For the past almost-decade, I've been searching for the perfect hangover cure. I've tried tactics as ancient as laurel-leaf crowns, as dirty as chimney soot in a mug of milk, as esoteric as putting a lemon wedge in my armpit, as new age as chi-centreing bracelets, and as dodgy as taking street drugs. Some things have worked better than others.
I did, eventually, land on a particular concoction that I feel confident enough, at least in regards to my own hangovers, to call a cure. The full details, as well as countless personal misadventures and hangover stories throughout the ages, are in my new book, Hungover.
But here—compiled from the breadth of human history, countless boozy rabbit-holes and far too many personal experiments—are five of the most interesting, and perhaps even helpful, treatments that I found during my quest.
JUMPING OFF A VERY TALL BUILDING
This first one I discovered by accident, at ground-zero for hangovers. There is a place in Las Vegas called "Hangover Heaven," where the founding doctor claims to have cured more cases than anyone ever. And so I tested his expertise by drinking far too much, putting myself in his hands, then doing things you would never want to do with a hangover.
I drove a race car, piloted a fighter plane, shot bazookas, and ziplined into a canyon. The most consistent result was extreme nausea, with a bit of hallucination. But when I took my lingering hangover to the Stratosphere, and the highest sky-jump in North America, something interesting happened. It blew the bottle-ache right out of me.
Of course, massive adrenaline spikes—especially when coupled with a fight-or-flight scenario—can outweigh most physical realities of the human body, at least for a short time. But then a crash (at least chemically) once the adrenaline has run its course, is inevitable. Or is it? From my experience it appears at least possible that something shocking enough, both physically and metaphysically—like jumping off the tallest building west of the Mississippi—might reboot your system entirely.
Along with pickled fish and boiled cabbage, eggs (be they duck, goose or just good old chicken) appear in more hangover remedies than almost anything else in history.
In his listing of ancient cures, Pliny the Elder references "Two-owl eggs in wine." During the course of a very specific experiment (in which I attempted to drink twelve pints in twelve English pubs) I surveyed a dozen British barkeeps, and nearly every one of them recommended "a proper fry-up." (Main ingredient: eggs).
Then, of course, there's Arnold Schwarzenegger in End of Days who—as the world's least-likely alcoholic—blends raw eggs into the previous night's leftovers before going to fight his more literal demons.
And they all might actually be onto something. Eggs contain N-acetylcysteine—an amino acid supplement that is pretty much a magic ingredient when it comes to treating hangovers. In fact, it is one of the key components in my own ultimate cure.
HAIR OF THE DOG
Eggs aside, throughout history people have done all sorts of weird things involving animals in the hopes of curing a hangover. It is said that the epic drinkers of Outer Mongolia pickled the eyeballs of sheep, horse wranglers in the Wild West made tea out of rabbit shit, and my Welsh ancestors roasted the lungs of a pig. But the most common remedy has always been figurative: to pluck a hair of the dog that bit you.
The idea of recovering from your drinks by drinking a little more appears to be timeless, and the first ever cocktails were invented for precisely this purpose.
They were called pick-me-ups, and came in two basic categories: sweet, soft soothers meant to ease you back to baseline with something milky, fruit, relaxing and restorative (these have names like Morning Glory, Milk of Human Kindness and Mother's Little Helper), or short, sharp, shocks intended to twist your system into sobriety with bitterness, blinding heat and/or gag reflex (Khan's Curse, Suffering Bastard, Guy Fawke's Explosion...)
But no matter the taste and the name, a classic hair of the dog may actually help—even according to science. Beyond feasibly curbing the down-swoop of booze leaving your system, the introduction of more ethanol (the magical essence of alcohol) can stop your body from breaking down methanol—a nasty molecule that sneaks into most alcoholic drinks, and turns into formaldehyde when broken down.
Of course, hairs of the dog should be used cautiously so as not to embark on a whole new hangover.
These have been around for quite a while now, at least as long as doctors and medical students have had access to both booze and the appropriate apparatuses.
Today you can find specialty clinics in most major cities—like Hangover Heaven in Las Vegas—that offer their own renditions of the classic "Myer's Cocktail": a drip concoction, created by Dr. John Myer's, containing magnesium, calcium and various vitamins. The refining of such IV treatments has become the business of a whole industry and a legitimate hope for hungover souls.
I have done many such treatments. And I've found that if you can get yourself from wherever you are to wherever the IV is—or visa-versa— they really can help. But it's worth noting that if you're already in the throes of an all-out, full-body hangover, they'll only help so much. Once the hangover is underway, it is not so much a question of curing it, but rather shortening the duration, and minimising the pain. IV treatments are at least good for that.
BEING BURIED ALIVE
Of course everyone wants to cure a hangover once they've got one. But by then it's pretty much too late.
The real, ultimate cure (that you can find when you buy my book!) depends very much on you taking it before the complicated mechanism of hangover has ever begun—that is, at the end of drinking, and before sleeping. But if you have failed to do that, here is yet another method I found of trying to remedy the situation:
You climb, or drive, or helicopter yourself to a remote hilltop in the Alps, descend into a catacomb, lie for awhile in a coffin of herb and grass-infused water poured from a boiling cauldron, emerge to be buried completely in hay, lay with the remnants of your hangover for just a bit longer, then finally arise—up and out, into the mountain air. Then you sit down for a plate of food, and some ancient orange Austrian wine.
That seemed to work fairly well, too.
"Hungover" by Shaughnessy Bishop-Stall is available for pre-order here.