Review: S-NAC Hangover “Game Changer”

s-nacAnother in a long line of purported hangover curatives, S-NAC is a “pre-game” supplement (taken in the form of two big, orange tablets) with just two ingredients.

Per the company, here’s what they are and what they do:

  1. Sulbutiamine is a highly bioavailable, lipophilic form of thiamine that works as a cognitive enhancer by increasing glutamatergic neurotransmission (among other things). This counteracts the effects of alcohol on depressing the glutamate system. Glutamate is the brain’s principal excitatory neurotransmitter, and is required for memory formation, learning and cognition. This is why it may be difficult to recall events that happen when you’re drunk, and some people may exhibit poor coordination and cognitive skills while inebriated. Sulbutiamine counteracts this effect (to a point).

  2. N-Acetyl L-Cysteine goes to work to protect your liver by increasing the levels of Glutathione. Both NAC and Glutathione bind to Reactive Oxygen Species (ROS) that come about as a result of acetaldehyde metabolism (acetaldehyde is what alcohol first gets metabolized to). In addition thiamine from sulbutiamine may complex with acetaldehyde to give rise to acetyl Coenzyme A. The end result is that this formula should protect your liver and brain cells from acetaldehyde and resulting ROS toxicity. You do want to give enough time for the product to get in your system and for your liver to transform the NAC into glutathione before you start ingesting alcohol, however. This is why we stress taking S-NAC before you start drinking (at least a half hour prior).

The primary goal of S-NAC is to remove acetaldehyde from the system, which is supposed to not only give you less of a hangover the next day but also a clearer head while you’re drinking. (The company warns that you may feel more sober than you actually are, so use caution if you’re out and about.)

I tried S-NAC on three occasions and had mixed results. In general, I felt fine overall both while drinking and the next day, but on one occasion I found myself waking with a substantial headache. I hadn’t consumed much at all the night before, so the headache could have been the result of dehydration or some other cause like stress or allergies. Either way, it passed fairly quickly once I drank a glass of water. I would not say my mood or alertness while drinking changed noticeably, but that’s a highly subjective question to try to answer.

Does S-NAC work? Hard to say, but it certainly didn’t hurt — which some hangover remedies can do — and my results were interesting enough to merit giving it another whirl down the line.

B+ / $30 for 10 doses /

Review: Zaca Recovery Chewables

Zaca05I’ve written a lot about how effective Zaca patches can be at preventing hangovers, but the problem with patches is an obvious one: You have to put them on before you go out.

Now Zaca is hitting the market with a chewable that’s designed to help you out if you overdid it and, er, left the house without protection.

About the consistency of a Tums, the tablets contain Japanese raisin, L-alanine l-glutamine, prickly pear, and L-glutathione. I don’t know what most of that means, but it’s a considerably different list of ingredients than the patch contains. I tried them out and they seemed to offer some help on a tough morning, and they were far easier to get down than most sickly-tasting hangover beverages, which often taste so bad you end up wondering whether the cure is worse than the malady. A couple of chewables and a glass of water is a better deal in my book.

That said, fixing the problem is never as good as preventing it in the first place. My advice is to stick with the patch, but toss a couple of these packets in your bedside table… just in case.

B+ / $20 for 16 tablets / [BUY IT HERE]

Review: Magipatch Hangover Recovery Patch


Zaca and Bytox have new competition in the burgeoning hangover preventive market: Magipatch.

Magipatch says it’s a “hangover recovery patch,” but that’s a bit misleading — like Zaca and Bytox, you have to apply the patch before you start drinking for it to work. The day after is simply too late. Leave it on until the following day and you’re supposed to be fine.

Comparing the ingredient list to Zaca reveals lots of similarities. Magipatch includes Thiamin, Vitamins C, E, A, D, Bs 2, 3, 5, 6, and 12, Green Tea Extract, Milk Thistle, Globe Artichoke Extract, and Chromium Picolinate. Lots of commonalities, but lots of other oddities in there too — and the active ingredients are in generally higher concentrations than Zaca. What’s the key component? For my money, milk thistle is where it’s at when it comes to offsetting the damage of alcohol consumption. (I’m not alone here.)

Magipatch comes with a plastic backing vs. Zaca’s cloth backing. It sticks on well — but it does leave a bit of residue on the skin after you take it off.

The results? Not bad at all. I wore Magipatch as instructed for a long night out and had little more than a dry mouth the next morning. My dreams were exceptionally strange that night — though it’s tough to pin that on any specific patch or ingestible — but otherwise I slept fairly soundly. Judging on history, Zaca does seem slightly more effective — provided you can keep it from falling off at night — but your personal mileage may vary.

In my analysis, as unscientific as it may be, preventive patches do seem to work — and they’re far more effective than pills or beverages you drink after the damage is done. While moderation is the best way to avoid a hangover, if you think things could get messy, Zaca or Magipatch are an excellent insurance policy.

A- / $28 for 10 patches /

The End of Hangovers, Alcoholism… and Getting Drunk?

Could a Chinese pill end your hangover… and cure alcoholism? The trick is to keep you from getting drunk in the first place.

Imagine a pill that could instantly sober you up no matter how much you’ve had to drink, or a hangover cure that worked minutes after swallowing it. Hardened drinkers rejoice: researchers are about to begin human trials on an “alcohol antidote” that may soon offer a cure to alcoholism, reports New Scientist.

The drug is a chemical called dihydromyricetin, or DHM, and is derived from a Chinese variety of the oriental raisin tree, which has been used for at least 500 years in China as an effective hangover cure. So far the extract has only been tested on boozing rats, but with promising results.

“DHM will reduce the degree of drunkenness for the amount of alcohol drunk and will definitely reduce the hangover symptoms,” said Jing Liang, lead researcher in the study. “In time, it will reduce [an alcoholic’s] desire for alcohol.”

Review: Bytox Hangover Prevention Patch

Say what you will, but I am an unabashed fan of the Zaca Hangover Patch. Every time I’ve worn one, I’ve woken up the next day refreshed and feeling fine.

Now there’s another hangover-slaying patch on the market: Bytox. How would it measure up?

The idea is exactly the same: Put the patch on before drinking (not after!), and leave it on overnight. It sends vitamins and such through your body while you sleep. The makeup of Bytox is quite different than Zaca, which is heavy on Lycopene, Prickly Pear, and other such stuff. The Bytox patch contains Vitamins A, B12, B2, B3, B6, Pantothenic Acid, Folic Acid, D, E, K, and Thiamine (the lack of the lattermost being what Bytox ultimately blames hangovers on). Acai berry is the only new-age addition to the vitamin mix. The patch itself is also different, larger and feeling more like plastic than the cotton mesh Zaca. And while I love the idea of not having to swallow anything to get vitamins and such into the system, I found Bytox left a residue on my skin after I removed it.

While mileage will always vary with these things, ultimately Bytox didn’t seem to work as well for me as Zaca. While wearing it I slept restlessly, had bizarre dreams when I was out, and woke up with a mild headache. Bytox (like any hangover remedy) obviously can’t erase the effects of drinking, but it didn’t seem to do enough compared to other stuff on the market — though it is substantially cheaper. Willing to try it again, though.

Update Nov 2012: Removed from sale in the UK.

B- / $11.49 for 5 patches /

Review: Drinkwel Multivitamins for Drinkers

A reader asked me about this product and the company behind it was kind enough to send a sample. The idea is nothing like anything else I’ve experienced to date: Multivitamins designed for drinkers.

Makes sense: Hangover remedies are almost always stuffed with various vitamins, so why not just incorporate those into your daily vitamin routine and skip hangover meds altogether?

I tried Drinkwel for several weeks and here’s what I have to report.

The ingredients of Drinkwel are lengthy and resemble your typical multivitamin, including Vitamins C, E, B1, B2, B3, B6, B12, folic acid, biotin, pantothenic acid, magnesium, zinc, selenium, copper, manganese, and chromium. On top of this are over a dozen amino acids and herbs, including N-acetyl Cysteine, Taurine, L-Theanine, kudzu, milk thistle, rhodiola, artichoke leaf, green tea extract, acerola, bupleurum root (no idea), schisandra extract (ditto), acai, gogi berry, and betaine HCl. Whew!

You are supposed to take three of these capsules daily, plus another three if you drink. The sheer quantity of stuff you are supposed to consume is the main problem here. No one likes taking vitamins and I sure as hell don’t like taking six funky-smelling capsules every day. Besides, with 90 in a bottle, if you’re taking six a day, you’ll be out of stock in just 15 days. That’s a sizeable investment (though hopefully you aren’t drinking that much and can stick with the three-a-day regimen most of the time).

As for the results, I can’t report much. I switched from a regular B-centric multivitamin to Drinkwel for the test and didn’t really feel any different whether I was drinking that night or not. While I didn’t drink to excess and stuck with the three-a-day regimen, I didn’t really feel any better or worse at any point in the day than I did with my normal vitamin.

At about day 12, however, I found I began to get headaches in the afternoon. I stopped taking Drinkwel at that point and the headaches continued for a few more days, then they went away. I can’t blame Drinkwel for this based on such minimal evidence, of course, but it’s possible that I had an allergic reaction to one of the many unusual ingredients in the capsules. I am wondering, though, if anyone else has experienced anything similar.

Bottom line: If you’re not taking a multivitamin, Drinkwel probably isn’t a bad way to get into the habit, but I’m not sure your mileage will vary much vs. a typical OTC multi. Let me know if it does!

$40 for 90 capsules (15-30 days) /

Review: Blowfish for Hangovers

How refreshing! Blowfish contains no goji berry. No acai. No kudzu. No N-Acetyl L-Cysteine. None of that new age stuff at all.

Instead it has just two, old-school ingredients: Aspirin (500mg) and caffeine (60mg), delivered in an effervescent tablet.

Complicated? No, but it’s a recipe that works pretty well. I’m not sure what the advantage of dissolving a tablet into a pint of water, leaving it mildly fizzy, chalky, and lemon-limey is… but the taste is harmless enough to at least get you through most of a glass over the course of a half-hour. And, like I said, it’s reasonably effective at getting the job done.

That said, it’s tough to justify shelling out three bucks for what amounts to one tablet of Excedrin, just because it fizzes up like Alka-Seltzer. Still, if you find this delivery mechanism more appealing than a boring old tablet, well, knock yourself out.

B / $3 per dose /

Review: Last Round Hangover Support

Promoted heavily alongside The Hangover Part II, Last Round is another entry into the long line of “shots” meant to make tomorrow, as they say, a better day.

The ingredients are curious: Kudzu, stevia, green tea, ginkgo, and Ural licorice extracts. No crazy chemicals. Not even any B or C vitamins, staples of the hangover cure trade.

The taste is pleasant and mild, a bit like warm, flat cola drink, plus a little cinnamon and clearly a licorice kick. The extra-large size — 2.4 oz. vs. the usual 2 oz. of these things — isn’t exactly welcome. If they could squeeze this stuff into a 1 oz. shot I’m sure we’d all be much happier trying to down them.

As it were, I drank half a bottle after a couple of drinks and before I went to bed. I am not exaggerating when I say that was the best night’s sleep I’ve had in over a year. Woke up refreshed and feeling amazing. And that was after just half a bottle!

Your mileage may vary if you’ve really overdone it — or maybe I was just lucky that one night. One thing’s for sure, though, I’m going to give this one another try. Kudzu! Who knew?

A- / $18 for six 2.4-oz. vials /

Review: Security Feel Better Anti-Hangover Drink

The problem, as I’ve said here on the blog many times, with hangover prevention drinks is that they often taste so bad the hangover is actually preferable. That and they don’t really work.

Security Feel Better (yes, that’s the name) wins on both fronts: It tastes good, and it seems to be effective at making the morning after more of a success.

This small, shot-sized drink comes not in a plastic vial but a glass bottle, cuing you (hopefully) to its more upscale intentions. It’s been on sale internationally for years, and now it comes to us. The list of ingredients is very short and includes mostly plant and herb extracts: Artichoke, angelica root, lemon (vitamin C), fructose, and pear flavoring.

That’s it. Without a load of wacky chemicals, the taste is easygoing and mild. Slightly sweet, with a distinct pear flavor, and not overly syrupy. Really quite pleasant to drink, with no grimacing. Consumed before bedtime, it isn’t something you have to remember to take before you go out.

Effectiveness: No complaints. Though, as always, I consume alcohol in moderation, I woke up refreshed and ready to face a long day of packing and moving boxes, and I never felt remotely unable to complete the job. Is Security Feel Better to thank? I’m no scientist, but it certainly didn’t hurt. Beware the price tag, though.

A- / $11 (pack of two 2 oz. bottles) / [BUY IT HERE]