“Wine is the most beneficial of all drinks, the pleasantest medicine in the world, and of all dainties the least cloying to the appetite…”
Wine as a cultural object is as old as civilization; wine as a remedy is as old as medicine. The first person to use pure wine as medication was Hippocrates, the forefather of all doctors. He recommended red wine as a sedative, painkiller, and soporific, as a treatment for cardiovascular disease, and as a tonic for convalescents.
Wine was also used externally, especially to treat superficial wounds. Ancient medicine was using red wine as an anti-inflammatory substance long before modern microbiology discovered bacteria and other microorganisms as the cause of wound infections.
The common European wine grape contains
high concentrations of resveratrol.
Resveratrol is a phytosubstance (from the Greek word phyton, plant) with antioxidant properties and is classified as a polyphenol (=secondary plant substance). Resveratrol is found in plants and plant foods such as raspberries, blackberries, mulberries, plums, peanuts, and Japanese knotweed.
Purple grapes were first found to contain resveratrol in 1976; it was also discovered that they contain significantly larger quantities of resveratrol than other plants. The highest concentrations of resveratrol are found in the skin, seeds, and stalks of the grapes and in the vines and roots of the plant.
Resveratrol dissolves well in alcohol and oil, but only dissolves with difficulty in water. This explains why red wine contains larger quantities of resveratrol than grape juice. One contributory factor is the fermentation process, as it means that the grape skins are kept in the production process for longer.
Benefits of Resveratrol
Resveratrol is a stress metabolite that forms in the grape when it is under stress; you could say that it is the plant’s own immune system. Stress factors include high ozone levels, UV radiation, infestation with insects and fungi, infections, and harmful environmental influences.
Resveratrol also functions as an antioxidant in humans. It is particularly beneficial to the cardiovascular system and fat metabolism; it can for example prevent heart attacks and arteriosclerosis in various ways. It also strengthens the immune system and reduces wrinkle formation by neutralizing free radicals.
Resveratrol is particularly important for the immune system. It is an anti-inflammatory substance that inhibits the growth and spread of herpes viruses and various fungi, and has antimutagenic and anticarcinogenic properties. This means it can prevent the development of cancer cells, particularly in breast cancer, and slow down the spread of cancer.
Resveratrol also kills cancer cells by inhibiting the production of a protein that is essential for their survival. This reactivates the process of apoptosis, the natural planned self-destruction of cells.
The French paradox is presumably also explained by the effects of resveratrol…
The French Paradox
The healthiest, most long-lived people are found in countries where a lot of red wine is drunk, even though they may smoke heavily, eat a lot of fatty foods, and take hardly any exercise.
As France is one of these red wine loving nations, this phenomenon, observed as early as 1819 by Irish physician Samuel Black, was given the name French paradox in 1992 by Dr. Serge Renaud, a researcher at the University of Bordeaux.
It was observed that despite their regular alcohol consumption (red wine), the French live longer than the Germans or Americans, even though their cholesterol levels are similar to those in other countries.
As a result, it was concluded that enjoying red wine is healthy despite the fact that alcohol is ‘poison’ for the human body. This is because moderate quantities of alcohol, like other substances, can be completely metabolized by the liver with no harm whatsoever. The vasodilatory effects of alcohol also reduce the likelihood of cardiovascular disease.
Red wine also contains OPC. Recent research has shown that these substances, which occur naturally in plants, have a beneficial effect on the human cardiovascular system.
However, if we wanted to get all the resveratrol we need from red wine, we would have to drink about 1,000 bottles a day.