Groggy? Nauseous? Headache? As it turns out, many traditional Czech foods contain ingredients scientifically shown to help cure the symptoms of a hangover.
Česnečka – Garlic Soup
Česnečka is a popular soup containing garlic, potatoes, onions and broth.
Healing properties: Garlic contains cysteine, a non-essential amino acid, which neutralizes acetaldehyde, a toxic byproduct of alcohol consumption. The chicken or beef broth rehydrates and restores sodium levels in the body. The sugar in the onions burns through any leftover alcohol by speeding up the body’s metabolism.
Effectiveness: At first, a garlic soup on a hung-over morning sounded unappetizing, and I questioned how something as unsubstantial as soup — with ingredients as pungent as garlic and onion — could work. But the potatoes make this soup as hearty as it needs to be, and the broth itself felt more rehydrating than I expected. Overall, česnečka was the best cure I used.
Utopenci – Pickled Sausage
A pub food favorite, utopenci is a dish containing pickles, sausage, sauerkraut and tomatoes that Czechs swear by on the morning after too.
Healing properties: Contains a lot of the ingredients found in česnečka, including garlic and onions, making it a good alternative to soups. The tomatoes can repair the cell damage to your liver by restoring your levels of vitamin A and C, beta-carotene and lycopene, all of which are depleted by drinking alcohol.
Effectiveness: After a night of drinking, a cold, pickled meat dish didn’t seem all that appetizing. After trying it, I would recommend it to someone looking to eat something more solid and substantial than soup for getting rid of your hangover. Since fatty foods are better to eat before going out drinking (they help insulate the lining of the stomach to slow alcohol absorption in the bloodstream) utopenci may actually prevent hangovers.
Just like your mom did when you were sick as a child, Czechs turn to chicken soup as a curative.
Healing properties: Like česnečka, a simple chicken soup with just broth and chicken will restock your sodium levels and rehydrate you. Chicken also contains cysteine like garlic.
Effectiveness: Chicken soup is a good cure for anyone who needs to rehydrate and replenish and is sensitive to the overpowering smell of garlic and onion. If you can stomach it, I found česnečka to be a quicker recovery than chicken soup by an hour or two, even if chicken soup filled me up more than česnečka.
For a country with the highest per capita beer consumption in the world, it’s no surprise that one of the ways Czechs cure their hangover is with an ice cold beer upon waking up. The “hair of the dog” cure isn’t unique to the Czech Republic and can be found in a number of countries across the globe, but the science behind the cure is hotly debated.
Healing properties: Some scientists suggest that the reason drinking the morning after makes you feel better is that when you wake up, your body is in a withdrawal period, and reintroducing alcohol into the bloodstream relieves that withdrawal. Some say that the carbohydrates in your morning beer counteract the bad effects you might feel after, but you’re more likely to just be delaying your hangover, not getting rid of it.
Effectiveness: Ultimately, drinking a beer when you wake up, while a very Czech thing to do, is not a good idea for curing a hangover. I found that getting up and drinking beer immediately was not pleasant, though after mustering up the courage to drink it, did seem to temporarily relieve my headache.
At best, drinking a beer upon waking up is like turning the volume down on your headache. You’ll need something else to turn it off completely, but thankfully you have three other Czech cures to try.
This article originally appeared in the Spring 2015 issue of Prague Wandering, a student webzine of New York University in Prague, as How to Nurse a Hangover.