You may have heard of the “hair of the dog” method for curing hangovers.
It involves drinking more alcohol when you feel hungover to relieve symptoms.
But you may wonder whether that really works or whether you’re just prolonging the inevitable and will end up with an even worse hangover.
This article tells you whether the “hair of the dog” hangover cure has any merit.
The expression “hair of the dog” is shortened from “hair of the dog that bit you.”
It comes from the age-old idea that sometimes the cause of an ailment can also be its cure (1).
This is a relatively common practice, with 11% of social drinkers reporting that they have consumed alcohol to get rid of a hangover at least once in the last year (2).
Summary The “hair of the dog” hangover cure involves drinking more alcohol to reduce hangover symptoms.
The “hair of the dog” hangover cure has not been well-studied, but a few theories exist as to why it may help you feel better the morning after heavy drinking.
Raises Your Blood Alcohol Level
The theory behind the “hair of the dog” hangover remedy is that if you drink more alcohol, your blood alcohol levels will rise and you will no longer experience hangover symptoms.
However, when you eventually stop drinking and blood alcohol levels return to zero, the hangover will return.
In some sense, “hair of the dog” can prolong the time until you experience a hangover — but it cannot prevent it entirely.
It has been claimed that drinking alcohol boosts endorphins, which can help mask uncomfortable hangover symptoms.
Research shows that alcohol indeed temporarily raises endorphin levels, leading to pleasurable feelings. However, during alcohol withdrawal, endorphin levels drop (5).
While an alcohol-related endorphin boost may temporarily distract you from hangover symptoms, these symptoms will return when you stop drinking.
Slows the Production of Hangover-Inducing Compounds
Alcoholic beverages can contain small amounts of chemicals known as congeners, which form during the alcohol fermentation process.
It’s believed that these compounds contribute to the severity of a hangover, independent of the effects of alcohol (8).
One example of a congener often found in wine, beer, and some spirits is methanol.
However, since alcohol and methanol are broken down by the same mechanism within your body, drinking more alcohol can allow methanol to be excreted, rather than turned into these toxic chemicals (11).
While the “hair of the dog” hangover cure may have some merit, it also adds more alcohol to your body that will eventually need to be metabolized.
So while your hangover might be delayed, it will not be prevented entirely.
Summary The “hair of the dog” hangover remedy can temporarily make you feel better by boosting endorphins and slowing the creation of toxic compounds, but the hangover will return when you stop drinking.
Drinking more alcohol to cure a hangover may lead to an even worse hangover when you stop.
Research shows that hangovers tend to worsen over time during periods of heavy drinking (12).
Additionally, drinking alcohol to relieve a hangover is linked to higher rates of alcohol abuse and may normalize unhealthy drinking patterns.
For this reason, the “hair of the dog” remedy is not recommended (1).
The only guaranteed way to avoid a hangover is to not drink or drink in moderation.
Summary Drinking more alcohol to reduce a hangover is not recommended, as it may lead to an even worse hangover and increase your risk of alcohol abuse.
Choosing alcoholic beverages with low amounts of congeners may help reduce hangover severity.
Highly distilled spirits like vodka have the lowest amounts, while darker spirits like whiskey and bourbon have the most (15).
Studies show that choosing vodka over these other forms of alcohol can lead to less severe hangovers (8).
Mixing alcohol with energy drinks may also increase the desire to drink, leading to greater alcohol consumption and a more severe hangover (17).
However, the overall amount of alcohol consumed has a much greater impact on hangover severity than the type of alcohol consumed.
Summary Highly purified forms of alcohol, like vodka, may cause less intense hangovers than darker liquors or liquor mixed with energy drinks. However, the amount of alcohol consumed is still a bigger factor.
Here are some additional tips for preventing hangovers and relieving symptoms:
- Use moderation: The best way to prevent a hangover is to not drink too much in the first place. Moderation is defined as up to one drink per day for women or two drinks per day for men (18).
- Pace yourself: Your body can only metabolize a certain amount of alcohol at a time. Exceeding this limit leads to a buildup of alcohol in your blood and the feeling of being drunk. Pacing yourself can help prevent this.
- Eat food while drinking: Eating food while drinking can slow the absorption of alcohol, which may help with moderation and reduce your risk of a hangover (19).
- Stay hydrated: Dehydration is a common side effect of drinking alcohol. You can prevent this by sipping water in between alcoholic beverages and drinking water before bed (20).
- Sleep: Sleepingat least 7 hours after drinking alcohol is linked to less severe hangovers in college students (21).
- Eat breakfast: Eating breakfast can keep blood sugar levels stable, which may help reduce feelings of nausea, headache, or shakiness (22).
- Take an NSAID pain reliever: Excessive inflammation plays a role in hangover symptoms, so anti-inflammatory pain relievers may help you feel a little better (2).
- Electrolytes: If you experienced vomiting or diarrhea after drinking, it is important to replace the electrolytes lost. Electrolyte-enhanced beverages like Pedialyte, Gatorade, or Smart Water are common options (23).
- Vitamins and minerals: Selenium, zinc, and many other minerals and vitamins are needed for metabolizing alcohol and reducing hangover symptoms. Thus, proper nutrition may also help, but more research is needed (24).
Summary While the “hair of the dog” hangover cure is not recommended, there are plenty of other ways to prevent or reduce hangover symptoms.
The “hair of the dog” is a hangover remedy that involves drinking more alcohol to reduce hangover symptoms.
While it may offer temporary relief, it only delays the inevitable, as the hangover will return once you stop drinking.
This method may also increase your risk of alcoholism and is not recommended.
Other helpful methods for preventing or relieving a hangover include drinking in moderation, eating food, staying hydrated, sleeping well, and taking an NSAID pain-reliever.