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Alcohol therapy: medicinal drinking through the ages

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Alcohol therapy: medicinal drinking through the ages

Post by Rowan » Mon January 20th, 2014, 7:57 pm

For hundreds of years alcohol claimed a prize place among the pills, potions and healing herbs of British pharmaceutical history.

A drop of gin was once advised to ward off the plague, a glug of wine to "defend the body from corruption" and a sip of absinthe to cure the body of roundworms.

Of course all this has changed.

As our understanding of the harms of alcohol on society and the individual has grown, it has given up its place on prescription pads - instead to be superseded by advice to refrain from all but cautious use.

An exhibition at the Royal College of Physicians in London traces its use and sometimes fatal misuse by medical men and women of the past, up to the calls for greater regulation today.
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Post by Lisa » Mon January 20th, 2014, 9:31 pm

Hmm, I still firmly believe that a hot toddy is the best thing for a cold. (It's probably just the honey in it that helps, but still... :p )

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Post by annis » Tue January 21st, 2014, 3:30 am

A glass of whiskey was always known as "Grandad's medicine" at our house :) (Could have had something to do with the Scottish roots, I guess!)

However there's no doubt that many patent medicines and snakeoil cures back in the day were popular more for their high alcohol and/or opiate content than their efficacy. Laudanum was still legal for medicinal use into the 20th century.
Last edited by annis on Tue January 21st, 2014, 3:35 am, edited 5 times in total.

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Post by wendy » Tue January 21st, 2014, 12:43 pm

Although it hasn't got the credit it deserves (perhaps because it is a scholarly non-fiction) Ann Douglas' book TERRIBLE HONESTY gives a wonderful insight into the connection between the major literary figures of the 1920s - 1930s living in New York, and their use of alcohol as part of the creative process. I found it quite fascinating.
Wendy K. Perriman
Fire on Dark Water (Penguin, 2011)

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