Wine… for Your Health!
Author: Inna Pytel
We now affirm that wine
is given to us as a medication
for the soul to acquire conscience,
and for the body to get health and strength.
Drink wine, eat grapes
And you will enjoy strong health!
A Romanian proverb
Grape wine is made up of numerous components with unquestionable benefits for the human body. In the past, this fact had become known empirically, but now modern scientific studies confirm it.
The therapeutic properties of wines have been known as far back as antique times, where many ancient physicians noted its beneficial effects in their writings. Thus, the ancient Greek physician Hippocrates (460-370 BCE) attached particular importance to wine as a way to restore energy, while at the same time mentioning cases when wine was contraindicated: «wine is miraculously adapted to humans, and can be prescribed for both healthy and ill at the right time, albeit in proper quantities.»
Grape wines’ warming and antiseptic properties have also been long known. One can read the findings of the centuries-old experience of Roman, Greek, Tibetan and Central Asian healers in the works of famous Persian physician Abu Ali Ibn Sina (Avicenna, 980-1037), especially in his Book of Healing, where he pointed out the numerous medicinal properties of wine.
The famous Roman physician Asclepius (106-48 BCE) claimed: «the power of the gods can hardly compare to the benefits from wine.»
In his work The Republic (360 BCE), Plato recommended to use a mixture of wine, honey, barley and ground cheese to heal wounds. Plutarch, a physician in the times of Ancient Greece, believed that wine is useful for those suffering from gastric weakness, and is both a wonderful hypnotic and sedative. The Roman physician Galen, who lived in the 2nd century CE, noted the bioenergetic properties of wine.
Of course, everyone knows that the excessive consumption of alcohol-containing beverages can cause great harm; this is a social scourge, but the fact of the matter is that bans have never led to anything good in the history of mankind. The moderate and reasonable consumption of natural table wines is an excellent alternative.
The analysis of many works and research by leading world experts, who have conducted studies of the dietary and pharmacological properties of grape wines, proves the beneficial effects of wine when consumed properly and moderately. «All things are poison and nothing is without poison; only the proper dose makes something not a poison», wrote Swiss chemist and physician Paracelsus (1493-1541).
Today, the complex biochemical composition of wines, which can influence the human body to a greater or lesser extent, has been proven scientifically. Indeed, wine is rich in important nutritional components: a total of 24 microelements and about 800 different substances that, if taken in small doses, help regulate the numerous vital enzymatic processes in human bodies.
For example, the required daily amount of iodine is contained in 0.3 l of wine, fluorine – in 0.2 l, copper – in 1 l, iron – in 1.5 l, and zinc – in 2 l. Carbohydrates in grape wines belong to the high-calorie and most easily digested sugars group. The sugar content (glucose and fructose) often exceeds 20% in dessert wines. 100 g of such wine contains about 80 kcal, or the equivalent of 50 g of bread, 150 g of potatoes, 100 g of milk or 200 g of pears.
The organic acids contained in wines in the free state or as salts play an important role in human nutrition. These acids contribute to digestion, facilitating the effects of pepsin, and potassium salts have diuretic effects. The tannins contained in wines are quite physiologically active. Red grape varieties (and the wines made from them, respectively) have larger quantities of vitamins (in particular, the P factor group) than white grapes. In fact, it has been established that a lack of vitamin P in the body increases the need for vitamin C to such an extent that it cannot be compensated for by an adequate diet. There is not so much vitamin C in wine, but there is lots of vitamin P, thanks to which ascorbic acid is better accumulated and digested.
The special effects of red grape varieties on the body are due to various different groups of phenolic compounds. The polyphenols concentrated in red grape varieties are strong phytogenic antioxidants. The result of their biochemical effect at the cellular level is the impediment of pathological processes thanks to the oxidation of free radicals. By linking free radicals, the polyphenolic substances protect the body against many diseases, chronic fatigue syndrome, premature aging, atherosclerosis, ischemia and other ailments, while the presence of tannins and pectin help eliminate radioactive strontium.
The results of clinical studies conducted by a number of scientists and doctors around the world confirm the benefits of drinking red wines to help combat radiation poisoning. The treatment of individuals affected by the Chernobyl nuclear power plant accident by scientists from the Magarach Institute showed that cesium 134 and 237 contents fell by half compared to the control group of those who received no wine treatment. Based on these studies, it has been concluded that wine contributes to the elimination of radionuclides.
American physician Robert Gale, who studied the influence of radiation on the human body, recommended that people affected by the Chernobyl disaster consume between 30 to 100 ml of red wine daily. A daily dose of 100-500 ml of red wine is also recommended as a prophylactic and curative agent by French pharmacologists, so it is no coincidence that employees of US and French nuclear plants and the nuclear navy are allotted red wine in these amounts.
Basic research on the mechanism of wine’s effect on the human body have been conducted by the School of Pharmacy professor at the University of Bordeaux, Jacques Maskellier. He proved that thanks to their special biochemical composition, grape wines are capable of absorbing free radicals. An excess of free radicals in the body occurs under the influence of various negative factors, including particulate and electromagnetic radiation, inflammation, alcohol abuse, adverse environmental conditions as a result of pollution, and others.
Wines contain all the same vitamins present in grapes. Wine and milk are also equivalent in vitamin P, which perhaps might be the reason behind the old saying that «wine is milk for the elderly.» Indeed, it has been established that grape wines help improve the health of the elderly, as the pleasant rest caused by a good glass of dry wine helps alleviate anxiety, promotes relaxation and normalizes sleep patterns.
The wise Omar Khayyam noticed this and wrote:
People know I curse my age,
People know wine is my passion,
But fools don’t know that wine brings back
Youth to an old man, and spring to an old heart
Wine has long been known for its anti-bacterial properties. For example, during World War One with its deficit of antiseptics, bandages were soaked in wine diluted with water and applied to soldiers’ festering wounds. And this is far from surprising, as it has been determined in experiments that if one adds ten million coli bacteria to half a liter of wine, half an hour later, not a single living microbe will be left behind. Its herbicidal range is quite wide and covers both gram-negative germs (salmonella, shigella, proteus, colibacilly) and gram-positive germs (staphylococci, streptococci and pneumococci).
One of the first Russian researchers of grape wines, who confirmed their therapeutic properties (and made recommendations for their use) is the renowned winemaker and scientist Nikolay Prostoserdov, who worked as deputy science director at the Magarach Institute (Yalta) for many years (1936-1943). He believed that to define «useful doses of wine consumption,» one must proceed from its alcohol content, taking into account the weight of the person: 1-1.5 ml of anhydrous alcohol per kg. According to other researchers, the alcohol ratio in terms of calories should not exceed 18-20% of one’s daily energy intake. For dry wine with an alcohol content of 11%, this corresponds to 0.5 l, on average. In the case of fortified wines, the dose should be 2-3 times less. In terms of 1 kg of body weight, the daily dose of alcohol should not exceed 1 g.
In Prostoserdov’s writings, we also find practical recommendations for the use of wine in various diseases of the cardiovascular system, gastrointestinal tract, kidneys, metabolism and nervous system:
- To prevent coronary heart disease by expanding the blood vessels: consume 200-300 ml of white, rose dry wine or sparkling wine daily.
- In early manifestations of atherosclerosis, in order to prevent its development, it is recommended to consume up to 500 ml of dry white or red wine daily.
- For the initial stages of hypertension and neurocirculatory disorders, consume 200-400 ml of dry white or red wines daily.
- In hypotensive conditions involving a decrease in arterial blood pressure, consume 200-400 ml of dry red wine daily.
- In the event of the flu, acute bronchitis or pneumonia, consume 100 ml of hot red wine with sugar or honey (mulled wine).
- To stimulate the respiratory center and improve pulmonary ventilation in the event of heart issues, consume a glass (200 ml) of sparkling wine containing carbonic acid.
- For issues of the gastrointestinal tract, hypoxemic gastritis, low appetite or indigestion, consume up to 200 ml of white wine with your meal.
- For hyperoxemic gastritis, stick to pink, red ordinary wines or Cahors diluted 50/50 with water, of up to 100 ml with your meal.
- In the event of enteric fever, enterocolitis or diarrhea, consume 100-300 ml of dry red wine, and try white wine as a laxative.
- To fight obesity, consume 200-300 ml of ordinary red wine daily.
- If you suffer from anemia, consume up to 400 ml of red table wine per day.
- In the event of tuberculosis, consume 75-150 ml of red table wine per day.
In his work «The dietary and medicinal properties of grape wine,» Nikolay Prostoserdov presents the oenotherapeutic code (the code of wine treatment) by the French doctor Eylau, which was first introduced at the International Congress in 1934. The doctor from Bordeaux referred only to the dry wines of Bordeaux and Sauterns in his work.
In his recommendations, Dr. Eylau pointed out some positive aspects of consuming table wines to help alleviate a sufficiently broad spectrum of conditions: including cardiovascular, digestive, respiratory and excretory systems; infectious, skin and nervous system diseases; conditions of the biliary and metabolic systems; in surgical practice, and in weakened and recovering patients.
Strong wines such as Madeira, Porto, Sherry and dessert wines and liqueurs are also mentioned in the later studies conducted by the scientists of the Magarach Institute. In particular, professor Hermann Georgievich Valuyko pointed out that these wines are also useful thanks to their powerful bioenergetic properties. It is beyond dispute that prostrate and weakened patients benefit from several spoonfuls of Porto, Sherry or Madeira a day.
If you feel upset or tired, a glass of sherry can help you fight it.
Let the wine will flow into your veins, and you’ll be vehement again!
In his conclusions, Nikolai Prostoserdov noted that the use of wine for medical purposes requires expert doctor advice, who knows the features and properties, as well as the healing qualities of various sorts. Today it might seem strange to read these lines, as many modern doctors take a biased approach towards wine, unwilling to accept the advantages of oenotherapy.
Of course, the easiest thing to do is to ban it in order to combat alcoholism, but by instilling a culture of wine consumption with due respect, with consideration for the positive aspects of wine, we can say that it really can benefit people, in particular by helping combat alcoholism and displacing more toxic drinks from one’s diet.
And here we cannot fail to recall the patriarch of Russian winemaking, Prince Lev Golitsyn! As a great patriot and great winemaker, he was sincerely and seriously concerned about the spread of alcoholism in Russia due to the relentless consumption of vodka. In the center of Moscow, the prince maintained a wine shop from his splendid vineyards and sold wine for 25 kopecks per bottle. «I want to make it so the simple workman, craftsman, or clerk can drink good wine,» he said.
So what is wine, this prodigy of nature? If we define it in a dry and laconic way… «it is a product of complete or partial fermentation of sugar contained in grape juice, or the product of the biochemical transformation of juice. Any other alcoholic drink cannot be called wine, if during the preparation process it does not undergo the fermentation stage.»
But the wise Avicenna saw wine deeper, as «the friend of the wise and enemy of the drunkard. It is bitter and useful, like the philosopher’s light. It is permissible for reasonable people and banned for fools… It pushes the fool towards hell, and leads the wise to God.»
About the author
Since 1980, Inna Feliksovna Pytel has been an employee of the Magarach National Institute of Grapes and Wine in Yalta. The basic field of her research and practical work is the study of the agrobiological and technological characteristics of hybrid forms and varieties of grapes selected by the Magarach research institute, in comparison with standard varieties and those selected by other originators.
She has presented the results of her research at international conferences, where among other things, she demonstrates the results of selection works of the Magarach Institute on the production of frost-resistant varieties of technical grapes.
Mrs. Pytel is co-creator of the Alminsky grape variety, and has also patented the method of producing wines from Magarach Citron grapes. She has co-authored many scientific papers.