How to Nurse a Hangover

We scientifically test Czech cures for morning-after misery

By Chloe Hays

According to Czechs, cesnecka, utopenci, chicken soup or even a cold Pilsner are all sure-fire ways to cure a hangover.

According to Czechs, cesnecka, utopenci, chicken soup or even a cold Pilsner are all sure-fire ways to cure a hangover. Photo by Peter Slattery.

You’ve woken up from your first night out in Prague and realized that Pilsner Urquell and Becherovka shots are no longer your friends. You’re groggy, a little nauseous and you’re left with a pretty bad headache. But if you’re going to be in Prague, you have to do as the Czechs do, so why not use a Czech cure? As it turns out, many of the traditional Czech cures have ingredients that are scientifically shown to help cure the symptoms of hangovers.

Cesnecka – garlic soup

Cesnecka is a popular soup containing garlic, potatoes, onions and chicken/beef broth.

Garlic contains cysteine, a non-essential amino acid, which neutralizes acetaldehyde, a toxic byproduct of alcohol consumption. The chicken or beef broth rehydrates and restores sodium levels in the body. The sugar in the onions burns through any leftover alcohol by speeding up the body’s metabolism.

Overall, cesnecka was the best cure I used — but it’s not without faults. At first, a garlic soup on a hung-over morning sounded unappetizing, and I questioned how something as unsubstantial as soup — with ingredients as pungent as garlic and onion — could work. But the potatoes make this soup as hearty as it needs to be, and the broth itself felt more substantial and rehydrating than I expected. My only critique is that I felt a little more nauseous than I had before I started as soon as I finished the soup, but that feeling quickly passed. For that reason I wouldn’t recommend it if you’re the kind of person who gets very nauseous from hangovers, but if you need to rehydrate to get rid of a headache, cesnecka is a safe bet.

 

Utopenci – pickled sausage

A pub food favorite for a night out, utopenci is a dish containing pickles, sausage, sauerkraut and tomatoes that Czechs swear by on the morning after too. It’s a dish to order at a restaurant, since you need about two weeks to pickle the sausage, but if you’re not too hungover to move, it’s a safe bet. It includes a lot of the ingredients found in cesnecka, including garlic and onions, making it a good alternative if soups make you more nauseous. The tomatoes can repair the cell damage to your liver by restoring your levels of vitamin A and C, beta-carotene and lycopene, all of which are depleted by drinking alcohol.

While utopenci is helpful for a hangover, it’s a better dish to eat before going out. After a night of drinking, a cold, pickled meat dish doesn’t seem all that appetizing. And the sausage is very large and fatty. But after trying it, I would recommend it to someone looking to eat something more solid and substantial than a soup if you just need to fill up your stomach to get rid of your hangover. However, fatty foods are better to eat before going out drinking, as they help insulate the lining of the stomach to slow alcohol absorption in the bloodstream and prevent hangovers. And beware: many of today’s utopenci recipes call for spices like black pepper or paprika that may upset the stomach, so be sure to ask before ordering how spicy it is.

 

Chicken soup

Just like your mom did when you were sick as a child, Czechs turn to chicken soup to cure their hangovers. Like cesnecka, a simple chicken soup with just broth and chicken will restock your sodium levels and rehydrate you. Chicken also contains cysteine like garlic.

Chicken soup is a good cure for anyone who needs to rehydrate and replenish without risking a reaction to the spices and smells of cesnecka or utopenci. For those sensitive to the strong smells and tastes of foods like garlic and onion, a classic chicken soup will give you a similar recovery effect. However, if you can stomach it, I found cesnecka to be a quicker recovery than chicken soup by an hour or two, even if chicken soup left me feeling more full than cesnecka.

 

Pilsner

For the country with the highest per capita beer consumption in the world, it’s no surprise that one of the ways Czechs cure their hangover is with an ice cold beer upon waking up. The “hair of the dog” cure isn’t unique to the Czech Republic and can be found in a number of countries across the globe, but the science behind the cure is hotly debated. Some scientists suggest that the reason drinking the morning after makes you feel better is that when you wake up, your body is in a withdrawal period, and reintroducing alcohol into the bloodstream relieves that withdrawal. Some say that the  carbohydrates in your morning beer, depending on what kind of beer you’re drinking, counteract the bad effects you might feel after, but generally you’re more likely to just be delaying your hangover, not getting rid it.

Ultimately, drinking a beer when you wake up, while a very Czech thing to do, is not a good idea for curing a hangover. I found that getting up and drinking beer immediately was not pleasant, as even the thought of drinking alcohol again was enough to make me gag. After mustering up the courage to drink it, the beer did seem to relieve my headache for a bit- but only temporarily. At best, drinking a beer upon waking up is like turning the volume down on your headache. You’ll need something else to turn it off completely, but thankfully you have three other Czech cures to try.

 

Chloe Hays is in the College of Arts and Sciences class of 2016. Her hometown is Eugene, Oregon. 

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Categories: Spring 2015 Issue Number 3

Author:The Prague Wandering

The Prague Wandering is an NYU based study abroad webzine- the only one of its kind. It focuses on issues in contemporary Czech culture and the city of Prague, exploring beyond the study abroad bubble.

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