Alcohol Benefits

A Surprising Twist: Alcohol's Medicinal Past

While most modern-day doctors are likely to tell you to ease up on the drink, there was once a time when alcohol played a key role in health and wellbeing. We take a look at alcohol's history as a legitimate medicine

Humans have a tendency to put alcohol in one corner and health in another. In an age of juicedetoxesand caveman-inspired diets, weve convinced ourselves that boozy beverages and wellbeing dont mix.

So it may come as a surprise that alcohol was once used in a medicinal manner to fix and prevent niggly illnesses.

From the moment alcohol came about (experts predictit was around 10,000 years ago), humans have been using it as a medicine. The earliest evidence of this dates back 5,000 years. Bioarchaeologistsfound a jar containing wine residue and medicinal botanicals in a Egyptian pharaohs tomb.

The father of modern medicine, Hippocrates, created alcohol-based remedies by infusing herbs in wine and later, using distillation to create a higher proof spirit. This would preserve the herbal ingredients and speed up the absorption rate of the medicine.

The rise of Christianity transformed alcohol into the water of life.It was safer to drink than water, which was often riddled with disease, and eventually tinctures of distilled and herbalinfused alcohol were sold to those with nasty ailments.

Of course, the potentially harmful aspects of alcohol were also discovered rather quickly.

Roger Bacon, a English philosopher and medical writer during the 13th century, write that wine could preserve the digestion, defend the body from corruptionbut also issued a warning of excessive consumption: If it be over-much guzzles, it will be on the contrary do a great deal of harm.

As the years flew by, more and more herbs, spices, peels, barks and berries found their place in medicines alongside alcohol such a juniper in gin, which was used for fevers and tropical diseases often caught by Dutch settles in the West Indies.

Some of these medicine-like alcohols are still about today as well as a few new additions.Weve rounded up a few below:


Thisgreen-colouredFrench liqueur has been made by theCarthusianMonks since 1737. The recipe was passed down fromFranoisAnnibald'Estresin 1605 and includes 130 herb, plant and floral ingredients each possessing a medicinal quality. So its pretty much the Da Vinci Code of booze.


Sitting at 35 per cent ABV,Jgermeisteris another secret concoction distilled using a range of herbal ingredients. It was introduced to the German public in 1935, not as a alcoholic drink, but as a medicinal elixirto help with digestion and coughs.

Ingredients such as cinnamon bark (a fix for tummy issues), cloves (an anti-inflammatory and reduces fever) and star anise (helps with liver health and works as an anti-viral) are all present inJgermeister.


Russians claim that vodka aids the cardiovascular system, reduces stress (no surprises there) and freshens breath.

Red Wine

This one has been at the forefront of the health and alcohol relationship. It is said to be good for the heart, burns fat and lowers blood pressure. All in moderation, of course.

Medicinal Cocktails

Sometimes people want to have their cake and eat it too and rightly so. New age healthy cocktails are set to become a thing this year. Fancy akalejito(a kalemoijito)? Or a shot of vodka in your green smoothie?


Beer originates from the ancient Mesopotamian times between 3500-3100 BCE (modern-day Iran) where it was brewed as a nutritional staple and a way to keep grains fresher for longer through fermentation. It also might have been a substitute for bread.

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