I don’t know about y’all but after I left the warm embrace of my early 20s, my hangovers took a punishing turn. All of a sudden, partying just a little too hard had me waking up feeling like the walking dead—like my body had been wandering the desert for months, my brain had become host to a Marilyn Manson concert and my stomach had rode some invisible rollercoaster on an endless loop.
After speaking with Sisun Lee, a Torontonian who made it to Silicon Valley working for the likes of Tesla, Facebook and Uber, I realize I am not alone in my hangover misery.
Lee describes his headaches as of his most jarring hangover symptoms. “Depending on how much I drank, how hydrated I kept my body, and how much sleep I got, I may also feel uneasy in the stomach, tired and groggy—but the biggest and consistent pain for me was headaches,” he says.
Like many of us, Lee considered hangovers a given after a night of heavy drinking—until he went to South Korea and discovered an entire genre of supplement products designed to counteract the effects of alcohol. He tried them and found that it was almost like hitting CTRL-Z on a night out, undoing many of the effects of drinking and giving him a blank page for the next day.
“I woke up without headaches,” he says. “I still felt tired, but the lack of headaches definitely helped me do things the next morning that I normally couldn’t.”
Inspired by the concept, Lee quit his job at Tesla to create his own formula of “hangover-defying” compounds—plus a heavy dose of vitamins and electrolytes. He named it “Morning Recovery” and launched an Indiegogo campaign to help fund his new venture. His crowd-funding initiative quickly raised more than 960 percent of its goal.
According to Morning Recovery’s directions, users have to drink an entire 100-ml. supplement right before going to bed after a night of drinking in order for the beverage to counteract the effects of the alcohol you have consumed.
But is there really any such thing as a magical elixir to prevent hangovers? And if so, could products like these risk encourage binge drinking? FLARE decided to take a closer look.
The company is making science a priority
As of April 2018, Lee’s company, 82 Labs Inc., has raised $10 million (CAD) from both Canadian and American investors. Lee told tech news website Betakit that the company plans on staying true to their name by allocating some of the funds to create a scientific laboratory, as well as creating a larger research team. He says that he hopes to better understand how alcohol effects the human body.
“The purpose of this money isn’t to optimize our existing solution…but rather doing more fundamental stuff like, let’s understand human liver and the brain when you consume alcohol, how does it change by race and change by gender? How do we measure this? Starting from animal studies and moving on to human clinical studies. We need to continuously innovate,” he said.
The company– which Lee says is a hybrid between a pharmaceutical company and a lifestyle brand– is hoping to use the knowledge that is gained from the research to further develop the product into a go-to hangover drink that the public will trust. “The core of it is [that] the science has to work or people won’t buy it,” he says.
However, people already seem to enjoy the product. BetaKit reports that since January, over 40 percent of its revenue is generated from repeat customers.
So what do we know about hangovers so far?
Hangovers have been around since we first started brewing beers and guzzling wine, and yet, they remain poorly understood and are often treated with home remedies like soda crackers, litres of water and, on occasion, hair of the dog. Acadia University kinesiology professor Darren Kruisselbrink, an expert in hangovers and the body’s response to alcohol, says that we only know a small portion of factors that contribute to that terrible morning-after feeling.
“What is known, generally, is that alcohol triggers a generalized inflammatory response which puts the body into ‘protection mode,’ this type of response has been linked to impaired functioning in the central nervous system like the ability to consolidate memories,” says Kruisselbrink. “Alcohol has also been linked to hormonal changes, dehydration and electrolyte imbalances, changes in neurotransmitter concentrations, and disruption of sleep cycles, all of which can contribute to the headache, gurgly stomach, thirst, fatigue and other common hangover symptoms.”
Kruisselbrink notes that even if we understood the exact biological recipe that determines hangover symptoms, there are other variables such as smoking, ingredients in the drinks consumed and family history that can contribute to how you feel after a few too many. While some small studies show that certain natural ingredients like acanthopanax senticosus (an adaptogenic herb that may help the body better manage stress), red ginseng, Korean pear juice and dandelion juice may offer relief for hangover symptoms, there is definitely no “cure,” says Kruisselbrink.
In fact, Lee says the idea that Morning Recovery can prevent a hangover entirely is a misconception. Instead, the product, he says, is simply meant to “boost the body’s response to alcohol.” It’s not a pharmaceutical drug, nor is it a cure-all.
What we thought of Morning Recovery
Three FLARE staffers tested Morning Recovery to see if it lived up to the hype and, as Kruisselbrink had noted, each person had a different experience with the supplement based on what and how much they drank.
Erinn Stewart, our assistant editor of fashion and beauty, saved the drink for her 25th birthday celebration in New York City and was pleasantly surprised by the results—even though she wasn’t a fan of Morning Recovery’s faux peach flavouring.
“I woke up early with no headache at all,” says Stewart, whose hangovers typically consist of a headache which she treats with Advil and a healthy dose of Saje’s Peppermint Halo. “Instead of sleeping in until 10 a.m., which I typically do on a Sunday, I was legit up and at ’em at 7:30 a.m. #worthit.”
While Stewart was ready to sign up for a subscription box of the preventative liquid, our staff writer Sarah Trumbley was not so enthused.
“Maybe the amount I drank was too much to handle for one little bottle of Morning Recovery, but I woke up the next morning feeling like I had been on a two-week bender,” says Trumbley. “I haven’t been that hungover since university. Headache, nausea, the inability to do life—you name the hangover symptom and I had it.”
I was personally somewhere in between. I took Morning Recovery with me to an out-of-town wedding and after a night of festivities, and far too many trips to the bar, I chugged it before crashing into bed. I woke up the next day with a surprisingly clear head, but a stomach that had not quite forgiven me for the previous night.
A word of warning
Morning Recovery is produced by an entirely Canadian team based in California, and while Lee says they have seen a huge interest from Canadians and they do ship to Canada, the drink is not currently available in local retailers because the product hasn’t been approved by Health Canada yet. Pending approval, Lee expects he will likely begin distributing Morning Recovery in Canadian retail stores in 2018.
One of the risks of such supplements is the idea that it could enable people to drink more without feeling the effects of what alcohol has done to their body. All three of us FLARE staffers said that having Morning Recovery on hand increased how much we drank throughout the night. That might be why when the product went viral this summer, Lee and his team adjusted the messaging to steer consumers away from using Morning Recovery as a way of abusing alcohol.
“While the best way to avoid the negative effects of alcohol is to abstain from it altogether, we understand that alcohol consumption is here to stay,” says Lee. “We’re here to promote responsible drinking and recovery. So it’s important for us to provide explicit messaging and narrative around responsible drinking.”
Kruisselbrink is withholding final judgement on the Morning Recovery until it undergoes the necessary, rigorous testing required to see if it lives up to its claims. In the meantime, he has this to say about hangover prevention: “Currently, the best way to avoid a hangover is to drink in moderation, and even then, that’s not a guarantee.”