Since the beginning of drinking, humans have been looking for a way to ease the pain that comes from consuming one too many. The dreaded hangover is something no one enjoys experiencing – though some would say it’s exactly what you need to remind yourself to drink less the next time – and so if there’s any way to prevent or cure the pain, you can bet we’ll try it.
One of the oldest cures is the “hair of the dog.” It’s an idea that can be traced all the way back to the time of Aristophanes, and the theory goes that in order to overcome the pain caused by drink the evening before, you take a swig of it the next day:
“If this dog do you bite, soon as out of your bed, take a hair of the tail the next day.”
But does it actually work?
The first symptom of a hangover is actually the feeling of alcohol withdrawal. When we first wake up in the morning, this can be a pretty severe experience, especially if that comes with waking up before we really should so that we can rush to another engagement, such as brunch. The headache begins to start, we’re dehydrated and we don’t have much of an appetite. It’s a this point that one Bloody Mary starts to make many people feel a lot better.
A Bloody Mary works because the alcohol inside the drink begins acting on the chemical receptors inside the brain to increase the feelings of pleasure – it’s why so many people like booze in the first place and also probably why you drank so much of it the night before – and that chemical reaction begins to overpower the hangover symptoms, thus allowing us to feel at least momentary relief from the bad decisions of the previous night. If you’re looking for a quick fix to get you through an event before spending the rest of the day on your couch, then the “hair of the dog” is definitely a viable solution.
But what about after brunch is over, if you aren’t prepared to spend the rest of your day vegging out on the sofa? Is this solution really the way to go? Unfortunately, at some point, your body is going to have to metabolize that alcohol, which means there will come a time when you are going to need to deal with the impact your decisions have caused. Some people seem to think continuing to drink lightly throughout the day allows most of that pain to disappear, with them waking up the next day feeling refreshed – whether this is actually true, or is more likely a person’s body simply adapting to the stress of the booze, is debatable. Suffice it to say, if you are going to need to stop drinking at some point, you’ll need to search for another cure, or just deal with the eventual symptoms.
Unfortunately, there just isn’t a lot of proof to say whether the “hair of the dog” is more than just a scientifically proven short term solution, due to booze’s impact on our neurotransmitter systems. And it doesn’t seem like that scientific proof is coming anytime soon either. It seems most scientists feel the hangover is a condition most of us bring on ourselves, so spending research time testing the “hair of the dog” as a cure can feel frivolous when there are so many actual ailments to solve. We’d have to agree. But a mimosa sure does help for a short while when you absolutely need it.