845 AD- Paris, France- The plague was beginning to sweep through the Viking army camped outside of Paris. The army of over 5,000 warriors led by Ragnar Lodbrok had been pillaging towns along the Seine and meeting little to no resistance. Once they came upon Paris, the Viking army was confident that their siege would be a success. Soon after they began the siege of the city, a plague erupted within the Viking encampment. It seemed that the herbs they had brought could do nothing to combat the sickness. Even after the offerings and pleas for help to the Norse Gods, the plague continued to spread. As their hope dwindled, one of their ships that they had thought lost at sea arrived. This ship contained a large supply of mead that they had brought from home. Most of the sick had been hydrated with the water from the river because that was all that was available. Once the ship arrived, many men took to drinking the "nectar of the Gods" to give them strength and dull the pain inflicted by the plague. A short time later, many of the men began to recover. So many recovered that they were able to defeat the forces protecting the city and sailed home with a ransom of 7,000 pounds of silver. Whether it was the mead that saved them is unknown, but the honey used to make the mead, which has many anti-bacterial properties could have been a contributing factor.
HISTORY OF VARIOUS ALCOHOLS
The consumption of alcohol has both a very positive and negative history. Archeological evidence points to the use of these beverages more than 8000 years ago and in multiple locations around the world.
What were these people using the alcohol for? Was it just to get drunk?
Was it just to get drunk?
While I'm sure many of them enjoyed a little buzz from time to time (who doesn't?), I doubt that was a very big reason. In fact, many cultures mixed their alcoholic drinks with water so that it wasn't as strong and looked down on people that were intoxicated much of the time.
Ahhh, the nectar of the gods. The favorite drink of the Norse Gods and what all the warriors looked forward to drinking in Odin's hall, Valhalla. The mead of the giant or Jotun, Suttung which was made from the blood of Kvasir was the source of wisdom and poetry.
The history of mead can be traced back until at least 9000 years ago. The oldest known examples of this are from around 7000 BC in northern China where pottery was found with the presence of honey, rice and other things associated with fermentation.
It's been described in religious texts and in literature throughout the world from India to Europe. The word for drunk in classical Greek is even "honey-intoxicated." The word "honeymoon" is even the practice of the father of the bride giving her husband enough mead for a month-long celebration of the marriage.
Mead is a type of drink made by the fermentation of honey with water. Sometimes other ingredients called "adjuncts" or "gruit" are used such as fruits, herbs, grains or spices to give it a different flavor or for medicinal use.
Medicinal Properties of Mead
Pliny the Elder or Gaius Plinius Secundus was a Roman author, philosopher and also a military commander that lived between 23-79 AD. Some of his writing talks a lot about the medicinal properties of honey drinks.
Hydromel which was essentially money mixed with water along with numerous other ingredients like vinegar and sea salt was used for anything from weight loss to gout.
In England, people mixed many different herbs and spices with mead for many different ailments. Things like digestion and even depression were improved using these concoctions of what was called metheglin, which is the Welsh word for medicine.
Omphacomel was another drink mentioned by him that was a honey and grape mixture used as a tonic to keep people strong and healthy.
The benefits of honey by itself are outstanding and many of these benefits carry over to the mead and can even be amplified by the fermentation process.
Mead is made up of a diverse set of good bacteria during the fermentation process. All of that good bacteria can help to iprove the health of your microbiome.
Honey has been used as a treatment for many types of infections including antibiotic-resistant strains like MRSA. This property of honey seems to be present in mead as well.
Mead making has recently started to become more popluar, and not just with people at Rennaissance fairs, but also with people looking at its medicinal properties. Much of this can be attributed to microbioligist Tobias Olofsson from Sweden's Lund University. He has been developing a probiotic mead to help in the growing battle with drug-resistant infections. While most people don't think of mead for it's medical uses, many of our ancestors may have.
Antibiotic-resistant infections have been in the news quite a lot over the past few years and for good reason. For many years, doctors have prescribed antibiotics for almost every type of infection imaginable along with the overuse of antibiotics for livestock. For this reason, many common pathogens that used to be easily treated, have now mutated in an effort to survive.
What can be done about this scary development?
Well, drinking what Gizmodo called "Viking crunk juice" might just be the solution.
Sign me up!
Olofsson thinks that harnessing the power of an ancient alcohol and making it even better with modern science could be the solution. His research has found that the microorganisms inside honey called lactic acid bacteria (LAB) could be one way to kill resistant infections like MRSA which can be a potentially fatal. He found that when making mead in traditional ways, the LAB content was even higher than in regular honey.
While this could be great news, don't think that just going out and buying a bottle of mead from the liquor store or even a winery will give you these effects. Most commercial mead makers sterilize their products before selling it similar to how the milk industry pasteurizes milk before it can be sold.
To truly get the benefits we're going to need to either start making it ourselves or find someone that makes it in a more traditional way.
Sounds like it's time to take up the old craft of mead making.. For medicinal reasons of course!
The archaeological evidence of winemaking dates to around the same time as mead (7000 BC). The oldest discovered winery was found in Armenia and dated to around 4100 BC. Within this site they found jars, cups, fermentation vats and even a wine press.
The historical significance of wine throughout the centuries is enormous. It seems like most ancient cultures mentioned wine in some form or another. Our love of wine can be traced back as far as written words have been used. Many writers, philosophers and the great thinkers of the ages have professed their love and even hatred of this fermented beverage. While people have used wine for its health benefits for thousands of years, it has only recently been studied in depth to find out what makes this drink healthy.
Medicinal Properties of Wine
The Egyptians believed that wine should be reserved for those closest to the gods because it could help to improve vitality and improve the longevity of the people who drank it. Healers in those times also used wine mixed with medicinal herbs in a way that resembles the making of tinctures. The wine would be used to draw out the medicinal properties of the plants and make the medicine more potent.
Hippocrates, the "father of medicine" talked quite a bit about the heal properties of wine. The acidic properties of red wine would help to break down rich foods and make them easier to be digested. He also prescribed white wine for people suffering from bladder issues. It would also be used to break down kidney stones to help them to pass much quicker and without as much pain.
Before the discovery that boiling water would make it safe, many people would mix water with wine to help to sterilize and rid it of harmful bacteria that was a result of contaminated water supplies.
A Finnish study over a period of 29 years, using 2, 468 men found that wine drinkers have a 34% lower mortality rate than beer or spirit drinkers [r].
Wine drinking has been associated with 30% less chance of heart attack for people who have high blood pressure [r]. The tannins found in red wine also contain procyanidins that protect against heart disease [r].
As we age our brain function tends to decline, some faster than others. One study has shown that people who drink moderate amounts of alcohol show less cognitive decline than people who abstain from alcohol completely [r].
Type 2 Diabetes
Moderate drinkers also haev 30% less risk of developing type 2 diabetes [r].
The biggest issue with wine today is that it can be pretty overwhelming trying to choose from the thousands of choices at the store. Especially since most of them will probably make you feel like crap.
When choosing a wine, there are a few things that you should consider.
The first criteria I have when choosing a wine is that it has to be either organic or biodynamic.
The second criteria is sugar content. We all know that sugar can cause many problems and should be avoided when possible.
The best place I have found to get high-quality wine is from Dry Farm Wines and you can even get a bottle for just a penny by clicking on that link. The guys over at DFW scour the world for the best wines imaginable.
I LOVE a great craft beer. IPA's are some of my favorites. We're not talking about normal domestic beers like Bud Light. YUCK!
Beer is an alcoholic drink brewed from cereal grains.
People have been brewing beer for at least 7000 years.
Some of the first evidence of beer is from the ancient Babylonians. People in those days really took their beer drinking seriously. Brewers were a prestigious part of the community and well respected.
At least until they brewed a bad batch of beer. If that happened they would be drowned in it. Sounds a little harsh to me, but what do I know?
Beer was also a large part of European culture. Many inns were rated not on the cleanliness of their lodgings or the quality of their food, but on the quality of their beer!
Many people claim that the rise of beer in the Middle Ages was because the water was so contaminated. The water used to make the beer would be made safer from the alcohol. While that may have been the case is small places, I haven't found any accuracy to this at all.
Medicinal Properties of Beer
While wine is known for his high levels of antioxidants, beer is almost it's equal when it comes to that. The hops that are used to brew many beers are a great source of flavonoids.
According to a report from the International Journal of Endocrinology, moderate consumption of wine or beer can lead to an increase in bone density in men. Much of this is due to the silicon in beer which affects the formation of bone [r].
Hops, one ingredient in beer, has been used as medicine for thousands of years as a sedative and anti-bacterial remedy. Recent research has shown that hops also has anti-inflammatory properties [r].
One study recently found that people who drank beer or wine had between 33-41% less chance of developing kidney stones than people who didn't drink [r].
Drinking beer also increases the production of gastric acid which aids in digestion so go ahead and have that beer with dinner [r].
Over the past decade or so we've seen an explosion of micro-breweries all across the US. You can find one in almost every city and many towns across the country. Whether you like a porter, stout, lager or ale you're sure to find something that meets your standards.
NEGATIVE EFFECTS OF ALCOHOL
Prior to Psammetichus I, Egyptian pharaohs didn't drink wine or offer it to their Gods because they thought that it was the blood of people who once battled the Gods and that once they were killed they became part of the earth, and from that earth came the grape vines. So the next time you drink wine, just remember that you're drinking the blood of people who fought against the Gods and lost.
We all know that too much alcohol whether it's wine or bourbon can be a bad thing. I'm not just talking about how it makes you run down the street butt naked in the middle of the night. Oh, you don't do that? Me either.
Besides making you do and say things that you wouldn't normally, it can also have serious negative consequences on your health. Binge drinking and drinking heavily over long periods of time can cause things like brain damage, cancer, high blood pressure and damage to many organs like your liver, stomach, pancreas and intestines.
Alcohol is also a neurotoxin that can poison your brain and wreak havoc on your liver.
Since we're a site dedicated to optimizing every aspect of your life, it's also worth mentioning that while drinking may seem like it helps your sleep, it actually hurts your sleep quality quite a bit.
Like most things, moderation is the key along with the quality of the alcohol you're consuming.
"A worse provision no man can take from table than too much beer-bibbing: for the more he drinks the less control he has of his mind" - Odin, The Havamal
No post about alcohol would be complete without a little information about combatting hangovers.
Feeling like shit after excessive drinking is something that I'm sure has plagued mankind since the discovery of alcohol. Surprisingly enough, there are many historical texts that actually mention hangovers and other dangers of too much drinking.
"If the headache only came to us before drank to intoxication, no one would ever indulge himself in wine immoderately" - Alexis, The Phrygian
Step 1- Don't drink excessively... Pretty simple right? Since I'm sure many of you won't follow this guideline lets look at some other ways to combat hangovers.
What causes a hangover? Too much alcohol... DUH!
Seriously though there are some things you can do to mitigate the crappy feeling you get the day after to much drinking. Here are some of our top choices to wake up without a headache and rumbling in your stomach if you happen to drink too much.
- Drink a glass of water in between each glass of alcohol.
- Eat a hearty meal before you start drinking. Choose things that are high in vitamins because those will become depleted when drinking.
- For breakfast, consume healthy fats and they will help to absorb the acidity????
- "Hair of the dog" - While having something else to drink when you first wake up probably isn't a good idea, it does help to get rid of some of the symptoms.
- Take activated charcoal before and after you drink.
- Supplements that replenish your vitamins and minerals can also be a be help to combatting hangovers.