Photograph by Rebecca Hale, National Geographic

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A pickled herring.

Photograph by Rebecca Hale, National Geographic

How to Banish That New Year's Eve Hangover

Hot peppers, you say? Remedies abound for treating post-drinking pain.

For those of us who enjoy the occasional cocktail, the holiday season would be incomplete without certain treats of the liquid variety. Some look forward to the creamy charms of rum-laced eggnog; others anticipate cupfuls of high-octane punch or mugs of warm, spiced wine.

No matter what's in your glass, raising one as the year winds down is tradition. What could be more festive? The problem is, one drink leads to two, then the party gets going and a third is generously poured. Soon, the music fades and the morning arrives—and with it, the dreaded hangover. (Explore a human-body interactive.)

Whether it's a pounding headache, a queasy stomach, sweating, or just general misery, the damage has been done. So now it's time to remedy the situation. What's the quickest way to banish the pain? It depends who you ask.

Doctors typically recommend water for hydration and ibuprofen to reduce inflammation. Taking B vitamins is also good, according to anesthesiologist Jason Burke, because they help the body metabolize alcohol and produce energy.

Burke should know a thing or two about veisalgia, the medical term for hangover. At his Las Vegas clinic Hangover Heaven, Burke treats thousands of people suffering from the effects of drinking to excess with hydrating fluids and medications approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

"No two hangovers are the same," he said, adding that the unfavorable condition costs society billions of dollars-mostly from lost productivity and people taking sick days from work.

Hot Peppers for Hangovers?

So what's the advice from the nonmedical community? Suggestions range from greasy breakfasts to vanilla milkshakes to spending time in a steamy sauna. A friend insists hot peppers are the only way to combat a hangover's wrath. Another swears by the palliative effects of a bloody mary. In fact, many people just have another drink, following the old "hair of the dog that bit you" strategy.

Whether such "cures" actually get rid of a hangover is debatable, but one thing's for sure: the sorry state is universal. The only people immune to hangovers are the ones who avoid alcohol altogether.

So for those who do indulge, even if it's just once in awhile, see our interactive featuring cures from around the world (also above). As New Year's Eve looms with its attendant excuse to imbibe, perhaps it would be wise to stock your refrigerator with one of these antidotes. Pickled herring, anyone?