THE TIPPLING POINT | Sick Child, Labour Pain, Trouble With Memory: When Booze Became Doctors' Most Trusted Medicine
Come to the 17th century British hospitals. The daily ration of a sick child included two gallons of beer every week.
(Image for representation: Reuters)
‘Don’t mix drink with drive.’
You cannot spend a day nowadays without reading one of these warnings. They come in all forms, appear in all places and are all hell bent on weaning you off from the devil’s potion.
Now you wonder whether alcohol has always been the Public Enemy No. 1 down the centuries. Hardly so. There was a time when the drink was considered purer than water, healthier than the most nutritious food out there in nature. Physicians vied with one another proclaiming the health benefits of the good ole’ drink.
Let us hop through a few annals of the hoary history:
You know why the nurse rubs spirit on your skin before she puts the needle in. Bacteria. Fine, before the 20th century there were plenty of bacteria flying around (so they say) which could only be fought against with beer, brandy and whisky. Instead of applying them on skin, those good souls of the time put them inside their bodies so that the drink could get a solid ground to start, from where they could fight the microorganisms.
Still blame them?
They had their own tests to prove it. People noticed that the ones who stuffed themselves with the spirit were not dropping dead as quickly as the ones who stuck to water. Especially when they were infected with some diseases. Here are some more facts from history:
1) The rage began in 14th century when an Italian physician recommended mixing brandy with white wine and honey. What for? He said, it improved memory. If you mix it again with rosemary and sage, worms can be targeted. The manuscript he wrote continued to be a sensation for a long time.
2) Come to the 17th century British hospitals. The daily ration of a sick child included two gallons of beer every week. And the children, once they were put back in school, complained, they were not feeling well.
3) You may be worrying your ass about your matted hair. People in the 1800s didn’t care a bit. All they had to do was to wash their hair in rum. Well if you have a bottle to spare...
4) How many of you know what was happening inside the Brumonian School of Medicine established as lately as in the 19th century? Interesting things. Some of you might book a bed the moment you read this out. But sorry, the treatment is no more there now. Well here’s what the oldies believed in. Alcohol re-balances the system. So for any illness, it is ideal to take three pints of brandy, every day. The patients were happy with the treatment. No complaints. Well, it was the most popular hospitals during the time.
5) There was a special beer which was used up until the last part of the 19th century — groaning ale. It was a dark beer reserved for women going through labour. They believed that it relaxed the muscles, eased the pain and so was ideal for bringing the new one out without any issues, while the mother was laughing her head off all intoxicated.
We sigh: good ole’ days.
(Manu Remakant is a freelance writer who also runs a video blog - A Cup of Kavitha - introducing world poetry to Malayalees. Views expressed here are personal)
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