Hangover remedies from the pharmacy in old books and movies

Recently I started re-reading Brideshead Revisited, and there are a couple of places where someone with a hangover gets something from the pharmacy to relieve the symptoms. Sebastian, on the morning following his first meeting with Charles, says that he placed himself unreservedly in the hands of Dollbear and Goodall (presumably pharmacists), “and now feels so drugged” that he feels as if the whole preceding night was a dream. In another scene, Rex Mottram gives Charles a “draft” that he “sent round to Heppel’s” for. I’m curious as to what pharmaceutical ingredients would have been in these.

I know that nux vomica is sold in homeopathic form for this purpose, by herb and healthfood stores. I have no idea how effective that is; seems to me that if you have a hangover the last thing in the world you want is something named “vomica”.

Bumping once, hoping some of the British and European members may be able to answer Saturday morning.

Err…I’m thinking the Europeans who would be most likely to know won’t be up Saturday morning :slight_smile: .

Well, afternoon then.

To quote a previous post of mine on the subject…

If there was a pill that would fix hangovers you would see 2 min commercials during the Superbowl ending with “Ask your Doctor if NopukeiXL is right for you”

Knowing the kind of things they were allowed to sell at the time of Brideshead, probably a mixture of alcohol, cocaine, and morphine. But I don’t really know.

Metoclopramide (Reglan) nicely deals with the nausea. It wasn’t available before the war, though.

I too was guessing it probably had cocaine in it.

I’ve found that “pukei” tends to make me feel better after a night of excessive drinking. YMMV.

But I agree, there is no “hangover” cure. There are things you can do to lessen the misery (aspirin, food, and “don’t-drink-too-much-to-begin-with” come to mind). Other than that, you have to wait for the alcohol to leave your cells. It’s just that simple.

Dorothy Sayers refers to something called “hobnailed liver” in Gaudy Night, which is evidently a hangover remedy readily availabe from pharmacies, but I have no clue how one goes about hobnailing liver. (I’m not sure I want to know.)

I found this reference:
nux (nux) (nuks) pl. gen. nu´cis [L.] nut.

n. vo´mica  the dried ripe seed of Strychnos nux-vomica L. (Loganiaceae), containing several alkaloids, principally strychnine and brucine. It has been used as a bitter tonic and central nervous system stimulant, and in veterinary medicine it is used as a bitter tonic and in the treatment of inappetence, atony of the rumen, and chronic indigestion.

From here: http://www.mercksource.com/pp/us/cns/cns_hl_dorlands.jspzQzpgzEzzSzppdocszSzuszSzcommonzSzdorlandszSzdorlandzSzdmd_n_12zPzhtm#12584953

‘Hobnailed liver’ is also a description of the appearance of a cirrhotic liver. The surface appears bumpy, sort of like a basketball. Normal liver has a very smooth and slippery surface. Does that make sense in the context of the book?

I never knew a hangover that would stand up to 100 mg of Demerol IV push.

And I suspect that many early hangover remedies were quite laden with opiates.

For me, the later withdrawal from the opiates was always more painful than the hangover, however.

Nux vomica is the natural source of the poison strychnine. It’s used homeopathically much like many other poisons - diluted so much that no trace of the original substance remains. Homeopathy is a belief system based on the notion that tiny, tiny amounts of very toxic chemicals will treat illnesses - particularly, illnesses whose symptoms resemble the symptoms of poisoning with those chemicals.

It has nothing to do with anything relevant to this discussion, though. Homeopathic remedies don’t do anything; a homeopathic preparation of Nux vomica is likely so dilute that not a single molecule of the original plant extract remains. Nux vomica isn’t a legitimate herbal treatment for hangover. It’s homeopathic superstition, not real herbal medicine.

Really? Were they still selling cocaine over the counter in Britain, in 1924? I know in the U.S. that was all stopped by 1914; especially wrt cocaine. Some other narcotics were still allowed to be sold in weaker preparations*, but cocaine was not.

I can see how a little hair of the dog (alcohol) might help, but don’t morphine-type drugs often make people nauseous, especially if they are allergic to sulfates and it happens to be morphine sulphate?

How would cocaine have helped?

Possibly. To my ear, it sounds a bit odd to say “a recipe for hobnailed liver” if hobnailed liver is the symptom rather than the remedy, but I defer to anybody who’s more familiar than I am with British idiom circa 1935:

An alternate meaning for ‘recipe’ is ‘a medical prescription’. It would work if you read “recipe for hobnailed liver” as being analogous to "(prescription) for (condition); e.g. ‘ask for a cream for jock itch’. Harriet doesn’t want the pharmacist to think that she has ever had occasion to seek out a hangover cure, or even knows that such a thing might exist.

To my eye, it seems that Mr. Pomfret is impressed by Harriet’s worldly turn of phrase; ‘hobnail liver’ being a pretty clever euphamism for hangover/alcoholism. She points out that she didn’t learn it at Oxford. If he was impressed that she knew about the prescription, he would likely have asked “where did you learn about that one?”.

Of course, this is a WAG only.

Ah. This usage doesn’t exist in America, at least not in my part of the country, so I stand corrected.

There was an old (30s?) era cartoon short starring Porky Pig as a pharmacist. The bulk of the cartoon focused on a drunk plagued by pink elephants while waiting for Porky to prepare a prescription for him.

Were barbituates in use during the 30s for treatment of acute delirium tremens?