Once again, the new year is almost upon us. It seems like only a few weeks ago that we were bringing 2014 to a close and ushering in 2015, yet 2016 is right around the corner (calendar?). For some, the dawning of the new year brings with it something truly terrible: a hangover.
You certainly did not plan to feel this way; you were going to have a couple drinks at the party, ring in the new year with a glass of champagne, and sensibly head home before the Uber surge pricing got too out of hand. It was a beautiful dream that you had. But now your head is pounding and you feel nauseous and all you want to do is go back to bed but there's no possible way you could get to sleep feeling this way. It's bad news all around and you need to feel better right now.
The first one of these was ok. The 3rd? Not so much.
Well, here are some tips for (1) avoiding this terrible sensation, and (2) ameliorating the symptoms...just in case.
1) Drink in moderation, or not at all
The most obvious advice, but it turns out that there's a direct correlation between the amount you drink and the severity of your hangover. You can still have a great time at that party and ring in the new year on the sober end of the spectrum. Stick to club soda and bitters with a lime wedge and no one will be the wiser. You'll wake up feeling refreshed and excited about the new year. Plus, if you're not drinking, you'll be able to drive home and avoid the exorbitant cab fare!
2) Stick to clear alcohols
Whiskey and other dark-colored liquors contain cogeners, and are much more likely to give you a hangover than clear alcohols like gin or vodka. Also, avoid mixing different kinds of alcohols too much (ie wine and whiskey, beer and gin, etc.) and avoid drinking too many sugary mixed drinks or glasses of champagne.
3) Hydrate before drinking and in between drinks
Keeping your body hydrated through the night will ensure both that you don't get too tipsy and say something you regret AND that you don't want to smother yourself with a pillow the next morning.
4) Try a turmeric supplement before you imbibe
In Chinese medicine, turmeric is used in order to regulate your Liver qi and to promote healthy blood circulation. It also helps to clear heat (from a Chinese medicine perspective, a the symptoms of a hangover are related to damp-heat). Turmeric helps to increase the metabolic function of the liver so that ethanol is processed more efficiently. It is also a wonderful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory herb. As an added bonus, it tastes delicious!
5) Before you go to bed, drink hot water with magnesium
Most Americans are magnesium deficient, and alcohol deprives your body of magnesium even further. Magnesium supplements are often sold in a powdered form that can be dissolved in warm water. It has anti-inflammatory properties that may soothe your symptoms, and a little hot water before you go to be will help to calm your central nervous system and to hydrate you.
1) Drink hot water with citrus peel, hawthorne berry, ginger, and mint
These herbs from the Chinese materia medica are lifesavers for resolving that damp-heat sensation, soothing the stomach, and generally making you feel better. Hawthorne berry is used in western herbalism for heart conditions, but in eastern herbalism we use it for what's referred to as food stagnation, that terrible feeling you have after eating a gut-bomb for dinner. It's not as common a household item as the others, and if you don't have it on hand, you can still just use citrus peel, ginger, and mint. If you're interested in keeping it around (which I highly recommend), you can find it in bulk at Asian grocery stores. It may also be called shan zha.
Garlic is chock-full of B1, a vitamin that helps your immune system and can be used for a hangover. In Chinese medicine, it is used as an anti-parasitic, but is also used to exepel toxins and to warm and soothe the stomach.
3) Dose yourself with B vitamins
Drinking alcohol depletes the body of B vitamins, which is part of the reason you feel so terrible. Supplementing yourself with B vitamins both before and after you imbibe can help to lessen your hangover. I love the liquid iron and B vitamin supplement Floradix, and recommend it to patients regularly.
4) Have a big breakfast that includes bone broth
I've said it before and I'll say it again: bone broth is the best. It is full of nutrients, including some that help to detox the liver. Simmer some spinach, mushrooms, and garlic in bone broth seasoned with salt and lemon juice for a few minutes and chow down on a nourishing, guilt-free new year's breakfast.
5) Try some at-home acupressure
Acupressure is simply applying finger pressure to acupoints on the body. It's fast, easy, and something to occupy yourself with while you watch reruns on Netflix. Two points that are very effective are P-6 (nei guan) and ST-36 (zu san li).
P-6 is a point that helps to soothe the mind and digestive system. It is commonly used in the treatment of motion sickness; when you use a wrist band with a bead that applies pressure, that bead is usually located over P-6. It is located on the center of the wrist two thumb breadths up from where your wrist meets the palm of your hand.
ST-36 is one of the most commonly used acupoints on the body. It is located three thumb breadths down from the knee on the side of the shin bone. It is used to improve digestion, bolster immunity, benefit the blood, and to tonify the qi.
When it comes to avoiding a hangover, avoiding drinking or drinking in moderation is your best option. But if you get caught up in the spirit of the new year and overindulge, I hope that these tips are helpful to you!
Andrea Lane is a licensed acupuncturist, herbalist, and certified Pilates instructor in Portland, Oregon. Her practice particularly focuses on treating allergies, autoimmune disease, and women's health. She is passionate about maintaining good health through a whole-food diet, mindful movement, and meditation. When she is not practicing, she loves to cook, listen to podcasts, read her way out from under the small mountain of books she's accumulated, and cater to her cat's every whim.