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Bacchic Medicine

Wine and Alcohol Therapies from Napoleon to the French Paradox

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Wine has always been a part of popular medicine. <I> Bacchic Medicine</I> analyses the historical role of wine in the treatment of disease and preservation of health. The Hippocratic texts gave wine therapy a canonical statement over two millennia ago; but the nineteenth century was the golden age of alcohol and wine therapy. The Germans and the British gave us early canons of wine therapy and, heavily endowed with wine cultural capital, the French followed. But like all therapies, alcohol and wine therapies were not without danger and some of the ‘iatrogenic’ tales are still with us. In the twentieth century, many doctors rallied to the defence of wine both as a substitute for more dangerous alcoholic drinks and as an efficacious medicament, with an impressive case for the efficacy of wine in fighting bacteria, heart disease and cancer. New science based on animal models and ionic theory fortified their arguments. According to the controversial ‘French Paradox’, wine drinking makes it possible for a population to enjoy a high fat diet yet suffer little. <I>Bacchic Medicine</I> also discusses the contemporary debate over the role of alcohol and wine in preventive medicine.

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