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“Children have no respect for hangovers,” moaned my friend Karen. “Too much eggnog at the office Christmas party on Friday; too many tiny feet pounding on the floor early Saturday morning. I’ll never drink that much again.”

I smiled. Karen’s not a big drinker, but come party time, mistakes get made. Hangovers are notoriously tough to cure, so I started looking around for the proverbial ounce of prevention.

“Most products are just supposed to be hangover cures,” said Gerry Stefanko, CEO of hangoverprevention.com, headquartered in Cardiff (800-720-2970). “Our hangover-prevention formula actually prevents hangovers. People didn’t want to believe us about this, so we contacted America’s foremost alcohol-research team at Tulane University. They did a double-blind study with 60 graduate students on two successive weekends of partying. The American Medical Association reviewed the study and published it. They gave it a strong recommendation in terms of its effectiveness in preventing various hangover symptoms.”

I asked for the short version. “A pharmacologist named Gilles Gutierrez headed the team that developed the extract, which is called Tex-OE. It’s derived from the prickly pear cactus. Gutierrez was intrigued by the prickly pear’s fruit because it grows at the top of the cactus. Most fruits are sheltered from the sun by leaves, but the prickly pear’s fruit seems to flaunt the sun.... Eventually, he isolated a molecule in the skin of the fruit that has the ability to accelerate the production of heat-shock proteins. These proteins protect and restore the integrity of cells and tissue when those cells and tissue are under stress.”

Stefanko said that Gutierrez suspected the molecule might be helpful in preventing fatigue and exhaustion, so Gutierrez went about trying to render it useful for human consumption. “It’s taken from the skin, not the fruit,” said Stefanko, “and in its natural state it’s attached to fiber. We humans don’t have the enzymes to digest the fiber, and so Gutierrez patented the process by which the molecule is removed from the fiber and rendered digestible. That’s Tex-OE.”

Gutierrez ran his tests in divers working off the coast of Malta. “Normally,” says Stefanko, “after they did their deep dives, they would get symptoms like those you see with the bends. They would be exhausted and would go home to bed. But after taking the extract, they said they didn’t even feel like they’d been diving. In fact, they’d go out drinking. And then in the morning they found they had no hangover. Gutierrez found that the Tex-OE was good for helping the chemical stress brought on by alcohol as well.”

Ideally, said Stefanko, “You take the capsules several hours before you drink and on an empty stomach. If you have any fiber in your stomach, the extract may attach to it and pass right through you. We put B vitamins in with the extract as well, because when you drink you deplete your B vitamins and that can lead to a headache.” He estimates that the pill’s effects last for about 72 hours. But, he warned, it’s not a magic bullet. “If you go nuts, you can still kill yourself with alcohol. It’s not going to prevent intoxication or alcohol poisoning.” Hangover Prevention Formula is available online, at Cardiff Seaside Market, and at selected military bases and Ralphs grocery stores. The cost is $24.95 for ten capsules.

Next, I spoke with Janet at the La Mesa Henry’s (619-460-7722; henrysmarkets.com). “We sell Hangover Formula by Source Naturals [$9.39 for 30 tablets]. You’re supposed to take three tablets after drinking alcohol, and if you experience a hangover the next morning, take three more. The pills have a lot of vitamin C and B, plus a lot of supplements that support the liver. And there are various herbs in it that help with brain function. We sell a lot of this, especially at the end of the year.”

Derek at GNC in the College Area (619-286-1567; gnc.com) offered homeopathic remedy Chaser Plus ($24.99 for 40 tablets). “An adult is supposed to take two capsules with a drink and two more after four to six drinks, or every two or three hours. Don’t exceed eight capsules in 24 hours. I’ve actually used it, and it worked pretty damn well. I was surprised when I woke up feeling pretty good, especially in the stomach area. And I didn’t have a headache. I was tired from lack of sleep, but I wasn’t hungover.”

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