Got a hangover? Try this science-backed remedy

As restrictions ease and boozy catch-ups mount in the lead-up to the festive season could a simple natural remedy be the elixir to the dreaded hangover?

Christmas cheer is almost here as Australia emerges from protracted Covid-19 lockdowns.

For those of us who overindulge, it may also mean a raging headache the next day.

When it comes to curing hangovers, there’s some good news but mostly bad.

Scientists have found several possible remedies, including a simple combo of pear, sweet lime, and coconut water.

But we still don’t have a magic bullet for the post-drinking blues.

What causes a hangover?

A hangover occurs when your body processes alcohol after a few too many.

It can cause a range of symptoms including headache, general malaise, dehydration, shaking, diarrhoea, loss of appetite, tiredness, nausea and sensitivity to light, sound and motion.

Factors influencing hangover severity may include:

  • Body weight.
  • Amount drunk.
  • Drinking speed.
  • A history of migraines.
  • Medications taken

Is there a hangover cure?

Everyone has their own hangover theory.

Some swear by fry-ups, eggs, toast, water, sports drinks, coffee, juice, teas, bananas, kiwifruit, spinach, tomatoes, sushi and even oyster cocktails as a home remedy.

The good news is, a 2019 Indian study found combining three simple ingredients can help – pear (65 per cent), sweet lime (25 per cent) and coconut water (10 per cent).

The study analysed the impact of foods on key enzymes that broke down alcohol in the body – alcohol dehydrogenase (ADH) and aldehyde dehydrogenase (ALDH).

The Mumbai Institute of Chemical Technology researchers developed the pear, sweet lime, and coconut water mix that enhanced ADH and ALDH activities by 23.31 and 70.02 per cent respectively.

A 2021 study by St Luke’s University Health Network in Pennsylvania also found a prescription drug used for paracetamol overdose (N-Acetylcysteine) may help hangover symptoms in women.

It found no difference in the general hangover scale scores, but symptoms appeared to improve for women who took the drug.

Not exactly a silver bullet, but it’s a start.

Prevention is better than cure

We all know the best hangover cure is not to drink.

Alcohol and Drug Foundation spokeswoman Laura Bajurny says you can try some light exercise, eat something nutritious with protein and carbs, drink water, and take an over-the-counter painkiller such as ibuprofen with food.

“The only real cure for a hangover is time,” she says.

“You can manage some of the symptoms … but you can’t cure it.”

Ms Bajurny urges festive season revellers to remember the national drinking guidelines for healthy men and women of no more than 10 standard drinks across a week, and no more than four a day.

“Eating before you go out is a great idea, because having food in your stomach means alcohol is absorbed more slowly,” she says.

The Australian government’s Health Direct offers tips to minimise hangover symptoms:

  • Drink water to treat dehydration.
  • Don’t drink any more alcohol.
  • Try to eat some simple food to boost your blood sugar and settle your stomach.
  • Take pain relief for your headache and sleep it off if you can.

For information and support, visit or call the DrugInfo line on 1300 85 85 84.

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Written by Cheryl Critchley.