Soaking in a bath of hay in an underground tomb, jumping from a Vegas tower, squeezing lemon wedges in the armpits and drinking soothing cups of soot and milk are just a few of the lengths a Canadian author went to in his decade-long quest to find a cure for a problem that has plagued mankind for millenniums — the common hangover.
Shaughnessy Bishop-Stall’s adventures in drinking and its related consequences took him around the world, trying everything from modern intravenous therapies to centuries-old herbal concoctions.
“I can barely even remember [how the book came about]. I started this book 10 years ago, [when] I was a different human being with a smaller liver,” Bishop-Stall told the Calgary Eyeopener on Friday.
To research the book, Hungover: The Morning After and One Man’s Quest for a Cure, Bishop-Stall said he would get himself to the point of inebriation (on anything except gin) and go in search of ways to make the pain go away.
At one point, he found himself at an Austrian spa en-route to Oktoberfest in Munich, that specialized in an ancient cure-all that starts with a “hay soup” bath in a coffin-like enclosure in mountain-top catacombs.
“They sort of let you simmer in this coffin for a while and then take you out and give you a full body massage,” he said. “They then put you into this hay bed, which is essentially a sort of a grave that they then cover you head to toe and leave you there for a while.”
The hay, he said, is supposed to have curative ingredients. Bishop-Stall said despite the oddity of the hangover cure, he did find it pretty rejuvenating.
Not all ancient cures Bishop-Stall tried were as intricate as the Austrian spa method. In Puerto Rico, people say squeezing the wedge of a lemon into the armpit will ease the hangover pain. In the U.K., they once believed putting hemlock in your socks would help, and the Mediterranean way is to coat your stomach with olive oil before drink as to keep the hangover at bay.
None of which, Bishop-Stall said, was particularly effective, but there were a few things he found that actually helped.
“There are a number [of cures] that I found effective but really their efficacy really depends on timing. And it really all has to do with stopping the hangover before it starts.
If you can roll yourself out of bed and into sub-zero waters, or off a very tall building to give your body a jolt of adrenaline, it may help pull your body out of a hangover.
While in Las Vegas, which Bishop-Stall called the “ground zero of hangover,” he tested this theory by sky jumping from the 253-metre Stratosphere Tower after spending the morning at an IV clinic that specializes in hangover treatment.
“It seemed to blow the hangover right out of me,” he said.
“There have been some scientific studies about what they call a ‘fast-sobering phenomenon,’ whereby a dose of epinephrine or adrenaline will suddenly make a drunken person exhibit characteristics of sobriety.”
Bishop-Stall said his research found this particular cure was effective at “rebooting the system” if you could get a large enough dose of adrenaline.
Eggs and cabbage
Many of the ancient remedies and folkloric cures Bishop-Stall tried around the world are being used to this day, to some degree. One common theme he found in a few of the consumable cures was chicken eggs.
“It turns out that eggs have this amino acid called acetylcysteine, which is basically as close as I’ve found to a magic ingredient when it comes to treating hangovers,” he said.
Another common ingredient he found referenced in songs and plays from centuries ago as a cure for hangover was cabbage.
“Cabbage actually has a chelating quality, which means that it goes into the body and hooks onto toxins [and] pulls them out with it,” he said.
Vitamins and supplements
Bishop-Stall’s preferred remedy, and the closet thing he said he’s found to a personal cure, is a concoction of vitamins and minerals taken at a specific time.
Noting he’s not a doctor or even a scientist, Bishop-Stall details a personal recipe of: vitamins B1, B6 and B12, acetylcysteine (commonly known as NAC), a natural anti-inflammatory like frankincense or CBD oil, (which will be less hard on your liver than over-the-counter pills), and a magnesium supplement.
The concoction worked out to be about a half-dozen capsules taken before bed.
“It’s all about time, and these things have to be taken after drinking and before sleeping, before the mechanism of hangover even begins,” he said.