Cannabidiol (or CBD) is literally everywhere, and while it's been life-changing for some, there are still a lot of questions about its efficacy. One of the rumours? That CBD can help remedy a hangover. As much as we'd like to report that this piece of internet wisdom is true, the research just isn't there yet. In the meantime, POPSUGAR spoke with experts to find out exactly how CBD works and why it might help minimize hangover symptoms like headaches and nausea. It's not all bad news!
What Does CBD Do, Exactly?
While research is limited, and CBD affects everyone differently, it's thought to have a number of benefits. Many people find that it reduces their anxiety, improves their sleep, and eases common pains, like muscle soreness and headaches, among other symptoms. These benefits are often attributed to CBD's anti-inflammatory properties.
But CBD also affects neurologic pathways that control things like nausea, pain, and appetite. All things you might struggle with when you're hungover, right? "Phytocannabinoids interact with the endocannabinoid (EC) system," Jennifer Landa, MD, chief medical officer and physician at BodyLogicMD, told POPSUGAR. "In the body, there are compounds that bind to the EC receptors. The main two are called 2-AG and anandamide." When these transmitters are present in smaller numbers, you might experience more pain or feel more anxious, but phytocannabinoids like CBD help to increase those levels, potentially reducing your symptoms. However, the case for treating a hangover with CBD isn't cut and dry.
What Causes a Hangover?
Hangovers aren't as well understood as you might think, but experts know that dehydration plays an important role. "Alcohol itself is a diuretic, meaning it makes you pee more," explained Brigitte Zeitlin, RD. The more fluids you lose, the more you'll need to drink — but if you reach for another cocktail instead of water, you're only perpetuating the problem and putting yourself at greater risk for a hangover the next day. "The collection of symptoms, like headaches, grogginess, muscle weakness, fatigue, and so on, are a result of dehydration," Zeitlin told POPSUGAR.
Dr. Landa agreed, but noted that hangovers are a bit more complicated than that. "Genetics and how quickly your body processes toxins definitely play a role," she said. "Your body essentially has a processing plant to process toxins. If that plant is already overwhelmed, it's more likely that you'll get a hangover." That processing plant relies on certain nutrients, like vitamins, minerals, and amino acids, to stay in top form. If your body is depleted and dehydrated after a night of drinking, you may be more likely to experience a hangover as well.
If that weren't enough, Dr. Landa explained that there are two other theories on hangovers. One involves the buildup of a toxin called acetaldehyde, a byproduct of alcohol that can cause symptoms like nausea, vomiting, and headache. Then there's the idea that the immune system may fuel a hangover, by producing inflammatory signals called cytokines that typically fight infection, but when produced at the wrong time and in excess, can cause aches and pains.
So, Can CBD Cure a Hangover?
Scientifically, "there is absolutely no evidence, nor any rationale, why CBD should be effective to cure a hangover," Jordan Tishler, MD, head of the medical advisory board at CannabisMD, an online portal for consumers, and founder of the Association For Cannabis Specialists, told POPSUGAR.
Still, if the cytokine theory holds true, CBD could potentially help reduce your symptoms, because it's an anti-inflammatory, Dr. Landa explained. And while there's no research to support the idea of of treating hangover symptoms with CBD, you could certainly try it for some of the aches and pains, as well as the nausea.
Zeitlin suggests adding broad-spectrum CBD to your morning tea or coffee when you're feeling hungover. "I would use a tincture, because you can add it to your latte when you wake up, and it will work the fastest," she said. "When it comes to how much to take, that depends on the individual." If you're new to CBD, Zeitlin recommends starting with a small dose (like 5mg) and working your way up from there. Dr. Landa noted that, in a small study, blood concentrations of CBD were much higher in people that were fed a high-fat meal, as opposed to taking CBD on an empty stomach — so, if you can stomach a bite of food, it may help your body better absorb the CBD.
Still, your best defence is a good offence. The most effective way to reduce the severity of a hangover is to limit the number of drinks you have the night before. "Drink a glass of water or plain seltzer water for every alcoholic drink you have," Zeitlin said. "Then, if you are feeling very achy the next day, taking CBD may help, but you still need to hydrate!"