9 Dec, 2023 @ 12:00
2 mins read

How to avoid a red wine headache – according to science

Researchers recently identified why red wine gives so many people headaches. 

It is thought quercetin, a natural flavonoid found in red wine, could be the culprit. 

According to a study by the University of California, the chemical could interfere with someone’s ability to break down alcohol, leading to a buildup of toxic byproducts, such as Acetaldehyde.

The well known ‘toxin, irritant and inflammatory substance’, Acetaldehye can provoke headaches, especially in those susceptible to migraines.  

On its own, quercetin is beneficial and is often sold in health food shops. 

The chemical gives the fruit its colour and is formed in grape skins exposed to the sun. 

However, the study published in Scientific Reports journal, has revealed that when combined with alcohol, quercetin can cause problems including nausea, headaches and flushes. 

Unfortunately, the easiest way to curb a red wine headache is to avoid the stuff altogether. 

As quercetin is contained in the grapes’ skin, wines which remove this during production are a much safer option. 

Consider swapping red or orange wines for whites and rosés. 

If you simply cannot survive without red wine, try opting for types with lower levels of quercetin. 

According to recent research, wines that use thick skin grapes or leave the fruit to ripen fully in the sun have higher quercetin contents. 

Cabernet Sauvignon commonly contains high levels of the chemical but this can also change depending on the wine’s geographical origin. 

Chilean Pinot noir, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon consistently showed higher levels of quercetin than their counterparts from different regions.

Including Bulgaria and France, it is thought these wines had lower levels of quercetin due to the lack of sunlight in these countries. 

Cheap wines often use grapes which spend less time in the sun, meaning that it could be better for your wallet and your head to go for a budget option. 

Researchers advise experimenting with different wines and keeping tabs on how you react to understand which varieties are particularly triggering for you. 

Another way to avoid headaches is to hydrate. 

Photo by Kelsey Knight on Unsplash

Increasing your water intake can help to flush out the harmful toxins produced as a byproduct of wine. 

In general, the beverage should also be sipped slowly and responsibly. 

It is not advised to drink red wine on an empty stomach or to mix alcoholic drinks. 

As a preventative measure, studies suggest taking one over the counter painkiller before you drink. 

However, this trick only works with one glass of wine. 

Be careful, especially if you take acetaminophen or ibuprofen, as when mixed with alcohol these can increase your risk of gastrointestinal bleeding and liver damage.  

If you do get a headache, you can also use a cold compress, lie in a dark room or give yourself a caffeine boost to counteract the negative effects. 


Yzabelle Bostyn

After spending much of her childhood in Andalucia and adulthood between Barcelona and Latin America, Yzabelle has settled in the Costa del Sol to put her NCTJ & Journalism Masters to good use. She is particularly interested in travel, vegan food and has been leading the Olive Press Nolotil campaign. Have a story? email yzabelle@theolivepress.es

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Previous Story

WATCH: ‘Goodbye to working in London’: Spain reacts to UK’s new immigration laws which require a minimum salary of €45,100

6 bedroom Villa for sale in Calpe / Calp with pool - € 475
Next Story

6 bedroom Villa for sale in Calpe / Calp with pool – € 475,000

Latest from Health

Go toTop

More From The Olive Press