Thursday, February 22, 2018
Taste Test

Hangover cures abound on the marketplace, but do any really work?

Boston Beer Company's Jim Koch recently claimed that, by eating brewer's yeast before drinking, you could avoid getting drunk, even after consuming several drinks. His claims have since proven unlikely to work — if we drink too much, we'll get drunk, and the result likely will be a nasty hangover.

It's no surprise that there are a ton of hangover remedies on the market. Some are pills that you can take before a night of drinking, but most are drinks meant to be consumed before, during, or after drinking.

The common bond between commercial hangover remedies is that they involve a lot of very scientific-sounding language and that they almost certainly won't cure hangovers. But that doesn't mean that they won't help. Take Blowfish, for example. This effervescent tablet is reminiscent of another classic-yet-dubious hangover treatment: Alka-Seltzer. This tablet contains aspirin and caffeine, which will undoubtedly take a bit of the edge off, if nothing else.

Hangover remedies are conspicuously difficult to locate in the Bay area. I worked as a pharmacy technician many years ago, and I would constantly get asked about Chaser, a hangover prevention tablet comprised of a blend of herbal ingredients. That product has since been discontinued, along with many of the copycat products that once shared a shelf with it.

In fact, in my quest to track down hangover remedies in the Bay area, I only found one: Mercy, a carbonated soft drink sold in 8.4-oz. cans that contains a blend of various vitamins and herbal supplements.

According to its web site, Mercy "promotes creation of glutathuione, the body's most powerful antioxidant and detoxifier." It also supposedly breaks down acetaldehyde, which is a byproduct of drinking alcohol that can contribute to nausea and other nasty side effects of drinking too much. It also boasts some pretty impressive clinical trial results, with full details "to be published in 2014."

I grabbed the blood orange and lemongrass-ginger flavors and set out with my girlfriend for a night of drinks. Per the instructions, we each drank a can as our last drink of the night before heading to bed.

The results: Mercy tasted really good. Both flavors had a prominent, vitamin-like flavor, but it wasn't unpleasant at all. I would drink this stuff just for the heck of it. But hangover-wise? My girlfriend woke up with a hangover, and although I didn't, I still felt noticeably sluggish.

It's possible that Mercy would make a more effective hangover treatment, to be consumed once the damage has already been done. The B ­vitamins in Mercy may help to replenish those lost during a night of drinking, so perhaps our mistake was to drink Mercy as the prevention it's sold as.

I tried the treatment approach with another product that I received as a review sample in the mail: Resqwater. Like Mercy, this is a liquid vitamin supplement that claims to break down acetaldehyde.

My results were positive. It had a really unique and excellent flavor, possibly due to the inclusion of prickly pear cactus juice. It was slightly tart and maybe just a touch salty, like my favorite hangover remedy: Gatorade. And while it's entirely likely that my results were purely due to the placebo effect, I felt noticeably better after drinking Resqwater. Given the ingredient list, I imagine a day-after dose of Mercy would probably produce similar, if not identical, effects.

As pleasant as it was to drink these products, I wouldn't regard them — or any others — as a magic bullet.

A recent Chinese study of more than 200 different hangover remedies proclaimed Sprite to be the most effective of the bunch, so who knows what works and what doesn't? As long as the products taste good and makes you feel even a little bit better — ­placebo effect or otherwise — then give it a shot.

Just don't expect miracles.

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