Alcohol is the oldest and still probably the most widely used drug today. Some consider alcohol as an opponent but many consider it as an ally. Moderate amounts stimulate the mind and relax the muscles, but larger amounts impair coordination and judgment, finally producing coma and death. It is an addictive drug leading to alcoholism. Alcohol is known since antiquity to have some therapeutic value. Opium and alcohol had long been used as analgesics. Greek medicine had employed wine and vinegar in wound care. Now we know that alcohol is a good antiseptic. Alcohol has other values in modern medicine such as pain relief, delay labor, raising HDL level, etc. Pure ethanol is a colorless, flammable liquid (boiling point 78.5º C). Ethanol, produced by fermentation as in wine or beer or by synthesis, is a dilute solution and must be concentrated by distillation for making other alcoholic beverages or pure ethanol for injections. This article will review the origins of alcohol and its many uses throughout history.
Since antiquity, alcohol-containing beverages played a vital part in the daily lives of ancient people. Beer, from fermented barley, is the earliest known alcoholic drink to man. Beer was an integral part of their religious ceremonies and mythology. Early civilizations found the mood-altering properties of beer supernatural, and the newfound state of intoxication was considered divine. Beer, it was thought, must contain a spirit or god, since drinking the liquid so possessed the spirit of the drinker. Remnants of this belief persist to modern times. We still refer to alcohol and alcoholic beverages as “spirits”. “The mouth of a perfectly happy man is filled with beer”, is an ancient Egyptian proverb. Indeed, numerous ancient Egyptian inscriptions and documents show that beer, together with bread, was a daily food. Beer was an important offering to the gods, and was placed in tombs for the afterlife. An inscription in the tomb of... [continues]
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