Why Spirits Can Be Good for You

Surprising Health Benefits of your Favorite Tipple


We may joke that our spirit of choice can cure our ails and wash away many sins. A quiet scotch on the rocks after a hard day’s night or a G&T out on the town can go a long way to making you feel good, but could it also be good for you? You’re not imagining it -- many spirits have health benefits and historically have been used to ward off the plague, malaria, and various digestive illnesses.

Low in Vitamin C? Feeling seasick? Suffering arthritis pain? Got the hiccups? Gin, whiskey, brandy, and Angostura Bitters in your glass could give you some relief and a shot of health.
While we may have doctorates in drinking, we are not doctors here (so don’t chuck that prescription in favor of a liquid cure), but we can say many studies show moderate drinkers live longer and are less likely to suffer heart attacks. Your poison might just be the antidote to another kind of poison (or, at the least, the hiccups).

1. Gin used as a tonic
This spirit was not only reputedly invented by a doctor, Dutch physician Franciscus Sylvius, it was used to ward off the plague, protect against malaria and as a general cure-all for various maladies including lumbago, gallstones, and gout. Monks were the first to bottle the berries back in the 11th century for medicinal purposes. The secret powers of gin come from its main ingredient of juniper berries, a strong diuretic. We have British colonists to thank for the G&T, as the Empire builders slipped gin into tonic water to make their quinine malaria medicine go down. And these days, some believe that gin-soaked raisins can help remedy arthritis pain. It seems a little Dutch courage goes a long way.

2. A Bitters-tasting cure for hiccups

With such a medicinal-sounding name, how can Angostura Bitters not be good for you? This is another concoction invented by a doctor, Johann Siegert, who created this mix of herbs in 1824 to treat fevers and digestive disorders while Surgeon-General of the military hospital in Angostura. British naval officers mixed the bitters with gin to create Pink Gins, used to combat seasickness and other illnesses. These days, the cocktail flavoring can be used as a speedy cure for hiccups after drinking. Bartenders suggest sucking on a lemon wedge soaked with Angostura Bitters and a touch of sugar to sweeten it. When a Baltimore bartender and a doctor paired up to test it out they scored an 88% success rate, according to the New England Journal of Medicine.

3. A shot of whiskey = a shot of antioxidants

According to researchers at Australia’s Monash University, a daily shot of whiskey can provide the same antioxidant benefits as the recommended intake of Vitamin C. (Yeah, we want in on their next study, too.) It may be hard to believe, but tests showed whiskey has more antioxidants than ascorbic acid, so your Whisky Sour or Rob Roy could be more healthful than that glass of OJ or side of broccoli. This is due to the compounds created when whiskey is stored in oak barrels to mature. (Brandy also contains antioxidants produced from distilling the alcohol using copper equipment.) Even better, it’s been claimed that the high levels of ellagic acid in single malts can help reduce the risk of cancer by fighting unstable rogue cells in the body. But keep in mind that this news was by delivered by a consultant to the whiskey industry, at a scientific conference… held in Scotland. It’s safe to safe that a few celebratory wee drams were had.

Mentioned in this article


  • Snooth User: TomG
    40947 44

    "It may be hard to believe, but tests showed whiskey has more free radicals than ascorbic acid". Oops. Free radicals are the bad guys. You did mean to say "antioxidants", right? Please tell me you meant to say antioxidants! :) I won't take a drink till I know (well, maybe one).

    Oct 14, 2010 at 1:07 PM

  • Snooth User: Catherine Gin
    Hand of Snooth
    592568 297

    TomG, thanks for spotting that! Can you tell I failed chemistry at school? All fixed now, so please drink freely (but not radically) and without fear in future.

    Oct 14, 2010 at 2:24 PM

  • Snooth User: ZEEDINE
    542043 9

    genièvre invented by a Dutch chemist and alchemist named Sylvius de Bouve; first sold as a medicine in the late 16th century. The dutch seatlers in America called it gin so did the British when enjoying their tipple on the way to another newly added country we had enslaved around the world.. enjoy you happy travellers enjoy. from roger Hazeldine.

    Oct 14, 2010 at 11:57 PM

  • Snooth User: Bellmont
    574406 5

    Just goes to show you can trust your instincts when it comes to the good things in life:)

    Oct 15, 2010 at 6:02 AM

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