We know that ringing in the New Year for 2021 with parties and carousing won’t be the same as it has been in past years. However, some of us may still need a hangover cure in the days to come. Some swear by rehydration salts, others raw eggs and still others a hair of the dog that bit you – a primitive form of homoeopathic medicine where a quick shot of the vodka that laid you low the night before will bring you around the next day.
In the Czech language, a morning-after shot is known as a vyprošťovák – the technical name of a type of mechanical digger designed to pull bogged military tanks out of the mud.
Call it by any name you want but a hangover cure – still little more than in the realm of folk remedies – has for centuries eluded science and drinkers alike.
However, a group of Finnish researchers believe that science has finally found the answer.
A dose of 1,200 milligrams of amino acid L-cysteine was found to reduce alcohol-related nausea and headache, while a dose of 600 milligrams helped alleviate stress and anxiety, according to a study published in the journal Alcohol and Alcoholism by researchers at the University of Helsinki and the University of Eastern Finland.
The randomized, double-blind study had 19 healthy male volunteers consuming alcohol doses of 1.5 grams per kilogram over three hours in a controlled setting.
The subjects were then asked to swallow placebo or L-cysteine tablets containing vitamin supplements.
Researchers said that as well as reducing or even eliminating hangovers entirely, L-cysteine also helped “reduce the need for drinking the next day,” thereby cutting the risk of alcohol addiction.
In Finland, binge drinking is a common social problem, however, researchers noted that local conditions may have affected the result. According to researcher Markus Metsala, some of the participants had such high tolerance levels that they showed no hangover symptoms and some were excluded because they kept heading to the bar to top up the dose.
L-cysteine is a semi-essential amino acid found naturally in the human body. Abundant in protein-rich foods, L-cysteine is also sold as a dietary supplement, sometimes just called cysteine.
Cysteine, along with the amino acids glutamine and glycine, is a building block of the powerful antioxidant glutathione. The body can make cysteine from the amino acids methionine and serine, however, if these are in short supply, supplementing with L-cysteine can fill the gaps.
L-cysteine is found in many foods including meat, dairy products, eggs, nuts, seeds, and legumes. It is also abundant in protein powders used in weight-loss and body-building shakes.
The amino acid lays claim to a long list of health benefits, and proponents say that the supplement can improve everything from angina and cardiovascular disease to chronic bronchitis and inflammatory bowel disease.
Nevertheless, a 2018 literature review published in the journal Molecules noted the amino acid’s effectiveness is still unclear and further research is needed.
Despite the claims and the fact that the research received funding from Catapult Cat Oy, which sells the L-cysteine supplements, L-cysteine has long been known as a powerful antioxidant and an amino acid that helps the liver break down alcohol quickly.
According to anecdotal evidence, L-cysteine was even used by KGB agents during the Cold War to help agents drink their targets under the table and keep it together long enough to extract information from them.
За здоровье! [to your health] as they say in Russian and pass the L-cysteine.