World's Beloved Hangover 'Cure' Arrives Stateside. But Does It Work?

Beth Greenfield
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(Photo courtesy of Bayer)

“If getting drunk was how people forgot they were mortal, then hangovers were how they remembered,” wrote UK author Matt Haig recently. Which is precisely why the search for the best hangover cure may never end. And now tippling Americans can add a new option to their quest: Berocca, a remedy beloved by partiers around the world that’s finally made it to the shelves of U.S. drugstores.

Bayer, which bought the product in 2005 when it acquired Swiss pharmaceutical brand Roche’s consumer health group, is marketing the dissolving, effervescent vitamin tablets in the U.S. as an “energy support supplement.” A Bayer spokesperson told Yahoo Health in an email, “Berocca is NOT marketed in the US as a hangover product. Berocca is marketed as an energy support product that supports both mental sharpness and physical energy.”

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But the product has been known as a hangover cure around the world for many years — particularly in Australia, where it’s been popular since the 1980s. As the company notes on website for that country, “Whilst there have been no studies conducted on the effect of Berocca on hangovers, alcohol can affect the absorption and use of the B group vitamins. Apart from the other essential vitamins and minerals, Berocca is a high-dose vitamin B supplement which may help restore depleted levels of B-vitamins. Drinking a lot of water or other rehydrating drinks will help towards preventing or lessening most hangover symptoms. Having a Berocca effervescent tablet in water may also help you rehydrate.”

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Berocca’s special US formula includes B vitamins, guarana, caffeine, vitamin C, magnesium and zinc, and it comes in either orange or mixed berry flavor. And fans of the stuff have been celebrating (with cocktails, perhaps?) ever since news of its July 29 arrival in CVS, Target, Walmart and other stores. LA Weekly writer Besha Rodell declared it “the best damn hangover cure in the universe,” while Bloomberg Businessweek’s Ashlee Vance noted, “I’m half Australian and have been forcing my parents to smuggle dozens of Berocca tubes to me for years.” On Twitter, lovers of the product have rejoiced over no longer having to smuggle and hoard it from overseas. And Bayer has announced the fizzy arrival with major fanfare in the form of advertisements featuring “Community” star Joel McHale as a motivational speaker à la Tom Cruise in “Magnolia.”

But does it actually work?

Rather than getting drunk enough to try it ourselves, we reached out to Dr. Jason Burke of Las Vegas, a trained anesthesiologist, self-dubbed “hangover specialist,” and founder of the unique Hangover Heaven service. He said he’s treated more than 20,000 shaky, nauseous patients with veisalgia (the medical term for a hangover) with a special intravenous mixture of antioxidants, vitamins B and C, and anti-inflammatory and anti-nausea medications.

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“The most common misconception is that a hangover is just dehydration,” said Burke, who added that he’s tried just about every over-the-counter remedy on the market, though couldn’t recall if he’d actually tested Berocca at some point. “The major issue is inflammation — of the entire body, but mainly the brain, which is what causes nausea,” Burke told Yahoo Health. When alcohol breaks down in the body, he said, impurities cause slow thinking and other motor problems and other “pretty significant deficiencies.” So Berocca’s ingredient list makes sense, he said, as B vitamins work well in shuttling such impurities out of one’s system, and zinc and vitamin C are also helpful cure-alls. But the vitamin B dosage is too low to do much, he noted, and the formula lacks a good antioxidant, such as selenium.

“It might help for a mild hangover,” he concluded. “But it might help even better if people take it before going to sleep.” Something to maybe remember next time you head out for a crazy night.

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