Royal Society of Chemistry's hangover avoidance and alleviation advice

01 January 2007

A 'morning-after' breakfast of toast with honey or golden syrup is the little-known but ideal way to combat a hangover, says Royal Society of Chemistry today, with Christmas and New Year celebrations beckoning.

The chemistry of the remedy is the best way to undo the chemistry of the hangover, says the Piccadilly-based society.

Dr John Emsley of the RSC said today: "The happiness comes from alcohol; the hangover comes from acetaldehyde. This is the toxic chemical into which alcohol is converted by the body and it causes a throbbing headache, nausea, and maybe even vomiting. The hangover disappears as the acetaldehyde is slowly converted to less toxic chemicals. That's the science."

Dr Emsley, author of the Consumer's Good Chemical Guide* said: "We can avoid a hangover - or we can alleviate its worst effects."

How to avoid a hangover

  • Drink a glass of milk first. 
  • Stick to gin (or vodka) and tonic. 
  • Occasionally have a soft drink. 
  • Drink a pint of water before you go to bed.      

The milk slows down the absorption of alcohol, which means there is less acetaldehyde for the body to deal with at any one time. Gin is alcohol twice purified by distillation and the botanical flavours it contains are mere traces. Avoid dark coloured drinks which contain natural chemicals that can adversely affect you. Alcohol increases water loss, hence the frequent trips to the loo. This dehydration makes a hangover worse, so moderate your drinking with a soft drink now and again, and drink a large glass of water before you go to sleep. 

How to alleviate a hangover

Only time cures a hangover, and generally the acetaldehyde will be gone by midmorning or midday. You can speed recovery by taking in more fluid, but a 'hair of the dog' only works if it relieves alcohol withdrawal symptoms, which suggests you are becoming addicted. The best breakfast is toast and honey (or golden syrup) which provides the body with the sodium, potassium, and fructose which it now needs.

*Previous winner of the Science Book Prize

Contact and Further Information

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