In Depth

Hangover cures: the world’s best and strangest remedies

From dried bull’s penis in Italy to the Filipino duck embryo, every culture has its own fix for the morning after

Since the earliest days of civilisation, humanity has been trying to work out how to enjoy all the pleasure of drinking alcohol with none of the pain of a hangover.

To combat the symptoms of a big night out, veteran partygoers swear by everything from the hair of the dog to a full English breakfast to alleviate the symptoms of a big night out – but do any of them work?

Alas, the NHS has no words of comfort for the regretful raver. “There is no cure for a hangover,” is their stark ruling on the subject.

The carbs and salt in that traditional British morning after cure-all, the bacon sarnie, might temporarily alleviate your hangover, boosting your blood sugar and replenishing some of your body's lost electrolytes - but ultimately you just have to wait it out.

However, the medical experts do offer one simple way you can reduce the risk of waking up with a sore head and an upset stomach - drinking plenty of water.

Dehydration is actually at the root of many common hangover symptoms like headaches and dry mouth, so the NHS advises you alternate alcoholic drinks with water or soft drinks while on a night out and then drink more water before going to bed.

So, from a scientific perspective, anything purporting to be a "miracle" hangover cure is probably a load of hokum. But if the thought of getting out of bed is making you quail and you're willing to give anything a go, here are some of the most unusual remedies from around the world.

Peru

Leche de tigre, or tiger’s milk, is the Peruvian name for the potent marinade used to make ceviche, the national dish of raw seafood.

A combination of lime juice, chillies, coriander, garlic and onion - all with a tang of fish - might not sound too appealing first thing in the morning, but it will certainly get your eyes open.

Tiger’s milk might give you the strength to get out of bed, but you might soon fancy heading back, as the concoction is “believed to act as an aphrodisiac”, says Buzzfeed.

Philippines

Balut is a fertilised duck embryo that is boiled alive and eaten in the shell – beak and all. Although it might turn even the most hardened of stomachs, it is often recommended as the ultimate hangover remedy and is also believed to boost male fertility and libido.

“The look is definitely not appealing,” one balut eater told NBC News. “I definitely try not to look at it while eating.”  It reportedly tastes exactly like a chicken egg, just with a chewier consistency.

Scotland

Glaswegian butchers swear by the Irn-Bru sausage. It’s made by replacing water with Scotland’s second national drink during the sausage-making process. “One guy said he felt like he’d gone to heaven after tasting it,” the inventor of the remedy told Scotland’s STV News.

US

The Prairie Oyster is a kind of Bloody Mary on steroids that is enjoyed across southern parts of the US. The alcohol-free cocktail comprises a raw egg, tomato juice, a tablespoon of Worcestershire sauce, salt, pepper and Tabasco.  “The aim is to swallow the concoction in one gulp without breaking the yolk,” explains The Daily Telegraph’s Jessica Shankleman. 

Mongolia

Pickled sheep eyeballs soaked in tomato juice is an ancient Mongolian remedy designed to cure aches and pains. Japanese scientists have found that tomato juice helps the liver purge alcohol from the body, so you may be able to leave out the eyeballs and still get the benefits, advises BuzzFeed.

Haiti

Thankfully, this one isn’t edible. Haitian voodoo practitioners recommend punishing the bottle of alcohol that caused your hangover in the first place. All you’ll need is 13 black pins and the cork of the offending bottle.

Puerto Rico

The island nation has an unusual tradition of rubbing lime or lemon juice into the armpits to prevent dehydration. However, Gizmodo’s Brent Rose, for one, isn’t convinced. “This is almost certainly a joke that somebody made up to see if they could trick their idiot friend into rubbing a lemon into his armpit,” he said.

Germany

Katerfruhstuck, which translates as “tomcat’s breakfast”, is raw pickled herring wrapped around gherkin and onion. Germans insists it works, with the salt in the brine replacing lost electrolytes.

Finland

Finns swear by the healing effect of the sauna, and many choose to sweat out their hangovers sitting naked with friends and family in a boiling wooden box. Temperatures typically range from between 70C and 100C, and it is traditional to beat one another with a bundle of fresh birch branches. As the Finnish proverb goes: “If a sick person is not cured by tar, spirits or sauna then they will die.”

However, others advise against it. Researchers from the State Alcohol Company, in Helsinki, warn that taking a sauna after a heavy night can cause drops in blood pressure and abnormal heart rhythms.

Italy 

A renowned Sicilian hangover cure, dried bull penis is high in protein, vitamins and minerals, and supposedly helps to increase energy levels. Animal penises are also rich in collagen, which is beneficial for the skin, and are used as an aphrodisiac in many cultures, according to BuzzFeed.

Poland

Pickleback shots are Poland’s preventive hangover method, and they’re gaining popularity across the UK and in New York.

The trick is supposedly to take a shot of whisky immediately followed by a shot of pickle juice.

The crazy concoction is supported by the idea that the brine neutralises the burn and taste of alcohol, with the addition of healthy additives from the pickle juice.

“Pickle brine has got lots of natural vitamin C,” a Polish student in Manchester tells Munchies. “To us, it’s the same as having a cup of tea in Britain. But what makes it good for a hangover is the sourness. It kills the horrible aftertaste of any alcohol mix and gives you an energy kick.”

Japan

In Japan, umeboshi plums have long been used as a traditional hangover remedy. Harvested when the fruits are at their most acidic, the plums are pickled, salted and soaked in green tea.

“The [sour] taste comes from a blend of naturally occurring acids, including citric, picric, and pectic, which soothe body aches, boost liver function, and quicken digestion,” says Bon Appetit.

According to local tradition, the plums are even better consumed after a night of drinking, right before bed and with plenty of water. Do this, and some Japanese people believe you should be able to wake up without a splitting headache.

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