Alcohol attracts a lot of attention. In Australia, we are known for binge drinking, European’s like to sip on it before a meal, and it is illegal in some countries like Saudi Arabia, Somalia and Sudan.
In China, it has been used socially and medically for thousands of years, in fact, alcohol was first brewed in northern China in as early as 7,000 to 6,650 BCE.
Alcohol has a number of short term effects including dizziness, nausea, vomiting and generalised impairment of neurocognitive function. It can have long term effects on your liver and brain and can increase your risk of cancer. Like all substances, a wrong dose can lead to poisoning.
According to Chinese medicine, too much alcohol results in excess heat. The alcohol is instantly absorbed through the lining of the stomach into the blood stream, and being pure yang, it disperses rapidly throughout the body and opens the pores of the skin. Your yin qi is burned up by the strong internal heating effect, as well as leaking out through the skin. As a result, the body rapidly becomes yin deficient. Sleep can be affected, with insomnia, disturbed dreams, and night sweats (which are characteristic of yin deficiency). The baby yang cannot be nourished and the next day starts depleted of yang (aka: hangover)
Whereas, when good quality alcohol can be sipped slowly during a relaxed meal, digestion is encouraged and the blood and qi circulation is improved. One of my favourite herbs, gou qi zi, (goji berries) can be soak in whiskey or vodka. This herb is used for strengthening the liver and kidney energy. When soak in alcohol, this is known as medicated wine and can be taken in small quantities after meals.
From a Chinese medicine point of view, there are many rules about the right way to drink alcohol. Here are my top 3 rules:
- Alcohol should never be drunk on an empty stomach. Drink alcohol during or after a meal, making sure that there is already some food in the stomach
- Thirst should always be quenched with water or tea
- If you have over consumed, have a strong cup of good quality green tea.
Drinking too much is dangerous as alcohol acts as a neurotoxin, as well as causing yin and yang deficiency. However, if you have over consumed, have a strong cup of good quality green tea. Green tea works by cleansing the body of accumulated excess heat. Several cups will usually overcome the symptoms of intoxication within an hour and may help protect against hangover.
Have fun out there, be safe!