"No matter how much wine I drink, as long as I use the drops, I don't have a migraine the next day," raves one five-star review on Amazon about these Drop It Wine Drops (buy it: $19.99 for two bottles, Amazon.com). And of these UBfree Wine Drops (buy it: $19.95, Amazon.com) another user swears, "I don't get acid reflux or headaches when I put five drops of this in my wine."
On the other end of the spectrum, reviewers are saying, "THE TASTE! Bleck!" and "didn't notice much difference."
So can a simple drop really chemically change wine enough to really prevent hangovers … or is this simply the placebo effect at play? We asked the experts.
Wine Drop Claims
There are a whole host of products that claim to reduce hangovers, from wands to sachets to aerators. These drops in particular are growing in popularity recently, as they're more "discreet," fans say, than long metal sticks or tea bag-like packets, so you can use them without the whole dinner party or restaurant table turning heads and asking, "huh?!"
Wine drop brands claim the hydrogen peroxide in their drops can neutralize sulfites and reduced tannins in wine, all without altering the flavor in any way. To use, add five drops to each glass of wine, wait 20 to 30 seconds and the gluten-free, keto-friendly, dairy-free and soy-free drops will do their thing.
Amazon, Getty Images / Lew Robertson
What are Sulfites and Tannins?
"Tannins are a group of chemical compounds found in the skins, stalks and seeds of grapes. They make your wine feel astringent and bitter and leave a drying sensation in your mouth," explains Brianne Cohen, a Los Angeles-based certified sommelier, wine educator, judge and writer.
The concept that these drops would reduce tannins is the first thing that made Cohen raise a red flag, as these are generally only present in red wines (skin contact is eliminated or drastically minimized while making white and rosé wine).
Tannins are also potent in coffee, tea, walnuts, dark chocolate and other foods, explains Linda Shiue, MD, chef and author of Spicebox Kitchen: Eat Well and Be Healthy with Globally Inspired, Vegetable-Forward Recipes ($25.76, Amazon.com).
"People who are sensitive to tannins find the taste to be bitter or astringent—that mouth puckering feeling of biting into an unripe persimmon or plum," Dr. Shiue says. That doesn't mean it will trigger a headache.
If you do think that tannins are the cause of your headaches, drink a cup of black tea to test your sensitivity, Cohen suggests. Or if you like, try white wine, which naturally has low to no tannins.
"Tannin levels in dried tea leaves are sky high. If you can drink black tea, then you likely do not have any sort of tannin allergy or sensitivity," Cohen says.
As far as sulfites go, these occur naturally in some foods and are added to others as a preservative. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) says that added sulfites are generally recognized as safe (GRAS) up to a certain level (that's much higher than any food on the market). Regardless of how little is added, the FDA requires all brands who use them to mention supplemental sulfites on the product's label. Possible ingredient names include sulfur dioxide, potassium bisulfite, potassium metabisulfite, sodium bisulfite, sodium metabisulfite or sodium sulfite. In addition to wine, you might find sulfites in baked goods, dried fruit, pickles, canned vegetables, tea, condiments and even fresh or frozen shrimp. While it's possible to have a sulfite sensitivity, only about 1 in 100 Americans might be sulfite-sensitive, according to the FDA.
"Some people react to sulfites with headaches, or more significantly, with allergic reactions including hives and stomach symptoms," Dr. Shiue says. "Wine drops, which contain hydrogen peroxide, might theoretically be able to decrease sulfites in wine. But don't know that they can do so to a significant degree. Only time and natural processes involving oxidation and binding of sulfites to the aldehydes, sugars and other compounds present in wine can do that significantly."
No wonder one reviewer chimes in, "I wish there were a way to test how many of the sulfites and tannins it actually removed. If it removes ALL of them, I'm guessing some of those sulfites and tannins must be the very things making my vino taste goooooood. LOL!"
What Causes Headaches After Drinking Alcohol?
As we've previously discussed related to what happens to your body when you have a hangover, the headaches are likely a result of drinking more alcohol than your body can handle at the moment.
"This is a tough pill to swallow, but headaches and hangovers are likely not caused by sulfites or tannins. If you can eat dried fruit or fast food French fries, you're not allergic to sulfites. And if you can drink black tea, you're not allergic to tannins," Cohen says. "The culprit is generally dehydration."
Yep, the good old-fashioned formula of not drinking enough water and/or eating enough food in relation to how much wine you drank.
"As we all know, it takes time for the body to metabolize alcohol. We feel great when we drink wine in moderation [which is defined as up to one 5-ounce glass of wine for women or up to two 5-ounce glasses of wine for men in one day], consume enough water and eat a full meal. There is nothing better than waking up feeling great after a night out," Cohen adds. "The best way to do that is to drink a lot of water and to eat a square meal."
In addition to dehydration, accumulation of acetaldehyde, which is formed during wine metabolism, may be the trigger for the next-day noggin' aches or stomach upset. Neither of these have any relation to tannins or sulfites; just the body's response to alcohol as a whole.
The Bottom Line: Can These Wine Drops Save You From Headaches?
If the wine drops seem to work for you, great! They don't contain any ingredients that alarm Dr. Shiue or Cohen. Just be aware that there may be a dose of the placebo effect at play and most post-drinking headaches are a result of dehydration (so be sure to drink some water with your wine).
One proven and EatingWell dietitian-approved (oh yes, and free!) way to prevent hangover headaches? Drink a little less. That doesn't mean that you must go cold turkey, as there are some legit health benefits of drinking red wine if you enjoy it (and aren't dependent on it). But perhaps consider sipping from a smaller glass, and stick to one or two glasses max.