Whether you’re a native or recent resident of Kentucky, you’ve probably discovered there are a few things that everybody loves in this state…Basketball (GO CATS!), Horses, …and Bourbon! But here is a fun fact that you may not know about Kentucky Bourbon. Did you know that Buffalo Trace was one of only 4 distilleries to remain open during the time of Prohibition? During prohibition, there was one way to obtain alcoholic beverages legally. Physicians could prescribe distilled spirits on government prescription forms. As such, Buffalo Trace was able to sell its alcohol to pharmacies for “medicinal purposes”. Pretty cool, eh? And this brings me to the point in this week’s blog on the medicinal purposes of alcohol.
We’re all relatively aware that many over-the-counter syrup medicines and tinctures have small amounts of alcohol in them, but we’re going to be focusing on medicinal alcohol as a beverage. For example, when you were little, you may remember your parents putting drops of whiskey on your gums while you were teething, or giving you a “hot toddy” to fight a raging virus? Historically speaking, alcohol has been mentioned throughout the ages for its medicinal properties and even as a cure for some ailments.
Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) also weighs in on the benefits of alcohol in small doses. In fact, alcohol has been regarded as a powerful medicine in TCM for over 4,000 years. When prescribed, it’s served independently, decocted with raw herbs in a formula, or used in cooking. Alcohol is considered “pure yang” in nature with “pungent and sweet” properties; together, these properties make alcohol a medicinal for invigorating the flow of Qi & Blood, warming the body, and dispersing pathogens. Here are a few ailments that are often treated with some form of medicinal alcohol:
- Arthritic Pain (especially pain worse in the cold weather)
- Post-Partum Pain
- Poor Circulation
- Mild to Moderate infections (cold, stomach flu etc)
Red Wine is also being thoroughly researched these days for its health benefits. You’ve probably heard things like “a glass of red wine is good for your heart”, or my new favorite “a glass of wine is equal to one hour of exercise”. Just to clarify, as much as I love red wine, it will never replace exercise, sorry! However, red wine does have some health benefits in small doses. Resveratrol is the specific polyphenol/antioxidant in red wine that comes from the grape skins, and this is the ingredient that’s been getting the most attention because:
- It reduces LDL (bad cholesterol) and increases HDL (good cholesterol), which protects the integrity of your blood vessels, especially your coronary arteries.
- It may lower blood pressure
- It prevents blood clots from forming
- It has some anti-inflammatory properties
Resveratrol is also the key ingredient being compared to exercise. A recent study at the University of Alberta found that Resveratrol is linked with improved physical performance, heart function, and muscle strength. Nevertheless, it is a huge stretch to suggest that it’s equal to exercise, so it’s not a replacement for your gym pass!
What is considered medicinal alcohol consumption (aka “a single drink”)?
- Wine: 6oz
- Beer: 12oz
- Distilled Liquor: 1.5oz
A Medicinal Hot Toddy Recipe: I will usually recommend these in the fall and winter months to help with mild/moderate viruses, arthritic pain worse in the cold weather, poor circulation, and general relaxation. A small pour of hot sake will provide the same benefits. My basic formula is below, but you can also just make it easy and add a 1.5oz pour of a distilled liquor into a cup of tea!
- 1 cup hot water
- 1Tbsp honey: soothes the throat, and has antimicrobial properties
- 1/4 lemon: good for immune system and digestion
- 3 whole cloves: suppresses coughs, warms the interior, breaks a fever
- 1/2 cinnamon stick: harmonizes immune system, breaks fever
- 1.5oz bourbon: warms the interior, invigorates Qi & Blood