Is CBD Actually Effective for Treating Your Hangover?

We all know the feeling – after a night of drinks with our best buds, we wake up with a dreaded hangover.  We feel nauseous, our head is pounding, we can’t think straight and the last thing that we want to do is get out of bed.  As you may have noticed by now, hangovers have a tendency to get more and more severe as we get older.  The symptoms can be more intense, the hangovers can last longer into the day, and we can become increasingly sensitive to them in general, developing one after just a drink or two.

You might be surprised to learn that more people are turning to cannabidiol (CBD) after a long night of partying.  Most of you are familiar with at least some of the properties of CBD, but the majority would be surprised to hear that it’s actually becoming a go-to when that hangover strikes.  That’s why we’re going to go over why CBD is becoming a popular option for this particular purpose, while also covering how you can use it properly for the best potential results.

Why Do Hangovers Occur?

To understand the way in which cannabidiol may impact a hangover, it’s important that we have a good idea of what causes a hangover in the first place, while also keeping in mind that the severity can vary.

Most of us have dealt with a hangover by now, and so we all know the symptoms: headaches, muscle aches, brain fog, fatigue, nausea, anxiety and stomach cramping, to name just a few.  The reason these symptoms occur largely has to do with dehydration.  Alcohol dehydrates the body because it contains ethanol, which is a powerful diuretic that draws fluids out of the body.  Dehydration caused by alcohol can also result in an electrolyte imbalance.  Electrolytes, such as potassium and sodium, are vital for cell function and energy, and imbalances can contribute to hangover symptoms.

Another factor is the way in which the body processes alcohol.  Once alcohol is in the process of metabolization, the body treats it like sugar, which then causes a sharp spike in blood sugar levels, followed by a dramatic crash once the alcohol is processed.  This can cause us to feel absolutely depleted, and this has a lot to do with why so many of us crave carbs once our appetite comes back.

As you know, hangovers are largely dependent on the amount of alcohol we had the night before.  The more we drank, the worse the hangover will be.  But, other factors are at play as well.  One is our personal tolerance to alcohol.  Another is how much we ate the day before.  And, our hydration, mineral and vitamin levels can also determine just how much a night of drinking impacts us the next day.

Other things that can happen when you get a hangover are:

  • Gastrointestinal Irritation: Alcohol increases the production of stomach acid and delays stomach emptying, which can cause abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, or indigestion.
  • Immune System Response: Some studies suggest that alcohol can trigger an inflammatory response from your immune system. This inflammation might cause certain hangover symptoms like inability to concentrate, memory problems, loss of appetite, and decreased interest in usual activities.
  • Poor Sleep Quality: While alcohol can make you fall asleep quickly, it also reduces the quality of sleep, leading to fatigue and grogginess.
  • Congeners: These are by-products of alcohol fermentation, found especially in darker liquors like whiskey and red wine. Congeners can worsen hangover symptoms.
  • Acetaldehyde Buildup: When you drink alcohol, your liver breaks it down into acetaldehyde, a toxic compound that's eventually converted into a harmless substance called acetate. However, if you consume more alcohol than your liver can process, acetaldehyde builds up in your body, leading to hangover symptoms.

What Current Treatments are There for a Hangover?

There are several treatments and remedies for hangovers, although it's important to note that not all have robust scientific backing.  Some of the treatments that have shown potential in small studies include:

  1. Korean Pear Juice: This may lower blood alcohol levels and reduce hangover symptoms if consumed before drinking alcohol.
  2. Prickly Pear Extract: Derived from a type of cactus, this supplement may reduce hangover nausea when taken before or after the last drink.
  3. Red Ginseng: Drinking a red ginseng drink after each alcoholic drink has been reported to reduce hangover severity in a small study.
  4. Niacin and Zinc: Consuming foods or drinks with Niacin (Vitamin B3) and Zinc before drinking alcohol might result in milder hangover symptoms.

Other general advice includes:

  1. Avoiding pain relievers with acetaminophen, as they can potentially damage your liver when there's alcohol in your system.
  2. Eating a balanced breakfast, the morning after can help stabilize blood sugar levels and provide nutrients. Foods like watermelon, strawberries, and cantaloupe are good choices due to their high water content.  Toast or bagels can also be gentle on the stomach while boosting blood sugar levels.
  3. It's also important to be cautious with some widely touted remedies. For instance, the idea of "hair of the dog" – drinking more alcohol to cure a hangover – is commonly considered ineffective and can prolong recovery.  Similarly, caffeine, while popular as a morning pick-me-up, might actually worsen hangover symptoms and slow down rehydration.

What Can CBD Do to Help with a Hangover?

Hangovers occur because of a lack of equilibrium throughout the body, hence the widespread and varied symptoms.  Meanwhile, we have a system in our body that is in charge of maintaining equilibrium, and it’s called the “endocannabinoid system (ECS)”.  This fascinating system regulates every other system thanks to cannabinoid receptors (CB receptors) that’re located throughout the body.  These receptors are in charge of regulating individual bodily processes, ranging from inflammation to mental state.

But, these receptors require cannabinoids in order to do their job.  And, the more severe the symptoms, the more cannabinoids they need.  That’s where CBD comes in.  Cannabidiol is the leading compound found in the hemp plant.  Hemp belongs to the cannabis genus, which contains a rich variety of cannabinoids, with CBD being just one of them.

When we consume cannabinoids, the ECS sends them to the areas of the body where they are most needed.  This could be the brain, digestive tract, muscles and so on.

Many of our bodily processes are compromised during a hangover, including our digestive function, inflammation levels, brain function and more.  And, studies on CBD have demonstrated that it may regulate all of the processes affected that lead to the symptoms that we experience

How to Use CBD for a Hangover

The next time you have a hangover, you might want to reach for CBD.  However, it is best to be fully hydrated as we talked about earlier, and eating a balanced meal, as once again, this can help alleviate hangover symptoms.  Plus, CBD might be more effective when you're not taking it on an empty stomach.  So, let’s discuss the key ways in which you should use cannabidiol specifically for this purpose.  Keep in mind though, too, cannabidiol is not a cure for a hangover, and the effectiveness can vary from person to person.

Tip #1: Choose Your CBD Product/Delivery Method

You can use CBD oil, capsules, edibles, or even topical products.  Oils and tinctures are popular for hangovers because they can be absorbed quickly when placed under the tongue.

Tip #2: Select a Milligram Strength that Offers More Potency

CBD comes in a wide range of milligram strengths for various purposes.  Typically, hangovers are a more severe state, which’s why we recommend going with a higher potency level.  However, if you're new to CBD, start with a low dose (around 5-10 mg) and see how your body reacts.  You can gradually increase the dose if needed.

Tip #3: Timing

Consider taking CBD when you first wake up if you're experiencing hangover symptoms. Some people find it useful to take CBD before going to bed after drinking, as a preventive measure.

  • Take CBD When You’re Going to Bed: It’s wise to get the CBD in your system during the actual metabolization process, so we recommend taking it before going to bed so that it can get to work while the body is processing the alcohol.
  • Take CBD Again the Next Day: It’s also wise to take another dose of CBD the next morning when you wake up, if your symptoms are burdensome.

Don’t Let Your Hangover Linger Throughout the Day

The best way to avoid a hangover, of course, is to drink alcohol in moderation or not at all.  If you choose to drink, being aware of your limits and consuming alcohol responsibly is key to preventing hangovers.  Still, if you do get one, besides the general treatments we touched upon, perhaps you could look into cannabidiol.  Thanks to its regulatory nature, CBD might be a good option for hangover sufferers.

Remember, while some people report that CBD helps with their hangover symptoms, there's limited scientific research on this specific use.  Everyone's body reacts differently, so what works for one person might not work for another.  So, if you wish to try CBD, speak to your doctor/physician first, especially if you're taking other medications, as this piece is not intended to give medical advice, as only your medical specialist can provide that. 

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