nausea or upset tummies and also helps to relieve headaches. Animal studies show that nux vomica improves recovery after alcohol12 – take it as needed up to once an hour. The perfect addition to your medicine cabinet, this party season!
High alcohol levels can irritate your gut lining and so after a period of heavy drinking, why not work on your gut health using our gut health and digestion toolkit, or try a full health reset with our 30-day Refresh programme. Also consider drinking kefir every day over Christmas, to help keep your gut health and microbiome at its best, whatever seasonal excesses you indulge in.
- Abenavoli L, Capasso R, Milic N, Capasso F. Milk thistle in liver diseases: past, present, future. Phytother Res. 2010 Oct;24(10):1423-32. doi: 10.1002/ptr.3207. PMID: 20564545.
- Rambaldi A, Jacobs BP, Gluud C. Milk thistle for alcoholic and/or hepatitis B or C virus liver diseases. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2007 Oct 17;(4):CD003620. doi: 10.1002/14651858.CD003620.pub3. PMID: 17943794.
- Hübner WD, Moser EH. Charcoal tablets in the treatment of patients with irritable bowel syndrome. Adv Ther. 2002 Sep-Oct;19(5):245-52. doi: 10.1007/BF02850364. PMID: 12539884.
- Ezeriņa D, Takano Y, Hanaoka K, Urano Y, Dick TP. N-Acetyl Cysteine Functions as a Fast-Acting Antioxidant by Triggering Intracellular H2S and Sulfane Sulfur Production. Cell Chem Biol. 2018 Apr 19;25(4):447-459.e4. doi: 10.1016/j.chembiol.2018.01.011. Epub 2018 Feb 8. PMID: 29429900; PMCID: PMC6455997.
- Morley KC, Baillie A, Van Den Brink W, Chitty KE, Brady K, Back SE, Seth D, Sutherland G, Leggio L, Haber PS. N-acetyl cysteine in the treatment of alcohol use disorder in patients with liver disease: Rationale for further research. Expert Opin Investig Drugs. 2018 Aug;27(8):667-675. doi: 10.1080/13543784.2018.1501471. Epub 2018 Aug 1. PMID: 30019966.
- Xiao M, Yang R, Guan MJ, Zhao N, Xie KQ, Zeng T. [Protective effects of N-acetyl-L-cysteine against binge drinking-induced fatty liver in mice]. Zhonghua Lao Dong Wei Sheng Zhi Ye Bing Za Zhi. 2018 Mar 20;36(3):169-173. Chinese. doi: 10.3760/cma.j.issn.1001-9391.2018.03.003. PMID: 29996215.
- Coppersmith V, Hudgins S, Stoltzfus J, Stankewicz H. The use of N-acetylcysteine in the prevention of hangover: a randomized trial. Sci Rep. 2021 Jun 28;11(1):13397. doi: 10.1038/s41598-021-92676-0. Erratum in: Sci Rep. 2021 Jul 21;11(1):15262. PMID: 34183702; PMCID: PMC8238992.
- Hu Z, Yang X, Ho PC, Chan SY, Heng PW, Chan E, Duan W, Koh HL, Zhou S. Herb-drug interactions: a literature review. Drugs. 2005;65(9):1239-82. doi: 10.2165/00003495-200565090-00005. PMID: 15916450.
- 9.Lee MH, Kwak JH, Jeon G, Lee JW, Seo JH, Lee HS, Lee JH. Red ginseng relieves the effects of alcohol consumption and hangover symptoms in healthy men: a randomized crossover study. Food Funct. 2014 Mar;5(3):528-34. doi: 10.1039/c3fo60481k. PMID: 24458173
- Park TY, Hong M, Sung H, Kim S, Suk KT. Effect of Korean Red Ginseng in chronic liver disease. J Ginseng Res. 2017 Oct;41(4):450-455. doi: 10.1016/j.jgr.2016.11.004. Epub 2017 Jan 5. PMID: 29021690; PMCID: PMC5628344
- Yong JW, Ge L, Ng YF, Tan SN. The chemical composition and biological properties of coconut (Cocos nucifera L.) water. Molecules. 2009 Dec 9;14(12):5144-64. doi: 10.3390/molecules14125144. PMID: 20032881; PMCID: PMC6255029.
- Sukul A, Sarkar P, Sinhababu SP, Sukul NC. Altered solution structure of alcoholic medium of potentized Nux vomica underlies its antialcoholic effect. Br Homeopath J. 2000 Apr;89(2):73-7. doi: 10.1054/homp.1999.0365. PMID: 10826446.