Written by Sarah Curran
We all hate hangovers. Word on the street is that milk thistle can make a big difference to those next day woes felt after having one or two drinks too many. What does science say about hangover cures and milk thistle’s role?
What causes a hangover?
Before we address the research on milk thistle, first we need to understand what actually causes a hangover to happen.
Because alcohol has a diuretic effect on the body, it can cause dehydration if you overdo it. This dehydration is, in fact, the culprit for most of your hangover woes, ranging from a thumping headache to dizziness and weakness. It also can cause you to have an upset stomach and has a negative impact on the quality of your sleep, leaving you feeling tired and irritable the next morning with a whopping headache.
Does milk thistle cure a hangover?
Sadly, science has not discovered a hangover cure as of yet, sorry folks! But there are certainly many steps you can take to reduce the likelihood of waking up feeling like you have been hit by a bus. Milk thistle has been used for a long time in alternative medicine for a number of ailments, most notably- issues with the liver.
As there are no specific studies on milk thistle and its effect on a hangover, it has not yet been shown by science to be a hangover cure and at present, all reports of it are appearing to be anecdotal. This is not to say people have not had success with this supplement and alleviating the discomfort of a hangover, it simply means no peer review research has been completed to recommend it as a cure as of yet. In fact, as mentioned above, there is no cure proven by science yet for a hangover as such, simply steps you can take to alleviate your symptoms, some of which are listed below.
There have however been mixed research outcomes on the effect of milk thistle on the liver. Many have touted it as a wonder supplement for issues with the liver, hence why many people recommend it as a cure for a hangover. As mentioned previously, it has not been shown to provide a cure for this specifically by science, but some research has shown that it has a beneficial effect on the liver.
Unfortunately, the majority of this research has been done on rats and mice, with the most benefit seen in unhealthy subjects rather than healthy animals. More peer-reviewed clinical trials using human participants need to be carried out to see if milk thistle has the same benefits in humans as animals before we can be certain if those benefits shown in some studies carry over to us, but the animal studies have been promising.
Avoiding the hangover blues
As always, prevention is better than cure, and as we have established science hasn’t shown us evidence of a cure for hangovers just yet, here are some tips that will help reduce the symptoms of one before you even raise that glass of bubbly.
Not just with alcohol, though, however tempting the idea may be. By alternating your alcoholic drinks with a non-alcoholic one, you will make a big difference to the hydration levels in your body. As we discussed earlier, one of the major culprits in the discomfort of a hangover is, in fact, the level of dehydration we tend to hit after a few drinks too many. Stay on top of your non-alcoholic fluid intake and you may notice a huge difference in how you feel the next day.
Have a bite to eat
Ever noticed how you seem to get drunk faster on an empty stomach? Well, this is due to the impact food has on the absorption of alcohol in the body. By having a meal or some food while you drink, you will slow down the effect of alcohol in your system.
Everyone hates the word moderation when it comes to a night out, but it really does make all the difference in the world to how you feel the next day. If you are suffering from a hangover, quite simply, you have overdone it. By setting reasonable limits on how much you plan to drink ahead of time, you can do the “you” of tomorrow a huge favour and avoid the discomfort of a whopping hangover simply by checking yourself before you wreck yourself.
Take Home Message
When it comes to hangovers, prevention is key as there is, in fact, no proper established cure for a hangover. However, if you do find yourself suffering, getting rehydrated will play a large role in helping you feel human again. You may also feel extra rough from being overtired, as presumably it was a good night last night and you may have gone to sleep late.
Alcohol also has a detrimental fact on your sleep quality which means the bit of sleep you did get, probably wasn’t up to scratch anyway. Milk thistle has many fans who swear by it for aiding in reducing the severity of a hangover, but there is no solid science to support that fact as of yet in human trials. As always, check with your doctor before you add milk thistle to your regime, especially if you are taking any medications to avoid interactions.
Try following some of the above tips to prevent a hangover in the first place, and feel free to share any tips you have found helped you with a bad hangover!