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Is honey a good hangover cure? It’s surprisingly a common question and doesn’t have a simple answer.
When it comes to hangover cures, you’ve probably heard of all types of weird and wonderful options to alleviate your symptoms. However, most things you’ve tried probably didn’t work that well.
Nowadays, honey is hailed as a “superfood” because of its perceived health benefits, most of which are unproven.
So, can honey be the answer to your hangover woes?
In this article, we’re going to examine honey as a food and look at what it contains in terms of micronutrients and macronutrients. We’ll then look into whether the nutrients in honey have any benefits for a hangover.
Health benefits of honey
Bees use the nectar from plants to produce honey.
Nutritionally, 1 tablespoon of honey contains:
- 64 calories
- 17 grams of sugar: including fructose, glucose, maltose, and sucrose. In fact, fresh honey contains more sugar than water.
- Trace amounts of several vitamins and minerals. (Trace amounts mean less than 1% of your daily requirements.)
- Polyphenols. Polyphenols have antioxidant properties.(1)
The amount of nutrients in honey varies greatly depending on which pollen source the bees are using, whether it’s naturally produced and the geographical location of the honey.
Darker colored natural honey has higher levels of polyphenols. Polyphenols are naturally occurring antioxidants.
The important thing to appreciate is that honey is very high in sugar and calories so the perceived health benefits have to be balanced against this.
Causes of a hangover
Before we get into whether honey is good for a hangover or not, we first need to go over how alcohol causes hangovers:
One of the main causes of a hangover is inflammation. When alcohol is metabolized (broken down) in your liver, toxic by-products such as acetaldehyde are formed which react with your cells. In normal circumstances, acetaldehyde is quickly broken down into acetic acid which is harmless. However, during periods of overindulgence, your liver is overrun with the excess acetaldehyde load which wreaks havoc on your insides.
Dehydration is another major cause of a hangover. Alcohol is a diuretic which means it makes your kidneys flush out excess fluid. In fact, for every glass of wine you drink, you lose an extra 120mls of water. Therefore, if you’ve had a few glasses of wine over the course of an evening, it can leave you dehydrated.
An overlooked cause of a hangover is poor sleep quality. Alcohol blocks your brain from reaching the REM stage of sleep. The REM stage is where dreams happen and is essential for making you feel fully rested. So, sleeping 8 hours after a few glasses of wine is not at all the same as sleeping 8 hours without any alcohol.
In summary, hangovers are caused by drinking more than your body can handle. Dehydration, poor sleep quality, congeners, and inflammation are just some of the ways excessive alcohol can negatively affect your body. Next up, we'll take a closer look at whether honey is actually good for hangovers or not.
Is honey good for hangovers?
So, now on to the all-important question, is honey good for hangovers?
It’s important to highlight that no ingredient is ever going to counteract all the negative effects of alcohol mentioned above.
With that said, there are some nutrients in honey that are perceived to have hangover-related benefits.
Honey contains high amounts of fructose which is a type of sugar. There are some studies that have shown fructose can potentially increase alcohol metabolism.(2)(3) That said, these studies are very small and over 20 years old.
In addition, binge drinking can cause hypoglycemia (low blood sugar). Alcohol does this by blocking the release of glucose stored in your liver. Therefore, if you’ve had way too many drinks at happy hour, a sugar hit from honey may be exactly what you need.(4)
We mentioned earlier that the process of alcohol metabolism produces a build-up of toxic by-products. These are normally neutralized by antioxidants. The polyphenols in honey could support your body’s antioxidant levels.(5) However, it’s important to mention that this hasn’t been proven in research studies.
In summary, honey is unlikely to have any real benefit for a hangover. Aside from the fact it'll give you a good sugar boost in the morning.
What about Korean honey water for a hangover?
Korean honey water is a popular drink in Asia and is essentially honey dissolved in water. It’s marketed to have the same benefits as regular honey and is sometimes recommended as a hangover remedy.
However, it’s unlikely to have any greater anti-hangover properties than regular honey.
Is honey a hangover cure?
In reality, a true hangover cure doesn’t exist. The only reliable way to cure a hangover is not to drink in the first place.
When it comes to hangovers, prevention is always key. Drinking within your limits, keeping well hydrated and having a meal before going out are all important.
Anything else to consider?
Hangovers are a good sign from your body that you’ve been drinking more than your liver can handle. Trying to “cure” your hangover with honey is not the best approach. When it comes to hangovers, prevention is always better than cure.
Sticking to the basics by drinking plenty of water, eating before going out, and most importantly, reducing your alcohol intake is all that’s required to prevent the worst hangovers.
You could also try avoiding darker-colored drinks like red wine and bourbon. These drinks contain very high concentrations of congeners which have been shown in studies to make hangovers a lot worse. You can read more about this in our article on congeners.
Honey for hangovers – The verdict
That brings us to the end of our look into whether honey is good for hangovers or not.
It’s high in sugar and there is some evidence that natural and darker colored honey may have a higher concentration of antioxidants. Whether this has any benefits for a hangover has not been tested or proven.
Some people like to mix honey with apple cider vinegar to use as a hangover drink. Others add it to their tea or have it with their breakfast.
The health benefits of honey should be taken with a pinch of salt. In addition, any potential benefit should be balanced against its high sugar content.
If you’re interested in natural hangover remedies, check out our article on the best teas for a hangover.