Can Pickle Juice Really Cure a Hangover?

Here's what you need to know before swigging brine from the jar in your fridge.

When you wake up exhausted with a pounding headache after having too many drinks the night before, you may find yourself Googling ways to get rid of your hangover fast. And when you do, you may stumble upon a suggestion to throw back some pickle juice. But is getting over a hangover as easy as taking a swig from the pickle jar in your fridge?

Pickle juice is basically water, vinegar, and salt with some herbs and spices. So, the salty pickle brine might help with the electrolytes you lost the night before. But taking a shot of pickle juice in the morning won't make your hangover disappear if you're not also drinking lots of water and nursing your hangover with a nap. Tochi Iroku-Malize, MD, a practicing family physician in Long Island, New York, suggested that people drink a whole glass of water with every alcoholic drink to make the hangover sting less.

What Is a Hangover?

A hangover is a group of symptoms resulting from too many drinks. It's what happens when your body and brain are recovering from the effects of alcohol. Hangover symptoms can vary, but some typical symptoms are headache, nausea, dry mouth, sensitivity to light and sound, irritability, and fatigue. Hangover symptoms can last 24 hours or longer and peak when your blood alcohol level returns to almost zero.

"The main thing to understand with hangovers is that they usually happen because people are dehydrated, and then also you probably didn't get much sleep," Dr. Iroku-Malize told Health. Dehydration happens because alcohol suppresses the hormone vasopressin, which usually tells the body to retain water. This is why you may have to go more often when you drink.

Potential Hangover Remedies

Giving yourself time is the only way to cure a hangover. You have to wait for the toxic effects of the alcohol to wear off, and there isn't anything you can do to speed up the process. But you can do things to make yourself feel better in the meantime.

Drink lots of water. You need to rehydrate your body. If you had a particularly sweaty drunken night, a sports drink might help the resulting hangover, Dr. Iroku-Malize added. Sports drinks are specially formulated to balance athletes' electrolytes.

Electrolytes are minerals in your body that have a positive or negative charge that gets flushed out of your body when you pee. Some common electrolytes are sodium, potassium, calcium, and magnesium. Electrolytes perform important functions like maintaining pH, balancing the amount of water in your body, and regulating muscle contractions. While you do lose more electrolytes the more you pee, it's the water that matters. "When you're losing water, you need to continue to replace that," Dr. Iroku-Malize said.

An over-the-counter pain reliever can help with headaches. But don't mix alcohol and acetaminophen because this combination is toxic to the liver. Aspirin and ibuprofen can irritate your stomach.

If you can, sleep and rest your body. By the time you wake up, your hangover may be gone.

How Pickle Juice Helps

The only way to prevent a hangover is not to drink too much. Dr. Iroku-Malize defined "not too much" as one drink a day for women and two for men. Of course, sticking to these limits every day may not be realistic, especially when special occasions like birthdays, holidays, and New Year's Eve roll around. The next best thing to do is drink lots and lots of water—not gulp down some pickle juice.

At one time, scientists thought pickle juice might ease a hangover. A small study of nine runners published in 2014 tested whether drinking pickle juice before exercising would keep them from cramping. "This is maybe why people think pickle juice will help with dehydration," Dr. Iroku-Malize said. But the study didn't show any difference in performance or cramping between drinking pickle juice or plain old water. Another 2014 study of nine athletes looked at electrolyte and fluid replenishment after drinking pickle juice, but there was no difference in either measurement.

A Quick Review

A hangover is that lousy feeling that happens as your body recovers from heavy drinking. Something simple like pickle juice may be tempting to try to make you feel better, but the only true hangover cure is time-time to let your body get rid of the alcohol. And the only way to prevent a hangover is not to drink too much. There is no evidence for the claim that pickle juice can prevent or cure a hangover. But there doesn't seem to be any harm in drinking it either.

So, if you're invested in the idea of pickle juice helping—and you don't mind the taste—go ahead and drink around a quarter cup the next time you need hangover relief. But follow your pickle juice swig with a few cups of water, some aspirin or ibuprofen, and maybe a nap.

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  1. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA). Hangovers.

  2. MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia. Electrolytes.

  3. MedlinePlus. Fluid and electrolyte balance.

  4. Peikert J, Miller KC, Albrecht J, Tucker J, Deal J. Pre-exercise ingestion of pickle juice, hypertonic saline, or water and aerobic performance and thermoregulationJournal of Athletic Training. 2014;49(2):204-209. doi:10.4085/1062-6050-49.2.11

  5. Miller KC. Electrolyte and plasma responses after pickle juice, mustard, and deionized water ingestion in dehydrated humansJournal of Athletic Training. 2014;49(3):360-367. doi:10.4085/1062-6050-49.2.23

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