Victorians threw cold water over themselves, Native Americans licked their own sweat and Ancient Egyptians would cast spells on their beer. These days, the office barfly is more likely to be seen sipping an Alka-Seltzer the day after the night before.
But with the Christmas parties soon upon us and the hangover-treatment industry now reported to be worth billions, it’s no wonder everyone from big pharma to quirky hipster start-ups are inventing new and enticing ways to cash in on the painful headaches and slumps in productivity – starting by preventing hangovers in the first place.
One of the latest miracle cures to hit the shelves in 2015 is … salami. Serious Pig, a Peckham-based craft meat business, has developed what it calls “the world’s first hangover- preventing meat treat”. According to the curers, “you eat it while you’re drinking to prevent a hangover kicking in”, and with its nausea- and fatigue-fighting properties, this can surely be no ordinary sausage. But Charlotte Stirling-Read, expert nutritionist at the Association for Nutrition, thinks: “While it is a good idea to eat food, and not drink on an empty stomach, I think there might be healthier options.”
Perhaps the laziest solution of all has been released by Bytox – an anti-hangover patch containing vitamin B12 and other B vitamins. Applied to dry skin 45 minutes before drinking, this is said to replace the nutrients and vitamins being depleted by the alcohol, a diuretic.
With experts estimating that holiday season hangovers cost businesses almost £260m, preventatives are as appealing a choice as any – for example, the so-called super-vitamin pills designed to be taken before alcohol in order to “counteract” any damage caused.
“Part of the symptoms we get during a hangover is due to inflammation – one of the body’s responses to lots of alcohol,” Ms Stirling-Read explains. “Thus antioxidants, vitamins and minerals may help protect our cells from damage and even inflammation. But I’m not sure they are likely – or that there is any evidence for this – to ‘prevent’ a hangover.”
Even a more conventional aid to recovery after getting a hangover – the trusty soluble rehydration tablet – fails to get Ms Stirling-Read’s whole-hearted approval, as this “is nothing you can’t get by sipping some water, eating some fresh fruit and nibbling some dry crackers”.
“Ultimately, the best way to avoid a hangover is simple,” she says. “Just don’t drink alcohol.”