CBD for Hangovers: Does It Help?

CBD for Hangovers: Does It Help?


What’s the best thing about a hangover? Partying the night before. Now that may be a common joke but the hangover isn’t.


A night of heavy drinking can leave the best of us nursing a hangover the next day. Headache, dizziness, fatigue, nausea are common symptoms. But the science behind it goes deeper than that.


In low doses, alcohol works as a euphoriant. It triggers the release of dopamine and endorphin hormones, which stimulate the body’s reward system. This is why when you start drinking alcohol, you feel happy. So you take another drink and then another and that’s when things take a turn for the worse.


When you drink alcohol, it is quickly absorbed by the body and distributed to all the organs including the brain and the liver which armor up to make valiant attempts at disposing of it because our body considers alcohol as toxic. The liver starts producing an enzyme called Alcohol Dehydrogenase (ADH) to break down the ethanol content in the alcohol into acetaldehyde which in turn disintegrates into acetate and finally, carbon dioxide and water.


Now acetaldehyde being a toxin, the longer it hangs around in the body without being disintegrated, the more hungover you feel. Due to genetic variation, every person has a different level of the enzyme responsible for breaking down acetaldehyde, causing some hangovers to last longer than others. In severe cases, hangovers can last up to 72 hours. This depends entirely on the amount of alcohol intake, hydration level, age, height and weight, gender, etc.


A common thing about hangovers is that we have all experimented with various methods to find a quick fix. Some of you may have even wondered whether CBD helps with hangovers. The short answer is, CBD does not cure hangovers. However, given its homeostatic effect on the body, it can help minimize some of its symptoms.


One of the common symptoms of a hangover is nausea. CBD’s antiemetic effect helps alleviate the physical sensation of nausea by regulating vomiting response through the cannabinoid receptors, CB1 in the body. The activation of CB1 receptors also helps regulate the release of serotonin hormone which is a neurotransmitter that contributes to the feeling of wellbeing and happiness. On the flip side, since serotonin is associated with vomiting, CBD can aggravate nausea tendencies in some people.


Hangovers have been found to be linked with inflammation. It’s the immune system’s doing. As soon as the immune system detects a toxin in the body, it jumps in to fix the problem by triggering inflammation. What adds to this is the diuretic nature of alcohol that promotes water loss through urine by inhibiting the vasopressin hormone responsible for regulating water excretion. As a result, alcohol intake results in dehydration, which in turn triggers an inflammatory response in the body. This inflammation is marked by an elevation of cytokines which is a protein-based messaging system for the body’s immune responses.


This is where CBD’s anti-inflammatory properties come to the rescue. CBD keeps the inflammation in check without adversely interacting with the alcohol in your system or causing liver toxicity. This provides relief and makes the hangover a little more bearable.


While CBD takes the frontline to help quell a few hangover symptoms like in the above case, it primarily works behind the scenes, especially in case of altered blood glucose levels induced by alcohol. When you drink alcohol, it increases insulin secretion in the body which leads to low blood sugar. Also, with the liver working overtime to remove alcohol from the blood, it is left with no bandwidth to maintain the glucose level. On the other hand, excessive alcohol intake can reduce the overall effectiveness of insulin, thus raising blood sugar levels. Even though CBD does not directly affect blood glucose, it works in sync with the endocannabinoid system to help the body achieve homeostasis in all bodily functions including maintaining blood glucose.


Interestingly, just like CBD, alcohol too interacts with our endocannabinoid system (ECS) which is a complex signaling system that helps regulate mood, sleep, appetite, etc. and maintains a state of equilibrium in the body. But unlike CBD, the effect of alcohol on the ECS is negative. Consuming alcohol reduces the endocannabinoid levels in the brain with long-term uses causing serious imbalances in the ECS. Such impacts on the endocannabinoid system can also contribute to the symptoms of a hangover. 

Hence, a better regulated ECS can help in creating a healthy environment for the body to recover and return to homeostasis, which in turn can help alleviate your hangover symptoms. So, the goal is to keep your ECS functioning at its optimal level. When you intake CBD regularly, it strengthens your ECS to handle such stress. So even though CBD is not a hangover cure, there is a possibility that you will pull through the hangover and return to your usual self quicker with CBD. Now that’s something we can all drink to.