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Drinking Habits

Does the Olive Oil Trick Work for Hangovers?

June 7, 2024
19 min read
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A team of researchers and psychologists who specialize in behavioral health and neuroscience. This group collaborates to produce insightful and evidence-based content.
June 7, 2024
19 min read
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Certified recovery coach specialized in helping everyone redefine their relationship with alcohol. His approach in coaching focuses on habit formation and addressing the stress in our lives.
June 7, 2024
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Recognized by Fortune and Fast Company as a top innovator shaping the future of health and known for his pivotal role in helping individuals change their relationship with alcohol.
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Reframe Content Team
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Before Pregaming With a Shot of Olive Oil, Read This

  • Proponents of the “olive oil trick” claim that taking a shot of olive oil before drinking might prevent hangovers. Turns out, there’s some truth to this.
  • While there’s some science to back up the claim, the best way to prevent hangovers is to watch your alcohol intake, stay hydrated, and eat a nutritious meal.
  • Reframe can help you say goodbye to hangovers for good with our science-backed program for quitting or cutting back on drinking. We’re here to help you revamp your relationship with alcohol and cheer you on throughout your journey!

You’re getting ready for a night out. You haven’t made a final decision about drinking tonight — yeah, it’s the usual game plan, but lately the hangovers have been getting to be a bit too much. They’re starting to seep into Sundays, and you’ve even had to call in sick to work a couple of Mondays (yikes!). As you walk through your kitchen, you notice a bottle of olive oil tucked between the faucet and the coffee maker. Wait a minute, you think, didn’t someone tell you once that having some olive oil before drinking prevents hangovers?

You wonder how much olive oil it’s going to take (they don’t mean chug it, right?). Is it worth a shot? And does it actually have to be enough to fill a shot glass? Wouldn’t a slice of equally greasy (but much more delicious) focaccia bread work as well?

Let’s look at the age-old trick of taking a shot of olive oil before drinking and see if there’s any truth to it. Then, we can explore some other strategies for making hangovers less intense. Who knows, you might just get inspired to ditch that morning-after malaise altogether by taking a break from booze! 

What Is the Olive Oil Trick?

Olive oil bottles and fresh olive oil on a wooden table

What's the olive oil trick anyway? Pretty much exactly what it sounds like. The idea is to drink a spoonful of olive oil (gulp!) before drinking alcohol as a way to prevent hangovers — that notoriously unpleasant set of next-day symptoms including headaches, nausea, fatigue, and overall malaise.

The main culprits behind hangovers are dehydration, inflammation, stomach irritation, and the buildup of toxins released as byproducts during alcohol metabolism. (For a more in-depth look, check out our blog “What Exactly Happens During a Hangover?”).

Friends lovers out there might immediately think of the episode titled “The One Where Nobody's Ready,” where Ross almost drinks a glass full of chicken fat to prove his devotion to Rachel. Don’t worry — it’s not quite as bad as that. But it’s not all pleasant either.

The Theory Behind the Olive Oil Trick

Is there science behind the olive oil trick? Kind of. One of the main culprits behind hangovers is acetaldehyde — the toxic byproduct of alcohol metabolism. This unwanted substance gets converted to nontoxic acetic acid and is excreted from the body through the kidneys. However, if we drink a lot, the liver has trouble keeping up, causing acetaldehyde to build up in our system.

Coating the stomach with olive oil slows down alcohol absorption because fat slows metabolism. The result? Alcohol passes through our system more slowly and the liver gets a bit more time to do its job without the system getting so overwhelmed.

As for the question about whether or not there’s a more palatable way to go about it, the good news is that it seems that anything greasy will do the trick (albeit, probably at the expense of our diet goals). According to Science, “Greasy pizza works just as well, and tastes better ... though right about now the thought of eating greasy pizza might not be appealing.”

Likewise, a WebMD hangover advice guide cites chorizo as a “late-afternoon-before preventive tactic.” In the words of former UCI student Cole Ramsey, "It's fatty, and it sits in your stomach for like 12 hours. For some reason, the hangover goes away.”

The point is, something substantially fatty in our stomach will help us out in the hangover department (although that’s not a license to drink as much as we want!). However, there may be other options that might appeal to us as well.

Pantry for Hangover Cures

Searching the Pantry for Hangover Cures

As it happens, the olive oil trick isn’t the only “pantry cure” for preventing or curing hangovers. Here are a few others.

  • The milk cure. Got milk? Got a hangover? Problem solved! (Or so the theory goes.) In reality, while there are many benefits to milk, “curing” (or preventing) a hangover isn’t one of them. It may help us rehydrate and replenish some lost electrolytes, but that’s about it.
  • The milk thistle cure. Milk thistle comes with well-known liver benefits, and while those are backed by science, its ability to prevent or cure a hangover is a bit more dubious — there’s no clear evidence to support the claim.
  • The yeast and borage cures. Now this one actually has some legs. One study cites yeast and borage (a flowering plant also known as starflower) as possible candidates for alleviating hangovers. They found that “The difference in the change for the symptoms [of] discomfort, restlessness, and impatience was statistically significant in favor of the yeast preparation.” The same was true for borage: “The results indicated a significant reduction in the overall severity of hangover and in the individual symptoms of headache, laziness, and tiredness compared with placebo.”
  • The prickly pear cactus juice cure. That same study tested this theory as well and found it to be a flop: no significant differences were reported. However, knowing that prickly pear juice does have some anti-inflammatory properties, the researchers mention that this one is worth a further look.
  • The pickle juice cure. Sorry to say, but this is another myth. While in theory pickle juice could help restore some of the lost electrolytes, there’s no evidence that it can do much for getting rid of a hangover.
  • The cabbage cure. While we’re in the produce section of the fridge, let’s take a look at the cabbage cure. A bit lesser known but still popular, this one actually comes from the ancient Greeks and Romans and is based on the idea that cabbage and wine “repel” each other. And while it might not be quite that dramatic, there's some truth to this theory, according to Shaughnessy Bishop-Stall, a globetrotting journalist who condensed his hangover cure research into a book titled Hungover: The Morning After and One Man’s Quest for a Cure.

    As Bishop-Stall tells CNBC, “There have been recipes, songs and poems about cabbage, dating back hundreds if not thousands of years, referring to it as a morning after concoction … And it turns out, cabbage has what we call a ‘chelating effect,’ which means it goes into the body and kind of latches on to toxins, and pulls it out when it leaves your body.”
  • The coffee cure. We see this a lot in TV shows (“Quick, leave the bar, we’re on a case!”) and it’s the go-to for many who find themselves having to sober up fast. While caffeine will perk us up for a bit, chances are we’re not doing ourselves any favors in the long run, as it dehydrates us and will most likely lead to an even bigger crash later on.
  • The burnt toast cure. The theory, in this case, is that charcoal helps absorb alcohol (which is why it’s often used when treating drug overdose). However, a hangover is a whole different story. As physician Tania Elliott tells CNBC, “Charcoal tablets are used for acute alcohol intoxication, to absorb alcohol from the stomach in the setting of alcohol poisoning … It would not have a role in helping with a hangover, where alcohol has already been absorbed into the bloodstream and is being broken down.”
  • The egg white cure. Finally, the egg white cure, or “prairie oyster,” which requires us to slurp down a raw egg white — a worthy rival to olive oil in terms of the “ick” factor if we’re not used to it. Does it work?

    The idea is that the cysteine in an egg white has restorative properties, but it’s not likely it will do much for a hangover. Although, as physician Brian Grosberg told ABC News, it might have an indirect effect: “Thinking about that would make me not want to drink … It would be a non-alcoholic drink that night if a prairie oyster would be something I had to drink later."

Of course, we’d love to find an instant, easy cure for a hangover once it’s looming over us. However, the best hangover cure is to prevent one altogether. Let’s look at a few ways we can drink smarter so our next day won’t be harder. Don’t worry — we’ll also look at a few science-backed ways to relieve symptoms once they’ve started.

Alternative Hangover Cures

It’s up to you whether you want to give the olive oil trick a go, but before you pass around a bottle of Bertoli to start the night off, consider some of these alternatives that are more scientifically backed. 

  • Stay hydrated. This one is key — many of the most unpleasant hangover symptoms are the result of dehydration, so drinking plenty of water will help you more than any other pantry cures or preventative measures will. 
  • Eat before drinking. While the olive oil trick might help you a bit, eating a nutritious meal before drinking is probably an even better way to go. It will slow down alcohol absorption just as well (if not better) while also giving your body the nutrients it needs to function at its best and keep cravings at bay.
  • Watch your intake. This one’s obvious, but it’s still worth mentioning. Ultimately, hangovers come down to how much we drink, and no amount of olive oil will keep them away if we overdo it with the booze. Set a limit before you head out — or better yet, explore mocktails for a night (or more). Who knows, your new favorite drink just might end up being a “Tranquila Sunrise” or “Fruit Basil Smash”!
  • Consider vitamins or supplements. There’s some evidence that taking magnesium supplements helps alleviate hangover symptoms, including fatigue, muscle aches, and poor sleep. That said, be careful with any supplements that claim to “cure” hangovers — if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is!

    According to a 2021 study in Addictive Behaviors, most “hangover cure” supplements are ineffective, and some can be downright dangerous. Out of the 82 products tested in the study, 51 “contained one or more vitamins of which the dose exceeded the corresponding daily recommended intake level.” 
  • Choose your drinks wisely. There’s science-backed evidence that congeners — compounds present in certain types of alcohol as a result of the fermentation process — contribute to hangovers. Dark liquors (such as brandy, rum, and whiskey), as well as red wines have more, so stay away from those if you’re sensitive.
  • Replenish nutrients the next day. According to “The Definitive Guide to Curing a Hangover, from a Harvard Brain Doctor,” it’s a good idea to go for “anti-inflammatory foods that are fiber rich and nutrient-dense.” In addition to replenishing lost electrolytes, these foods “convey other brain benefits such as avocado (healthy fat and rich in magnesium) or beans and lentils (rich in fiber and potassium) help fend off the cravings for greasy, fried, or sugary foods which only exacerbate symptoms by causing more inflammation.” 

Summing Up

In the end, if we find ourselves working hard to prevent a hangover — or nursing one frequently after a night out — it might be time to reconsider our drinking patterns as a whole. There’s no need for judgments, regrets, or restrictions. Instead, simply see this situation as a chance to explore your relationship with alcohol and see if maybe it’s time for it to evolve. If you decide that you want to make less space in your life for alcohol, become sober-curious, or want to try cutting back, Reframe is here to help you every step of the way!

Summary FAQs

1. What is the olive oil trick for hangovers?

The olive oil alcohol hangover trick involves taking a spoonful of olive oil before drinking alcohol in order to coat the stomach and slow down alcohol absorption to prevent hangovers.

2. Does a shot of olive oil before drinking prevent hangovers?

There’s some science behind the claim that a shot of olive oil before drinking might slow down the absorption of alcohol, making hangovers less intense.

3. What are some better ways to get rid of a hangover?

Rehydrating to replenish lost water and electrolytes, eating a nutritious meal, and watching your alcohol intake are all great ways to keep hangovers at bay.

Ready To Change Your Relationship With Alcohol? Reframe Can Help!

Although it isn’t a treatment for alcohol use disorder (AUD), the Reframe app can help you cut back on drinking gradually with the science-backed knowledge to empower you 100% of the way. Our proven program has helped millions of people around the world drink less and live more. And we want to help you get there, too!

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