The hangover is a bit like the common cold: There's no true cure for it, only palliatives that make it more or less bearable until nature runs its course. And much like the cold, hangovers are now in high season thanks to the annual gauntlet of holiday parties.
Unlike a rhinovirus, however, hangovers are 100 percent preventable -- meaning your coworkers can and will judge you if you phone in "sick" the morning after your company's Secret Santa bash. Facing a full day of meetings the morning after a night of spiked eggnogs, even a partially effective remedy starts to look pretty good.
This was the scenario Brooks Powell had in mind, more or less, when he created Thrive+, a hangover helper he started selling last year, during his junior year at Princeton University. A member of the swim team, he spent a lot of time around athletes who were, he says, "super high achieving, but also drink hard and party hard." He had trouble keeping up with them. "I have a low tolerance to the hangover thing," he says. "It doesn't take much for me to feel like I have to lay in bed until 5 p.m. the next day."
During a sophomore year neuroscience course, he was introduced to a molecule called dihydromyricetin. Learning about its properties, he quickly grasped that it had the potential to alleviate many the most common hangover symptoms, from headache to nausea to general malaise. Powell went to his professor, Sam Wang, with his revelation. "I was like, 'Look, you taught me how to interpret this stuff and I'm making sense of it, but this seems too good to be true,'" he recalls.
The science was solid, Wang assured him. The following autumn, he started selling his product, a capsule containing DHM and a handful of other ingredients, to be taken after drinking and before going to sleep. The volunteers he tested it on reported a 40 to 50 percent reduction in the severity of their hangover symptoms. Thanks to some national publicity, by the end of that semester, he was doing $1500 in business per week.
The early success emboldened Powell to take a leave of absence from Princeton to focus on the company full time, but he's now returning to earn his degree. After all, that was the point of Thrive+ in the first place. While many other hangover treatments advertise themselves as enablers of nightlife mayhem, Powell always wanted his to be treated as a productivity aid, albeit one for people who like to have fun. "I would feel unethical pitching a life where you just party and there's no meaning or anything like that," he says.
Powell is just one of the entrepreneurs seeking to annihilate the hangover. Here are three more.
Steem caffeinated peanut butter
Three friends, one of them a chef, came up with the idea for infusing caffeine and electrolytes into peanut butter. Steem went on sale in March 2014. By itself, peanut butter contains protein, fat, salt and sugar, all nutrients that are thought to help speed hangover recovery. Consuming caffeine solubilized in peanut butter supposedly makes for a slower release of energy than drinking it in coffee.
Hangover Club IV drip
The surest way to get your blood chemistry back to normal after a night of binge drinking is to have saline and electrolytes injected directly into a vein. For the last few years, it's been possible to do this in New York, Las Vegas and a number of other party meccas thanks to services that administer IV drip bags full of replacement fluid. The Hangover Club is an Uber-style on-demand service that will send a nurse to your house for around $200. Another one, called Hangover Heaven, operates a rolling "hangover clinic" on a bus.
Cryotherapy clinics like Los Angeles-based Cryohealthcare say spending two to three minutes in a chamber supercooled by liquid nitrogen stimulates many of the body's healing processes. It's usually advertised to athletes recovering from hard workouts or surgery patients undergoing rehab, but devotees swear by it as a hangover beater, too.