- The Washington Times - Sunday, January 1, 2006

Your head bangs like a screen door during a hurricane. Your mouth feels like the bottom of a bird cage. Your eyes are bloodshot and bleary, your nerves are shot and your stomach is practicing intestinal kung fu.

You are reading this with sunglasses on.

Welcome to your hangover.

The good news is, everyone has a surefire cure for the morning after New Year’s Eve. The bad news is that medical researchers have determined that nothing cures a hangover. Nada. Zippo. No bloody marys, no Red Bull shots, no raw oysters, milk thistle, pickle juice, vitamin C, Gatorade, cold spaghetti or bags of frozen peas on your head.

According to the British Medical Journal, which released its findings just in time for the biggest binge night of the year, “No compelling evidence exists to suggest that any conventional or complementary intervention is effective for preventing or treating alcohol hangover.”

Only two substances — borage and tolfenamic acid — showed slight benefits, concluded a team led by Max Pittler, research fellow in complementary medicine at Peninsula Medical School, Universities of Exeter and Plymouth.

Still, those who are overserved have convinced themselves that certain remedies — despite what the good researchers in England say — can ease the symptoms.

Some people swear by exercise or a steaming hot sauna to sweat out the booze. Others turn to timeworn remedies.

“We drink buttermilk the next morning. It works really well,” said Homeyra Darugar, owner of the Russia House restaurant in Herndon. And who better than Russians on the subject at hand? “Actually, another favorite cure is the juice of sauerkraut.”

There are two main causes of a hangover: dehydration and the chemical acetaldehyde. Water is the cure for the first. Vitamin C has been known to counteract the effects of acetaldehyde, as has a supplement called cysteine, which is found in specialty stores.

Some sufferers have found relief in fruit shakes spiked with vitamin B or a supplement called Berocca. Many over-the-counter vitamin-based cures such as Chaser Plus, Drinker’s Pal, Drink-Ease and PartySmart promise relief, but are not scientifically proven.

The Irish, another demographic familiar with hangovers, swear by the Irishman’s milkshake: a pint of Guinness stout. Accompanying the drink might be bacon with a dozen fried eggs.

Food does seem to help — the fattier the better, as fat tends to break down the hangover-causing chemicals in the body. Many college students swear by cheeseburgers or cold pizza.

“It’s the half-smoked sausages. A lot of people order them for a hangover. We call them chili half-smokes,” said Vanessa Pascal, a server at Ben’s Chili Bowl in the District.

A hangover cure in her native Grenada is fresh-squeezed lemon juice. “That seems to work,” she said.

Keeping the body hydrated with fruit juice and water is advised to avoid the morning-after misery.

According to folklore, Assyrians crushed swallows’ beaks with myrrh after a heavy night of revelry. In Turkey, it’s a stiff cup of inky black Turkish coffee and tripe soup with garlic. During the Middle Ages, bitter almonds and dried eel did the trick, and in Outer Mongolia, the traditional hangover cure is pickled sheep’s eye in tomato juice.

Cowboys used to drink tea with rabbit pellets for their eye-opener, and in China, it’s xing-jiu-ling (“sober up”) tea with kudzu.

An old British folk remedy led to the term that means, literally, curing like with like. For dog bites, Brits would cut off the fur from the dog and place it on the wound, hence the term “hair of the dog” to describe the morning-after cocktail.

The French cure their hangovers (“la gueule de bois,” which roughly translates “wooden mouth”) with hot bowls of onion soup.

Perhaps the most novel cure, and the most satisfactory, was used in Haiti. Practitioners of voodoo would stick 13 black pins in the cork of the offending bottle.

And then, presumably, take two aspirin.

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