By James Madeiros
Some veteran drinkers who have faced one too many mind-melting hangovers will swear up and down that the best cure is the “hair of the dog.”
The hair of the dog, or the hair of the dog that bit you, is actually a medieval phrase that refers to the once-held belief that one who is bitten by a rabid dog may be cured by placing hairs from the same dog in the wound. While trying to obtain hair from a crazy dog that bit you is a recipe for further disaster, there is some merit to it as applied to hangovers.
The strange thing is that no one quite knows why, which makes it appear more a matter of personal psychology than scientific fact. Many a bartender will tell you that a Bloody Mary is the quickest way to feeling better after a night out, and if there was ever an authority it would be found in said profession, but there is little in the way of scientific explanation to back it up.
One scientific approach describes a post-hangover drink as providing the liver with a distraction of additional ethanol to break down instead of the more toxic fusel alcohol that is broken down after ethanol, thus delaying or buffering the release of fusel-alcohol toxins that contribute to a hangover. The problem with this explanation, though, is that scientific research into fusel oil in alcohol suggests that it actually acts to alleviate hangovers.
This puts the hair of the dog back on a mythical par with coffee, tea and, if you’re in Russia, whipping yourself with birch branches. Well, almost, anyway.
While these other remedies take a leap of faith and some cultural influence to do the trick, consuming alcohol still leads to intoxication, which will eventually make a hangover go away. Even so, it seems beyond the need to mention that this is not a recommended solution, as it can lead to addiction and damage to vital organs.
Of course, I should remind everyone that our blog entries are for your information only and are not intended as medical advice. Because everyone is different, you should work with your medical professional to determine what’s best for you. If you’re going to drink, do it legally and responsibly; don’t be stupid =).