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Chinese hangover cures that don't involve more alcohol
We try out four major Chinese hangover remedies and report on their varied results, so you can get it right the first time
Don’t let the Chinese penchant for tea fool you. This is a nation that can drink alcohol with the best of them, whether its beer or baijiu. Luckily there are a number of nifty concoctions available to help placate the hangover monster who tends to crawl into your head the next morning.
So in order that you may enjoy your baijiu-soaked banquet and maximize your ganbei experience without worrying about the second-day misery, we went out to road test four of the most commonly acclaimed remedies. Here is our alcohol-fueled and wholly unscientific report on their effectiveness.
Chinese hangover remedy no. 1: AlcolOut
AlcolOut is the apparent miracle pill we’ve all been waiting for. The active ingredient is “glucomannan,” which is reportedly supposed to help with everything from weight loss to relieving constipation.
Backstory: The packaging says to consume one pouch (three pills) with water over the course of a night of drinking.
Supposed effect: Nowhere in the included literature does the product say what it does, although some online research suggests that it is supposed to limit alcohol absorption, mitigating the initial drunkenness and therefore the hangover the next day.
Convenience factor: You can buy it at any FamilyMart, and some other convenience stores carry it as well.
Actual effectiveness: No regulatory bodies have certified the product for any use.
Personal experience: I don’t know if I simply drank more than I otherwise would have out of false confidence in the medicine, but it was with great disappointment that I awoke the next morning to a hangover that felt a bit like an angry, brain-hungry bear was clawing into my skull. Sadly it seems this long awaited messiah for the drunken masses needs some more work.
Rating: 1 out of 5
Chinese hangover remedy no. 2: Pu’er tea
Pu’er tea is a member of the green tea family, but it stands apart in that it is often pressed into cakes, aged and fermented, so in that respect it has much in common with the substances you might consume on a night out, and that get you into this mess in the first place.
Backstory: Pu’er tea has long been ascribed numerous health benefits including lowering cholesterol and zapping hangovers. Also, the tea is caffeinated, but the caffeine takes effect with less of the acidic jolt of coffee, thus making it more amenable to a cranky.
Supposed effect: According to the lore of traditional Chinese medicine, pu’er tea helps to stimulate spleen activity as well as reduce 'hotness' in the stomach and bring down your qi levels. Translation: you’re going to feel better after drinking this stuff.
Convenience factor: There are many varietals of pu’er tea, and you can find at least a few options at your corner tea shop.
Actual effectiveness: A Chinese friend of mine said they always make their friends drink tea when they are hungover, but she also admitted that it rarely seemed to have any noticeable affect. A Western friend claimed the tea definitely helps clear the head.
Personal experience: I don’t really care for tea, and after drinking quite a bit of it I was still very much hungover but at least better hydrated. Maybe the Chinese have it right by drinking tea with their alcohol. Chivas and green tea anyone?
Rating: 2 out of 5
Chinese hangover remedy no. 3: Ginger
Ginger is a root tuber used by its parent plant (Zingiber officinale) to store nutrients to get it through the cold, hard winter. This might be just the thing to help you through the cold, hard facts of the morning after.
Backstory: A venerable panacea in the world of traditional and organic medicines, ginger is even recognized by the U.S. FDA as a medically potent substance. While there are various types of ginger preparations including teas, ales, and even ginger beer (non-alcoholic, by the way), the most traditional preparation involves cooking ginger in water along with brown sugar to make a basic sort of cola.
Supposed effect: It can supposedly help with everything from the common cold to gastrointestinal problems and even arthritis and diabetes. Essentially, if you don’t feel well, ginger is a good first stop on the road to recovery.
Convenience factor: Ginger is pretty easy to come by in China, so just go to your nearest fruit and vegetable stand and ask for some sheng jiang (生姜).
Actual effectiveness: In the delirium of a hangover it’s tough to tell what did and didn’t work, but I found that ginger had a decidedly more notable effect than tea. But that doesn’t mean I felt great by the end of it.
Personal experience: I’m not a big fan of the taste of ginger on its own, but I do recommend that during your hungover brunch at Element Fresh that you ask your waiter to throw a bit of ginger in your smoothie (a classic Western hangover helper in its own right).
Rating: 3.5 out of 5
Chinese hangover remedy no. 4: Congee
Congee is a Chinese rice porridge that is served in many variations throughout the country. You can add almost anything to your congee, but common items are salted duck eggs, lettuce, and various meats -- not usually all at once.
Backstory: Congee has long been considered a comforter for people who simply aren’t feeling well, which aptly describes anyone who is hungover.
Supposed effect: A Chinese friend explains, “a hangover is mainly due to dehydration, so drink soup or congee! I always crave congee the next morning after a night out.”
Convenience factor: While not quite as easy to find as tea or ginger, the best bet is to find your nearest dim sum restaurant, although many other Chinese restaurants will carry it as well.
Actual effectiveness: Serving the dual purpose of hydrating and nourishing you, congee raises the bar higher than tea and ginger, to the point where the thought of opening the curtains to the blazing sun doesn't actually fill you with dread.
Personal experience: Congee served the dual purpose of helping hydrate me and satiating my ravenous appetite, and I must say the smooth texture was quite easy to handle in a deteriorated physical state. It also tasted great!
Rating: 4 out of 5