Published on December 6, 2017 | by Alastair Gilmour


Oh my head

Alastair Gilmour searches for a hangover cure

What’s yours? This is not an invitation to have another drink at my expense (as if…), but an enquiry about hangover cures.

In all truth, the only way to avoid a hangover is to abstain from alcohol. Forget all this stuff about drinking small amounts of olive oil before a hefty session, or downing pints of milk to line your stomach – if you’re going to drink too much, you’re going to suffer. Simple.

It’s funny how a hangover is always caused by a “bad pint” or a “bad pie” – never too much alcohol, is it? Hangovers are often painful reminders of sessions we’d rather forget. Yes, it was great at the time – life and soul you were – never knew you could be so witty. Tell us again what you said to the managing director’s wife – and how could you remember all the words to I’ve Got A Brand New Combine Harvester? With the Dorset accent, too.

But, once you’ve got a hangover, how to you get rid of it? There is nothing quite like the artery-clogging fried breakfast to banish the extra heartbeat in your head. Serious lard intake is the only tried-and-tested route to feeling fine after one too many. Greasy egg, sausage, black pudding and fried bread poked around the plate by a large sweaty tomato will do nicely, though a double bacon and egg McMuffin comes fairly close in the speed-of-action stakes.

And don’t ever examine what you’re shovelling down your neck. It’s a bit like looking at yourself in the mirror next morning – the sight of bloodshot eyes and Axminster-dry lips will have you retching within seconds. I have tested the McDonald’s magical powers on many an occasion but couldn’t tell you what it consists of – it’s in a bun and that’s all I know. Eating style is simply head down, stare at the Formica table top, swig the accompanying coffee, and devour in as few seconds as possible. Mind you, a hair of the dog an hour or so later will complete the course.

A 16th Century hangover cure involved a mixture of raw eels and almonds, ground into a paste and forced down with chunks of bread. This was probably referred to as Ye Olde Faste Foode (with free Minions toy).

A traditional Welsh hangover breakfast is roast pig’s lung, which is supposed to have them squealing with delight in The Valleys, while trust Scandinavians to swear by a sauna and a massage. An old Wild West story suggests quaffing hot water mixed with jackrabbit droppings, but give me the plip-plip of two Alka-Seltzer any day.

The ancient Greeks were convinced of the restorative powers of eating cabbage. And it’s customary in Australia after a particularly heavy session to have a couple of steak pies lashed with tomato sauce and downed with ice-cold Coca-Cola. In Puerto Rico, the astringent properties of lemons and limes are supposed to revive sagging spirits. So what do Puerto Rican’s do with them? They rub the juice under their armpits.

Kingsley Amis, in his book, On Drink, insists there is no more pleasurable or effective hangover cure than to make love, “vigorously and passionately”. The late great wine expert Keith Floyd suggested a brisk walk in your favourite anorak with its pockets filled with apples and pears. As you walk, take in deep breaths, inhaling for five steps, holding for five steps, and exhaling for five steps. He neglected to explain the significance of the fruit.

Hangovers usually bring on bouts of heartburn or hiccups, which multiply the misery. There are reckoned – by the eminent doctor James Le Fanu – to be 100 “cures” for hiccups, such as drinking out of the “wrong” side of a glass, holding one’s breath, etc. In a research paper some years ago, he related the eye-watering tale of a young man whose hiccupping had lasted for 72 hours.

“Rectal massage was then attempted,” he wrote. “The frequency of the hiccups began to slow and terminated within 30 seconds.”

McMuffin and regular fries, please.

About the Author

Alastair Gilmour

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