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This Fruit Doubles as a Hangover Cure

Bon Appétit logo Bon Appétit 17/5/2017 Kiki Flynn

I have a sushi restaurant to thank for my best hangover remedy. Years ago, a waitress suggested I order, in addition to burdock kinpira and avocado nori, ume shiso nori. The delicate rolls looked like cherry blossoms with their pink and green centers of tart umeboshi plum paste and minty shiso leafs. When she served them, she mentioned that the umeboshi plum was the Japanese cure for hangovers.

Umeboshi plums have a long tradition as a folk remedy. Samurai warriors carried them into battle to counter fatigue, dehydration, nausea, and, yes, hangovers. Who wouldn’t want to be as prepared as a Samurai? Umeboshi plums became my secret weapon.

I remember the first time: Okay, maybe I don’t remember the drinking part, but the hangover was unforgettable. Opening the plum jar was a challenge. Once I got it, the umeboshi’s full mouth pucker dropped me like an MMA ground-and-pound. With the pit still in my mouth, I whimpered as I crawled back to bed and curled into a fetal position. Over the next 20 minutes, I began to relax as the nausea, the headache, the self-loathing, and the regret all passed. Then I sat up and wondered, where should I go for brunch?

Here’s how it works: Japanese ume fruit is harvested when the fruit’s acids are highest. These tart ume are then salt-cured, naturally fermented, and sun-dried to become super tangy umeboshi plums that taste like nature’s own Sour Patch Kids. Only sourer. That taste comes from a blend of naturally occurring acids, including citric, picric, and pectic, which soothe body aches, boost liver function, and quicken digestion. These acids, along with the pickle’s high mineral content, are alkaline (think Alka-Seltzer) and quickly calm upset stomachs. Think of the umeboshi plum as the Yang antidote to the spaced-out, giddy Yin excess of inebriation.

© Photo by Alex Lau

When shopping for umeboshi plums, carefully read the labels. Cherry colored plums may contain red dye, along with sugar, corn syrup, MSG, and even aspartame. Your plums should have no more than three ingredients: Umeboshi plums, salt, and shiso leaf.

But, to really reap the benefits of these plums, don’t wait until morning. After your big night out, before you fall into bed, drink plenty of water, then pop an umeboshi plum into your mouth. Treat it more like a lozenge than a food, sucking it while slowly swallowing the pulp (but not the pit!). Moments before sleeping, spit out the pit. Keep a small dish on the bedside table for this very purpose. Place it right next to your jar of umeboshi plums. Sleep. Dream. Wake. Repeat.

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