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Beer as Medicine

the most appropriate time to discuss the health-properties that beer provides, especially with the virus actually having the name of a beer in it! And if we’re all going to be quarantined with our families and kids, you know that we’re going to need a drink to get through being in close-quarters for an extended period of time…

Guiness beer has been making patrons feel stronger and better since 1778!

Beer has been around for eons in different forms and throughout the ages has been hailed to be a medicinal beverage that contains healing properties. For instance, the ancient Nubians brewed beer using bread and a liquid made from unmilled grains. During either the milling process or the rising of the dough, Streptomyces bacteria found in soil entered into the mix. When the bread was baked, the outside crusted, but the inside remained somewhat raw and undercooked, allowing for the bacteria to survive. Once the bread was added to the liquid, the bacteria continued to proliferate during the fermentation process, thus creating a beer (albeit a thick, porridge-type brew) with high concentrations of the antibiotic tetracycline, which have been found in bone extractions of archeological finds of the Nubian peoples.

In addition, the ancient Egyptians also brewed beer and while it was considered the poor man’s beverage, it was also highly regarded to be handed down from the god Osiris and therefore held part of the human soul. Egyptian apothecaries used beer in over 50 medications and remedies per archeological evidence. As well, beer was used as a form of payment to workers.

In the 1920s, the Guinness brewing company used to go into local pubs and ask patrons how their brew made them feel, with many folks relaying that they felt “stronger” or “better” after drinking a Guinness, and therefore they felt that drinking was good for them. This research of sorts culminated in the famous “Guinness is Good for You,” advertising campaign. Most of us are familiar with these posters that feature animals, most fondly, a Toucan. The company took it one step further and reached out to physicians about their beer and asking for their thoughts on it. The response the company received was largely a positive one with doctors stating that they would prescribe the brew as a tonic or treatment for patients. As an example, many physicians prescribed Guinness to new mothers after birthing and to post-operative patients because of the high iron content found in the stout.

Throughout the entire history of beer, hops of different varieties eventually worked their way into beer and with them, have come even more medicinal properties. In modern times, hops and the importance of experimentation of them in our beer is commonplace. Every day it seems there is a new brew launched by both large and small breweries alike boasting of the different hops added to each beer. Hops not only add flavor, influence bitterness and make beer, well, BEER, but there actually is evidence that hops provide additional health benefits.

Hops are known to be helpful in treating digestive issues, insomnia, depression, anxiety, nervousness, and chemists have been able to isolate and synthesize the acids in hops – humulones and lupulone. Through laboratory research, these chemical components have been found to have the ability to kill cancer cells and inhibit leukemia cells from binding to bone, as well as provide anti-inflammatory properties. Further research persists in this area of medicine, and while experts don’t view beer as medicine, if beer is consumed in moderation, it may provide additional health benefits – and if you’re not quite familiar with what “moderation” is defined as, it’s one drink per day for women of any age and for men older than 65 and two drinks per day for men 65 and younger.

More research by the International Journal of Endocrinology notes that today’s beer and the silicon found in it may be beneficial for bone growth in post-menopausal women. A large study of 7598 women in 2000 found that moderate drinkers had higher bone density; with another study by the American Journal of Medicine finding 0.5-1 drink per day led to a lower risk for hip fractures, however, more than 2 drinks increased the risk. Still other research has shown that beer can improve HDL (good) cholesterol, lower heart disease risk, improve blood glucose control, lower risk for diabetes, and lower dementia risk. But remember, binge drinking and drinking more than what’s considered to be in moderation, increased risks for everything, including strokes.

Regardless, beer in all forms provides antioxidants, protein, niacin, riboflavin, choline, folate, magnesium, selenium, fiber, phosphorus, calcium, potassium, zinc, manganese, fluoride, and silicon; therefore, providing us with nutritional value. Barley can help strengthen your spleen, aid in gallbladder health, and assist in detoxification. Beer can also benefit in the health of your skin. Malt in beer can aid in exfoliation, stabilize collagen and elastin, improve microcirculation, and prevent premature aging of skin. Yeast provides high levels of B vitamins and this can help moisturize skin.

Women can benefit even further from beer especially when it comes to breastfeeding, and this is not just an old-wives tale. Women who find themselves in a situation where their milk production is running low may find that consuming a low alcohol level beer can aid in upping their milk supply, with dark brews (like Guinness! Those docs in the 1920s were actually on to something!) producing better results. In Europe, this is actually more commonplace than the states and there are specific brews actually aimed at new moms. Barley contains a polysaccharide that stimulates secretion of prolactin and prolactin is the hormone responsible for milk production.

It’s a trying time right now for everyone, but don’t feel guilty for having a beer or two to relax and unwind. As you can see, it might be just what the doctor ordered and then some with this virus running rampant. Stay safe my friends and remember to wash your hands! Cheers!


Medicinal beer? New study shows maybe the ancient Nubians were onto something







Kristin Merritt
Just your average craft-brew loving gal slinging your monthly pour of beer education and the low-down on all things beer related in the immediate CNY area and beyond. Along the way I hope to give a few recommendations for your grocery list, events to attend, and local hotspots to hit-up for shenanigans with friends, ideas for date night, or at the very least enlighten you with a bit of random knowledge to use towards trivia night or simply give you and your teammates a suggestion on what to drink at the bar! Cheers!