If there’s any science more controversial than climate change right now, it’s the science of hangover cures. From raw eggs and coconut water to IV drip therapy (yup) and, of course, more booze, the lines between science and myth seem to get blurred on groggy, post-party mornings. Shouldn’t there be some pill or elixir to get rid of the icepick lodged between your eyes? Well, luckily for the afflicted, the nation of Finland seems to have had the ultimate hangover-cure all along—the sauna.
As recently reported by Munchies, hungover mornings spent sweating out spirits in a traditional sauna are just as ingrained in the Finnish culture as the long nights of drinking that precede them. Sauna is actually a Finnish word, but the sweatboxes in Finland are a little bit different than the wood-paneled steam rooms you might have popped into at the local YMCA—more than 25 degrees different, to be exact.
The Scandinavian saunas have been around for thousands of years. An early alternative to bathing, saunas were used for both hygienic and social purposes. And before the widespread availability of modern medicine, saunas were used as pseudo-sterile birthing rooms. (So don’t challenge any older Finns to a sauna-off—they could have been born in one.)
According to This is Finland, the correct way to enjoy the steam is “to take off all your clothes and… sit, naked, with others for a while and sweat. Then you will go outside and jump (still naked) through a small hole in the ice on a lake, the sea or whatever and refresh yourselves in the freezing water—or roll in the snow instead.” This hot and cold back-and-forth might seem crazy, but not to Finns. A few rounds of plunging into near-freezing waters than retreating into near-boiling air is believed to be the perfect remedy to a night of heavy boozing.
“Actually, the first time i went to a sauna as an adult I was hungover,” said SAVEUR writer Pauliina Siniauer, who moved to New York from Helsinki last year. “Friday and Saturday nights are the most common [sauna times]. Saturday night is the classic sauna time where your whole family goes. Every family does it.”
Siniauer also raves about another hangover-killing Finnish tradition: the sauna beer. “The sauna makes beer taste beautiful. People even have non-alcoholic beers sometimes, just to enjoy the sauna a bit more.”
But while saunas can save you from a killer hangover, one small detail explains how in Finland, they end up becoming the cause of your stomach pain and pounding headache all over again. It’s common practice to drink shots of vodka or Salmari, a nickname for a Finnish liqueur that tastes like salty licorice, during your sauna experience.
Viideltä saunaan ja kuudelta putkaan / Se on sellainen työmiehen lauantai, are lyrics from a classic Finnish folk song titled “Työmiehen Lauantai”, or “Workingman’s Saturday,” which Siniauer translates to mean: “At five you’re in the sauna, at six you’re in the drunk tank—and thats the working man’s Saturday.”