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Mud in Your Eye; a Sheep's Eye in Your Drink

The Nation

Remedies: Hangovers are the same the world over, but 'cures' vary. Experts advise imbibing lots of water or honey.

December 30, 2001|REGAN MORRIS | ASSOCIATED PRESS

In Singapore, they say herbal soup laced with ginseng can help cure a hangover. In outer Mongolia, men recovering from a big night are known to drain a glass of tomato juice containing a pickled sheep's eye.

The consequences of too much holiday cheer are universal: killer headaches, churning stomachs, dry throats and furry tongues. The remedies vary widely.

Some are purely practical, such as drinking lots of water to combat the leading cause of hangovers, dehydration. Others are inexplicably bizarre.

Guy Nicholls, 39, a copywriter from Wiltshire, England, says that rubbing half a lemon under each armpit is a sure-fire antidote. The lemons must be rubbed clockwise in the Northern Hemisphere and counterclockwise in the Southern, he says.

According to Web site http://www.hungover.net, the lemon cure originated in Puerto Rico, where lemons are rubbed (in any direction) under the "drinking arm."

"I can't explain why that could possibly work," said Dr. Fred Freitag of the Chicago-based Diamond Headache Clinic.

In Haiti, some stick 13 black-headed pins in the cork of the bottle that gave them the hangover, the Web site says.

Does another beer or Bloody Mary in the morning help a raging hangover? Experts say no; it only prolongs the agony. But the "hair of the dog" theory is as universal as the hangover.

The phrase, incidentally, stems from ancient British folk treatments for dog bites, which held that a hair taken from the offending dog and placed on the wound would help heal it.

Coffee may wake you up, but it also prolongs the pain. Like alcohol, coffee is a diuretic, which flushes fluids from the body.

Honey on toast is a better idea. Honey is rich in fructose, which hastens the metabolism, Freitag said.

"Going to a sauna and sweating out a hangover definitely works for me," said Michael Welch, a 33-year-old filmmaker living in Los Angeles.

The Finns may have invented the sauna, but many prefer a pickled herring and a cold beer to treat their krapula, which, like the English word crapulence, means hangover.

The Norwegian word is toemmermenn, or lumberjacks. In Spain, it's resaca, meaning undertow.

Many cultures rely on food to soak up those alcohol-induced toxins.

"After I drink a lot, the next morning, I need a stretcher," said Attila Mona, a student from Naples. "There is nothing to do except sleep and eat white foods because your stomach is still upset."

In Italy, "eating white" means rice, pasta and dairy products. No tomatoes--they're acidic and can make the hangover worse.

Drinking white is also a good idea, Freitag says. Bourbon and red wine result in heinously painful hangovers because they have more cogeners than their lighter counterparts. Cogeners are produced naturally by the fermentation and processing of alcoholic drinks.

Russians, however, seem to like fighting acid with acid. Many drink a glass of brine from homemade pickled cucumbers or sauerkraut.

In Hong Kong, before wedding banquets that are likely to be well lubricated, some plan ahead. They swallow raw eggs or butter before imbibing, believing that these will ease the pain.

Some Greeks believe in the egg fix as well, only they suck it whole from the shell to prepare for a night of swilling ouzo, the aniseed-flavored national liquor.

Freitag says the eggs can help because they are rich in fat and line the stomach--meaning alcohol takes longer to soak in.

The headache expert stresses that abstinence or moderation is the only certain cure.

Other than prayer, perhaps. As the poet Byron wrote:

Let us have wine and women, mirth and laughter.

Sermons and soda-water the day after.

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