I'll admit it. I'm a lifelong resister of flu shots. Several weeks ago, my stubbornness bit me in the ass: The flu found me, and nothing seemed to be making me feel better. When I finally sought the advice of my dear friend and brilliant nurse practitioner, her instructions were simple: “Whiskey makes everything better.” From the mouth of a healthcare professional, folks: There are, in fact, health benefits of whiskey.
It comes as a surprise that it never occurred to me. After all, I live with an Irishman whose aunt once advised me to use blackberry brandy to cure food poisoning (it worked), prompting my awareness of alcohol's healing powers. When my friend’s advice coincided with a recent Food & Wine article about the drink’s curing capabilities, the health benefits of whiskey were becoming clear.
The results are in: I am officially a believer. Hallelujah! While my illness was also improved with a course of Tamiflu, it wasn’t until I began to sample the classic Jameson and Ginger that my sinuses and throat really began to feel clear of gunk. What caused this miraculous recovery? As it turns out, the health benefits of whiskey are many, and not just limited to the flu.
As a rule, hot liquids are a common companion on a road to cold and flu recovery. Soup, tea and hot water with lemon are always recommended. It's whiskey's alcohol content, though, that works to relax blood vessels, making for some relief. When Dr. William Schaffner, Vanderbilt University Medical Center's preventative medicine chair, spoke with ABC, he noted that this dilation of vessels "makes it easier for your mucus membranes to deal with the infection." It's similar to the advice given to me by my own otolaryngologist to continue with moderate workouts, even with a cold: When blood flows away from the nasal area and into the muscle groups being exercised, it can provide congestion relief. Just be sure to balance the whiskey intake with non-alcoholic fluids; dehydration will only prolong the flu.
2. Its ellagic content might aid in cancer prevention.
We've all heard about the antioxidants found in red wine. Whiskey deserves some attention, too, according to Dr. Jim Swan, a PhD in Chemistry and Biological Sciences, as well as a consultant to the beverage industry. During his presentation at a EuroMedLab meeting, Dr. Swan spoke to the health benefits of whiskey's considerable ellagic acid content: an antioxidant that is speculated to largely prevent the replication of cancer cells.
3. Its phenols may prevent heart disease.
A study conducted by Scotland's Rowett Research Institute on the impact of whiskey and wine intake on heart health had a rather vivid conclusion: "Consumption of phenolic-containing alcoholic beverages transiently raises total phenol concentration and enhances the antioxidant capacity of plasma." That's good news for whiskey connoisseurs: During the distillation process, the smoke from the peat used to make whiskey produces phenols, which are then "absorbed by the malted barley during the drying process in a kiln," according to an article published by Whiskey for Everyone.
So, that's why the traditional Irish toast is "Sláinte": It's the Gaelic term for "health." A toast, then, to whiskey, and the prosperity it may bring.
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