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February 9, 2010

Owl Meat's Tipsy Tuesdays: The hair of the dog

girl bites dog

There's an old saying that goes, "Some days, you get to bite the dog, and some days the dog gets to bite you." At least, I think that's how it goes.

Either way, here's Owl Meat with a guest column on the intriguing history and science behind another old saying, "the hair of the dog."

We've all heard the expression "hair of the dog," meaning taking a drink to cure a hangover. The whole phrase is "the hair of the dog that bit you." It has an interesting history.

As a hangover cure, the hair of the dog metaphor dates back to Shakespeare's time. The original literal usage referred a very ill-conceived cure for rabies.

From the  Dictionary of Phrase and Fable (1898): "In Scotland it is a popular belief that a few hairs of the dog that bit you applied to the wound will prevent evil consequences.

Applied to drinks, it means, if overnight you have indulged too freely, take a glass of the same wine next morning to soothe the nerves. 'If this dog do you bite, soon as out of your bed, take a hair of the tail in the morning.'" ...

Ironically, the song "Hair of the Dog" by Nazareth is the very last thing you should play when you have a hangover. That guy's voice might make your head explode.

Trying to cure rabies may seem loony today, but it is an example of homeopathic medicine that dates back to at least the time of Hippocrates.

The credo of homeopathy in Latin is "similia similibus curantur" (like cures like). In other words, a wee bit of the thing that would kill you will cure you. I'm not judging, just reporting. Vaccines almost work that way, but it's not the amount of the pathogen that matters but its similarity to the real deal in a more harmless form.

In homeopathy they dilute a substance to the point where there is almost no original molecules left. They believe that water has memory, so you really don't need the original molecules. Sure.

Wow, that's too much science. Now it's time to go out and bite that dog before it bites me. Play me out, Nazareth ...

(Photo by Getty Images)

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Posted by Sam Sessa at 11:30 AM | | Comments (9)
Categories: Owl Meat's Tipsy Tuesdays


The Scots have the best hair of the dog ever: Irn-Bru and a hearty breakfast.

It also helps to get a deep-fried Mars bar the night before (or a Cadbury Caramel bar of you're picky like me).

I've always wondered what that expression meant and where it came from. Thanks!

Another thing: There is some thought that part of the reason for a hangover is withdrawal, so "hair of the dog" would make perfect sense.
From :

"Overlap exists between hangover and the symptoms of mild alcohol withdrawal (AW), leading to the assertion that hangover is a manifestation of mild withdrawal. Hangovers, however, may occur after a single bout of drinking, whereas withdrawal occurs usually after multiple, repeated bouts. Other differences between hangover and AW include a shorter period of impairment (i.e., hours for hangover versus several days for withdrawal) and a lack of hallucinations and seizures in hangover."

Whether it makes sense or not, it's a way of coping that I personally enjoy.

I know from experience that "hair of the dog" usually works, but sometimes I drink tequila. Just can't get it past my nose in the morning. Also, the boss really hates it when I show up with Cuervo-breath!

Unless Irn-Bru has alcohol in it, it doesn't qualify.

Homeoapthy, of course, is a total crock.

A nice little piece but please stop propagating the wrong information about homeopathy. While it is true that some homeopathic remedies are highly diluted, the vast majority of homeopathic remedies used around the world are low potency, containing active material substance. As you point out, what makes something homeopathic is the similarity of the substance to the disease.

Thank you for your comment, Dr. Garber. I was going to post some links to some research articles that show evidence of the effect of homeopathic products beyond the placebo effect. I couldn't find any. Perhaps you could point us in the right direction.

I would try some products myself, but it turns out I'm addicted to placebos, so I can't chance it.

@skepticat—My bad, that was supposed to say: whiskey, Irn-Bru, and a healthy breakfast. I was too busy looking up the spelling of Irn-Bru to proofread my own post. :-)

I never heard of Irn-Bru. It seems to be the most popular soda in Scotland, an orange caffeinated thing popular as a hangover cure.

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About Erik Maza
Erik Maza is a features reporter at the Baltimore Sun. He writes for several sections of the Sun paper and contributes weekly columns on music and nightlife. He also writes and edits the Midnight Sun blog. He often covers entertainment, business, and the business of entertainment. Occasionally, he writes about Four Loko, The Block, the liquor board, and those who practice "simulated sex with a potted palm tree." Before The Sun, he was a reporter at the Miami New Times. He's also written for Miami magazine, the Orlando Sentinel, the Sarasota Herald Tribune and the Gainesville Sun. Got tips? Gripes? Pitches? He's reachable at Click here to keep up with the dumb music he's listening to.

Midnight Sun covers Baltimore music, live entertainment, and nightlife news. On the blog, you'll find, among other things, concert announcements, breaking news, bars closings and openings, up-to-date coverage of crime in nightlife, new music, round-the-clock coverage of Virgin Mobile FreeFest, handy guides on bars staying open past 2 a.m. on New Year's Eve and those that carry Natty Boh on draft. Recurring features include seven-day nightlife guides, Concert News, guest reviews of bars and concerts, Wednesday Corkboard, and photo galleries, as well as reader-submitted photos. Thanks for reading.

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