How to cure a hangover

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The Independent Culture
It's 6 o'clock in the morning and you're awake. Or are you dead? Somewhere in between, unfortunately. You've got a hangover. Pissed again at another Christmas do. It could be worse, though, you might have to go to work. Some say the best way to get rid of a hangover is to keep busy. But the very thought of work makes you want to throw up. But hold on a minute, before you rip the paper up, because help is at hand.

Investigating hangovers is a long and painstaking process. The Medical Council on Alcohol doesn't quite seem to grasp my predicament, warning: "The best advice I can give you is not to drink." Thanks for nothing. But they are prepared to go on at sadistic length about the causes of hangovers. Primarily, alcohol is a diuretic - hence the term "pissed" - so the body loses lots of important fluids and vitamins when you drink. This explains the feeling that someone took a vacuum cleaner to your throat and planted a kidney stone in your brain overnight. This is dehydration and a splitting headache, which can be relieved by a couple of pints of water, paracetamol and orange juice. But there's more. Alcohol also affects the metabolism, stimulating the insulin in the bloodstream, causing drowsiness and it increases acid levels in the stomach, making some feel sick. And there's more... the booze also disrupts your sleep and you have to take into account the additives in many drinks, which add their twist to our rude awakening. The doctor I spoke to thought that hangovers are a good thing, explaining that drinkers who are not prone to them often become alcoholics.

Feeling better? Perhaps not. It's enough to make you dash out for a hair of the dog. Which may not be such a bad idea, as revivers like Bloody Marys and Prairie Oysters, with their stomach-settling sherry and protein and vitamin replenishing ingredients, have brought many a sufferer through the morning. Or there's always the prevention measures used by a group of doctors after drinking fearlessly through the night. They put themselves on a drip of rehydration solution to ward off the evils of the morning after. Far better, perhaps, to treat the symptoms in the American bar at the Savoy, which has its own hangover cure called the corpse reviver, made up of equal parts of brandy, Creme de Menthe and Fernet Branca.

If you don't have the funds to get drunk at the Savoy to test this out, not far away, in the heart of gentlemen's clubland, you will find DR Harris & Co, of St James's Street, a very understanding chemist. Their products proudly announce their Royal Warrant, By Royal Appointment to Her Majesty the Queen Mother and that their customers have ranged from Ambassadors and Statesmen, to rakes and dandies. Hoping to be transformed from a rake to dandy I sought their help one morning, having heard about "The original Pick-Me-Up". This is their hangover cure, which has been retouching the lustre of St James's luminaries since 1853. Rakes and ambassadors alike, and all hangover regulars around this area, know that they don't have to say a word to receive the cure. They only need to stagger into DR Harris, nod gravely at the bottle and wait to be revived. It is still sold, Victorian- style, over the counter at pounds l a glass or, if you're expecting the worst, you can buy bottles of up to 600ml.

So how does it work? Hair-of-the-dog principles are essential to "Pick- me-up" as herbal tinctures are, by definition, alcoholic. But there's more to it than that, as Brent Walsh, managing director of DR Harris explained. The thick brown liquid is diluted with water, to which effervescent vitamin C and some vitamin B are added, to replace those vitamins which were scattered in revelry. The potion itself contains ammonia to clear the head, gentian which increases appetite, camphor which settles the stomach and cardamon which aids digestion. The gentian paves the way for a good meal, which helps still further.

So, slowly but surely the pain in the brain is smoothed away. It's hard to explain, but you feel... well, ready for another drink. Perhaps I should remember the doctor's advice. But that's another New Year Resolution. Right now, it's Christmas and this one's for you Queen Mum.