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Home / Journal / B-Vitamins for a Hangover: Do They Work?

B-Vitamins for a Hangover: Do They Work?

We've all had a booze-fueled night of fun that may not always lead to the most pleasant of mornings. This common ailment, called a hangover, may make you feel sick to your stomach, but it's also interfering with your body's ability to absorb vitamins it takes in, particularly B vitamins.

For starters, alcohol is a diuretic, so you lose a lot of vitamins and nutrients while you are drinking. The most important of which are vitamins B and C. Some people that use a vitamin B complex — a pill that includes B1 (thiamine), B2 (riboflavin), folic acid, B6 and B12, among others — to combat hangovers swear by their effectiveness. The most heralded is B12 (also called cobalamin), which performs a key role in the functioning of the brain and nervous system. The question is: will these vitamins help with the alcohol hangover?

While there isn't much science proving the effectiveness of this method, the extra vitamins shouldn't do you any harm – quite the opposite, actually. Supplements have proven popular over the last few years as people opt for a more natural approach to health remedies. And B vitamins are very important in the healing of the brain during a hangover. If your body is lacking on B vitamins, it's going to take longer for the brain to heal.

How alcohol leads to vitamin-deficiency

Frequent drinking contributes to B vitamin-deficiency, leading to a series of memory and mood disorders. More specifically, drinking alcohol depletes the body of B vitamins, which play key roles in hundreds of metabolic pathways.3 For frequent drinkers, this may explain why excess alcohol consumption seems to be linked with significant decreases in mood, motivation, and energy.

For the occasional binge drinker, the sudden depletion in B vitamin status may be linked to the “foggy” symptoms of the hangover. In a study on healthy male drinkers, alcohol intake demonstrated a significant increase in homocysteine levels and a reduction in B9 and B12 levels.4 Supplementing a well-rounded, easy-to-absorb B vitamin complex may help both regular and irregular drinkers sustain healthy B vitamin levels to protect against circulatory issues and brain chemical deficiencies.

Studies about B Vitamin and Hangovers

In another study, a supplement containing vitamins B-1 and B-6 was shown to help reduce hangover symptoms.5 In this 2012 study, subjects were sent a supplement and were encouraged to take it before and after drinking alcohol. Of the subjects who completed the study, 88 percent reported a reduction in hangover symptoms.

Work published in the Quarterly Journal of Studies on Alcohol studied the effect of a type of Vitamin B-6 known as pyritinol on the development of hangovers.1 Subjects received pyritinol or a placebo before, during, and after a party in which they drank alcohol. Those who received the pyritinol reported fewer symptoms of a hangover the next morning than those receiving a placebo. However, this work was published in 1973 and more up-to-date research is required to confirm its benefits.

Food Sources of B Vitamin

So now we know it – drinking alcohol definitely depletes vitamins in the body. And B-vitamins are responsible for many metabolic processes of the body — the liver detox pathways rely on B’s to detox effectively. So, raising your levels of B vitamins will be helpful.

If you don’t want to go the supplement route, having foods rich in these essential vitamins and minerals is a good strategy to help lessen the hangover. The number one way to accomplish this is to eat a very good diet full of fruits, veggies, leafy greens, nuts, seeds, beans, good fats etc. You know the drill.

There are many ways to get different types of B through food. For instance, Thiamin (B1) is found in peas, pork, liver, legumes and is often added to different grain products like cereal, bread, pasta, rice and tortillas. Riboflavin (B2) is found in liver, eggs, dark green vegetables, legumes, whole and enriched grains and milk. Niacin (B3) is found in liver, fish, poultry, meat, peanuts and whole and enriched grains. Food sources of Vitamin B-6 include pork, meats, whole grains, cereals, legumes, and green, leafy vegetables. Vitamin B-12 is found from animal sources like meats, eggs, milk, oysters and shellfish.

Bottom line: 

As you saw, a vitamin B supplement could potentially be beneficial as a mitigating agent before or after we go consume alcoholic drinks to avoid a hangover. So it’s helpful to take a B-complex supplement before drinking for hangover prevention, as well as when you come home, or first thing the next day to replenish lost Bs from drinking.

B vitamins are effective at replenishing nutrients lost as a result of heavy drinking, but they won’t necessarily cure all the symptoms of a hangover, which is also caused by the byproducts of alcohol metabolism, congeners, and dehydration. This leads us to the million-dollar question: is there anything else out there that will help? Despite thousands of searches for the phrase “hangover cure,” science has yet to find a consistent and credible solution to curb the headache, nausea, vomiting, irritation, tremor, thirst, and dry mouth that can plague you after a night of drinking. Having said that, some well-known strategies may help ease the pain – including taking a hangover multivitamin like Purple Tree, which includes B-vitamin, minerals, and DHM to help mitigate the after-effects of too much drinking.


1 Alcohol-induced hangover: A double-blind comparison of pyritinol and placebo in preventing hangover symptoms.

2 Interventions for preventing or treating alcohol hangover: systematic review of randomized controlled trials

3 Effects of moderate alcohol consumption on folate and vitamin B12 status in postmenopausal women

4Alcohol increases homocysteine and reduces B vitamin concentration in healthy male volunteers--a randomized, crossover intervention study

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