Features and Occasionals

DIY Healthcare: Hangover Cures

By Trisha McMillan

Party season is here, and the non-ascetics among us are in the midst of the marathon of indulgence that starts annually after Thanksgiving and runs through the new year. Parties are great; we get to see our old friends, make new ones, and generally just celebrate being human and alive. However, merrymaking comes with a price: the hangover. What to do?


Despite being legal and culturally accepted, it’s an extremely difficult drug to tolerate and it causes a number of unpleasant physiological effects if taken in large quantities. Headache, nausea, photosensitivity, fatigue, and upset digestion are just a few of the common issues. Ethyl alcohol is converted to a highly toxic chemical called acetaldehyde as part of the body’s metabolism, mucking up the liver’s ability to clear toxins from the body and dropping blood glucose into the basement. Groan!


So if you’re going to a boozy party, make sure you eat a decent meal first. Food in your belly will moderate the rate at which your body absorbs the alcohol, keeping your more sober and less toxic. Recent research suggests that eating a plate of asparagus or some eggs may provide specific amino acids that help you metabolize that toxic acetaldehyde.

At the party:

Alternate each alcoholic drink with a glass of plain water or club soda to keep you hydrated and to help your body to flush out toxins as they are created.

When you get home:

Drink at least two cups of water before you fall asleep. Not only will this keep your kidneys and liver working efficiently at eliminating those toxins while you slumber, you’ll also wake up a couple of hours later to pee and you can drink more water then, too. It’s helpful to add a fizzy electrolyte powder to your hydration as well, to combat out-of-whack potassium and sodium levels.

The following morning:

If you have been doing things right, you should not be suffering too badly… but you messed up, and now it feels as if a marching band is pounding on your temporal lobes. Don’t despair. Run a warm bath and add a couple of tablespoons of Dr. Singha’s mustard bath. The mustard will stimulate your skin and open your capillaries, boosting your metabolism and helping you detoxify more quickly. (See recipe, this page, for homemade alternative.) Get in the bath with a tall glass of water or electrolyte mix. Eat a banana for a little extra potassium and some fructose to alleviate your low blood sugar. When you can stomach it, eat some eggs or perhaps an asparagus omelet to move that acetaldehyde along. Add some cayenne pepper to stimulate your body’s natural endorphins and to help kill pain without pills.

Later in the day:

Go for a gentle walk or take a restorative yoga class. Get clean air in your lungs and drink plenty of clean water, and remember not to hurt yourself so badly next time!
Alternative intoxicants
Those who might indulge in less culturally acceptable intoxicants are not immune to hangovers, even though weed, pills, and powders are frequently less tough on your system than alcohol.

Alternative Intoxicants

Those who might indulgde in less culturally acceptable intoxicants are not immune to hangovers, even though weed, pills, and powders are frequently less tough on your system than alcohol.


Sensible precautions here include making sure you are well rested. Eat a light, nutritious meal (salads are great). Take a vitamin/antioxidant. Ensure that the substance you’re taking comes from a trustworthy source. Poor-quality marijuana can give you a wicked headache, and mystery pills and powder might be what you were told they were… or not. Prohibition means that street drugs are unregulated. Be safe and smart, because an ounce of prevention here is truly worth a pound of cure.


Stay hydrated and keep your blood sugar levels stable during the experience.
In the event of discomfort, any standard psychedelic “freak out” often responds well to calm attention from a trusted friend, a glass of juice or lightly sweetened tea to even out blood sugar, and a quiet room for refuge. Wash your face with cold water to help break an intractable mental loop, or take a shower if you can. When you open your mind, sometimes the skeletons in your closet come dancing out at you, but don’t be afraid of them. Don’t worry about being the life of the party or judge yourself for being a downer—instead, take the time to hang out quietly and get to know yourself a little better, and you’ll be a happier person in the morning.

When you get home:

Take some 5-HTP with a big glass of water before you go to sleep to rebalance skewed neurotransmitters.

The following morning:

The morning-after regimen for non-alcoholic intoxicants is similar to that for indulging in booze: Drink lots of water, make sure you have adequate salt and potassium, eat some fresh fruit, eat protein when you can stomach it, get a little exercise, and give yourself time to recover. Avoid Tylenol—it’s really hard on your liver. Get some sun and some fresh air.

For the entirety of recorded history, Homo sapiens has been using various intoxicants to help develop interpersonal and cultural bonds. Be smart when you indulge, and take care of your body, and you’ll feel better coming out of the party season than when you went into it.

Homemade version of Dr. Singha’s Mustard Bath
Ingredients to make 4 baths:
1 cup baking soda
1/4 cup mustard powder (available in bulk spice section of natural foods stores)
6 drops wintergreen or peppermint essential oil
6 drops rosemary essential oil
6 drops eucalyptus essential oil
Place all of the ingredients in a storage jar and shake. Add 1/4 cup (4 Tbs.) to a running bath and swish around to dissolve the powder. For a foot soak, use 1-2 Tbs.

This article was originally published on November 30, 2012.