Hair of the dog – getting drunk as a hangover remedy?

Many of you have heard the phrase “ hair of the dog ” (HOTD)- drinking alcohol the next morning to cure a hangover.  Every wonder if it actually works?  Or, how did they come up with that phrase to describe a hangover remedy?

Hair of the Dog that bit youOrigin of the phrase

The phrase is actually a shortened version “the hair of the dog that bit you” and is used today to describe drinking alcohol the day after a wild night on the town to alleviate the effects of a hangover.  The phrase comes from an old folk remedy for the treatment of a bit from a rabid dog.   There were several approaches to this remedy:  You could treat the wound directly with hairs from the dog or, you could drink a mixture that included the hairs of the dog.  The belief being that the infected dog was the only way to cure the rabies that infected the body during the bite. There has been no scientific evidence that this cure had any effect on the rabies infection.

The principle of “curing like with like” has existed in various cultures historically.  You can see this concept in action: vaccines and exposure treatments have been shown to work for some allergies Unfortunately, the effectiveness of an exposure treatment on a hangover is questionable at best.  Like the folk remedy for rabies, there is no scientific evidence that shows drinking the next morning helps a hangover in any way.

Why it doesn’t work to aid a hangover

Daniel K. Hall-Flavin, M.D., a consultant in addiction psychiatry at the Mayo Clinic provides a definitive on this approach.  “[It is a] bad idea.  You’ll probably initially receive a numbing effect from the alcohol.  Unfortunately, you are prolonging the inevitable, and it will likely make your headache worse.”

As you have read in other articles of ours, alcohol is a diuretic, which dehydrates us.  As you have also read in other articles, water is essential for the body to naturally recover from a hangover.  It is the primary driver of body’s ability to metabolism the alcohol and flushes the toxic byproducts of that digestion.

We’ve all heard the phrase “What is the first step in getting out of a hole?  Stop digging!”  Your body already has a significant amount of alcohol to process.  If you are introducing more alcohol to that system, how do you think your body will respond?  Once your body is done processing and flushing out the night of debauchery, it now has to contend with the alcohol you introduced this morning.  You are simply prolonging the effects of the hangover.

The most important reason to avoid that Bloody Mary the next morning: if you use HOTD as a regular “cure,” it will increase your risk of alcohol abuse & dependency.

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