Does a hangover cure exist? Canadian author thinks he may have found it

Drinking responsibly is fun and freeing — until the next day…
Drinking responsibly is fun and freeing — until the next day…

The holidays can bring out the best in people. We celebrate, indulge and oftentimes alcohol is wreathed into these festivities, yet overindulging in alcohol can also bring on that dreaded pest known as the hangover. One minute you’re singing John Lennon dancing with the best of people holding your favourite glass of pinot grigio, and the next you’re trying to scissor kick your way out of bed, desperately searching for anything to ease the pain.

Canadian journalist, professor and author Shaughnessy Bishop-Stall, has this to say about the hangover.

“It is like your brain has started to swell, pressing against your cranium–eyes pushing out of their sockets. You cradle your head, in shaking hands, to keep your skull from splitting…,” says Bishop-Stall, who also asserts that “your hangover is done, truly over, when you’re ready to start on another one.”

In his new book, appropriately titled Hungover: The Morning After and One Man’s Quest for the Cure, Bishop-Stall set out to find a cure for hangovers. And to do this, he did some pretty random things. His findings and storied truths came out of nearly 10 years of research. Some of the inclusions have been extracted from official interviews with experts, scientists and academics in different fields and then there’s more on-the-fly experiential reporting like manning a fighter jet, digesting charcoal, placing a lime under the armpit, jumping off an 855-foot high tower in Las Vegas and visiting voodoo practitioners in Haiti. He tests IV treatments similar to what can be found at places like REVIV, too.

Following years of dedicated drinking and detailing his experiences for what he dubs an “adventure-filled memoir,” Bishop-Stall found a cure (cue trumpets) — for him, at least. He’s not looking to bottle it up just yet, though.

In the book he writes: “I’ve been given so many hangover remedies: from kimchi to kombucha, Advil to acupuncture, haggis to heroin. But everybody is different, and so is every hangover. If the turtle soup works today, it might not work tomorrow.”

Speaking to Yahoo Canada, Bishop-Stall confirms he has “found a concoction that actually works” to cure hangovers for him, one that “produces absolutely positive results.”

“I nailed down the specific ingredients and each time the next morning came through I didn’t have anymore of the aggressive symptoms of a hangover–no vomiting or muscle pain, headache. I’d still be lethargic, but a lot of the lingering effects were repercussions from not having the best night’s sleep.”

Taking up to 10 capsules (typically six), the mixture of milk thistle (for the liver), the amino acid N-acetylcysteine (for the immune system), vitamins B1, B6 and B12 (to aid metabolism) and the anti-inflammatory medicine frankincense are what Bishop-Stall says cured his hangovers, when consumed the night before that is. He says the capsules need to be digested prior to passing out from drinking, only then will the effect truly take shape.

But before this conclusion came to be, Bishop-Stall encountered a treasure trove of tests, tapping into ancient folkloric remedies and using evaluation scales (such as the Hangover Symptoms Scale) to measure and self-diagnosis symptoms. He visited the Alps whereby his mission was to “alternate between beer festivals and health spas, finding out how to get a hangover and then the next day trying to get rid of it.”

Hungover by Shaughnessy Bishop-Stall
Hungover by Shaughnessy Bishop-Stall

He tells us how he was part of a ritual burial where after landing on top of an Austrian mountain he was brought into this catacomb and took part in a “coffin bath” that saw a mixture of herbs and grasses boiled together.

“They lift you out of that [bath], put you into this burial spot and cover you in hay and resurrect you,” and this process “seemed to work to some degree” says Bishop-Stall. “I was able to eat a mountain chopped meal and have a glass of wine.”

Adrenaline-heavy events also helped, like jumping off the Stratosphere Tower in Las Vegas, which is the tallest freestanding observation tower in the United States. Whether or not the adrenaline “cures” the hangover or stints it is debatable, but Bishop-Stall says it was one of the more beneficial experiences he attempted.

One “remedy” that did not do the trick and in fact made the man pretty sick was swallowing charcoal. Supposedly, chimney sweeps in Victorian London would sell charcoal to drinkers that would then ingest it before a night of guzzling–it was a thing back then. The recipe on hand called for two tablespoons of fireplace charcoal dissolved in a cup of warm milk. Bishop-Stall used eggnog instead. He also took a shot of olive oil after hearing references about the “pre-boozing prophylactic qualities of coating the stomach with olive oil.” Unfortunately for him only pain ensued. Although charcoal is said to “siphon some of the toxins out of your body” it did not help the hangover nor did a shot of olive oil.

He tried boiling cabbage because “cabbage is a chelator so it grabs toxins in the body to draw out,” which he says was effective, but only if one could get over the stench that comes from actually boiling cabbage.

He also looked at the influence between wine and cheese, detailing how in ancient Greece and Rome grated cheese was added right into the wine as a preventive measure against morning after sickness.

He spoke to British genetic epidemiologist Tim Spector about gut enzymes and mental health, and he really cracked open a fondness for foul eggs. Well, eggs in general.

“In foul eggs there is an amino acid stream called N-acetylcysteine and that becomes one of my focal points for research throughout the book, and is in fact one of the main ingredients in my own personal concoction,” Bishop-Stall tellsYahoo Canada.

“I tried all the folkloric remedies in different cultures dating back over 1,000 years and some of the more interesting things that I discovered was how some of these very ancient cures, if you look at them with today’s scientific lens, they do have some reasoning to them,” he adds.

If you’re still on the hunt for a gift that crisscrosses with stories on religion, history, science, random folks and facts, and what being a writer on a bender looks like, all while gulping in tender moments too, here’s a book to consider.

You can purchase the book here.

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