Some sobering advice about hangovers

A Bloody Mary . . . Ham, egg and cheese on an everything bagel . . . Two Excedrin and a bottle of Gatorade. Our viewers emailed us, calling these just the thing to deal with a hangover. But we wanted more facts, and Serena Altschul set out to find them:


Ah, New Year's Eve. The ball dropped, champagne was popped, and popped . . . and popped!

And today, many of you are ringing in 2012 with a hangover.

The pain in the back of the head. Everything hurts. Things take longer than they should. Not the best way to start the New Year!

Dr. Stephen Lamm, an internist in New York City, describes the hangover as a perfect cocktail of dehydration, low blood sugar, sleep disruption, and even mental instability: "There's headache, there's nausea, there's vomiting, there's vertigo, there's anxiety, there's depression, there is a sense of doom.

"People have to appreciate you're dealing with an extremely toxic substance," he said.

To Dr. Lamm, hangovers are no joke. But try telling that to Hollywood. In "The Nutty Professor," Jerry Lewis was assaulted by his hangover headache. And 2009's "The Hangover" was a box office smash.

But let's face it: In the real world, a hangover is nothing to laugh at, and mankind has been under its influence since Noah and the Great Flood.

"He came ashore, he planted his vines, he got very drunk, he passed out naked in his tent, the next morning he wakes up with such a hangover he condemns all of Canaan's descendants to slavery. That's a pretty tough hangover!" said Frank Kelly Rich, editor of - believe it or not - Modern Drunkard Magazine.

Rich notes that the hangover, like the devil, has been known by many names throughout history, such as crapulence, the morning fog, the black dog . . .

"Bottle aches, the jimjams, bust head - very descriptive words that the working class came up with to describe different things," said Rich.

The term "hangover" was born at the turn of the century.

"Around 1906 it become a common use as something leftover from the night before," said Rich. "It's actually the perfect word when you think about it, it just sounds right , like you're hanging over a sink in the morning, feeling like hell."

Whatever it was called, finding a cure has long been an elusive goal. The Ancient Greeks would engrave their wine cups with praises to the Drinking Gods. The Romans dined on owl eggs.

And there were other, even less appetizing cures:

"The Mongolians would eat sheep eyes," said Rich. "The Syrians would grind up sparrow beaks and mix that with water and drink it. Practitioners of voodoo would take the cork of the offending bottle and stick it with needles and try and stop it."

It wasn't until the Industrial Revolution, and the appearance of a suspicious illness called the "one-day flu" (when a hangover prevented a worker from going to work), that the scientific community was called in for help.

Through the years many products have claimed to be that holy grail of hangover cures - one of the newest is a preventative drink called Mercy.

Alex Ott, one of the minds behind the elixir, mixed up a cocktail he calls the "Angel of Mercy."

He said the science behind Mercy is that it is "fortified with a lot of nutrients, a lot of amino acids, antioxidants, multi-vitamins; we have chamomile extract in there. We have milk thistle to protect your liver. We have alpha-ketoglutaric acid."

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