What is a hangover?
Alcohol is a diuretic so most of the symptoms associated with overindulging are related to dehydration. Over time the alcohol we consume breaks down into acetaldehyde, which our bodies find toxic. It’s normal for your body to try to get rid of this toxin, hence nausea. In response to the toxins, the liver swells, reducing blood flow and stopping its normal functions, which include processing hormones and expelling toxins hence the aching and malaise. Finally, alcohol stops our bodies from processing glutamate, one of the body’s stimulants. At first, this makes us feel sedated which is part of the fun, but as the alcohol wears off, our bodies realise that they are lacking in glutamine and so produce more of it. This excess glutamine inhibits sleep and is the reason we wake up in a sweat after drinking.
However, help is at hand in the form of some age-old Chinese herbal formulae such as Bao He Wan and Po Chai Pills – that are available at our clinic.
Bao He Wan can be used either to treat a hangover or as a preventative if you take it before you start to drink. It’s particularly useful for treating the digestive problems associated with a hangover and when combined with lots of water or fruit juice, it can be a great way of treating a fragile system after too much holiday indulgence.
Po Chai Pills use several herbs to reduce upset stomachs and nausea plus alleviate the crippling hangover effects of headaches and drowsiness.
Additionally, a hearty breakfast the morning after may be the last thing you feel like but it can help. Carbohydrates help to stabilise your blood sugar and can reduce stomach acid and the cysteine in egg yolks binds to the acetaldehyde and neutralises it.
Avoid caffeine, however. A cup of coffee may be what you’re craving but it’s a diuretic and will only exacerbate your dehydration. Likewise, exercise may not be the first thing you feel like doing but going for a brisk walk increases circulation, helping your body to expel toxins and getting blood and oxygen to your brain.
Instead of coffee maybe opt for one of these herbal teas (which can all be found in Chinese supermarkets, e.g. at Preston Market):
Chrysanthemums are associated with the liver meridian in Chinese medicine. Their primary functions are to pacify the liver, release toxins, dispel wind and clear heat. Chrysanthemums are a traditional remedy for symptoms like headache, blurred vision, dizziness and muscle spasm.
Dried Orange Peel (Chen Pi) tea
Dried Orange peels are especially helpful for nausea and vomiting. You can make your own Chen Pi by drying tangerine peels under the sun and putting them in a steamer. Repeat this process several times to enjoy your homemade Chen Pi with tea.
You can add wild jujube (red dates/Da Zao) to your Chen Pi tea for copious amounts of vitamin C.
Hawthorn berry (Shan Zha) tea
Hawthorn berries are used in many drinks and beverages in China. They are great for digestion of fats, indigestion, and can assist in lowering cholesterol.
A natural anti-inflammatory, ginger in your tea is a great alternative to Ibuprofen or other such painkillers that can dole out extra punishment on your already delicate digestive system.
Mint cools and soothes the digestive system and relieves pain from gas. Also useful in the Cuban hangover cure known as the Mojito. 😉
And last, but not least – Add a little bit of honey to your teas or hot water for a simple-but-powerful hydrating concoction.
Dr Leela Klein (TCM)
Want a more one on one approach? Come and see Leela in the clinic:
0421 283 442 www.shellsandbones.com.au