Red, Red Wine….

by Jeanine Adinaro on June 22, 2010

in Chinese Herbs

Oh precious, I have you in my sights

Imagine my pleasure when I came across this article reporting that scientists have determined the mechanism by which the polyphenols in red wine inhibit cancer cell growth. Hooray for red wine! But wait, there’s a catch. Dr Gerald Weissmann, MD is quoted in the article:

“As long as they are taken in moderation, all signs show that red wine and green tea may be ranked among the most potent ‘health foods’ we know.”

There’s that sticky word, moderation.

It reminds of a time, just after college when my best friend and I took a celebratory trip to Spain. We toured around, saw sights, ate the food and drank the wine. One particularly hot and sunny day, we spent the afternoon in the sun on the beach. That night we met up with some other Americans for dinner, and started drinking red wine. After dinner, it hardly seemed fashionable to end the party, so we drank some more wine. In particular, we drank just about the cheapest Spanish rioja available. It was so cheap that $5 bought the bottle, the guy uncorked it, and then handed us 4 waxed paper cups to drink it out of. Let’s just say our total bill was more than $5. We stayed up until the wee-hours sitting on the beach, sucking down those polyphenols. Somewhere around 4 a.m. we staggered to bed.

My friend and I were supposed to catch a 10 a.m. train the next morning. Me, being the seasoned pro, dragged out of bed by sheer force of will. My friend, not so much.

As I jostled her shoulder, informing her that time was of the essence, she answered, “Uuuuhhh- I can’t get on a train. I think I have food poisoning.”

Unsympathetically, I answered, “You don’t have food poisoning; you have a hang-over. Get up.”

She groaned more. Suddenly she sprang from the bed, ran down the hall to the community bathroom, and displaced a confused Frenchman who had been trying to shave in order to void the contents of her digestive system.

She half-crawled back to the room still groaning and said, “I’m really sick. I think I have the flu.”

“You don’t have the flu. You have a hang-over. You drank too much last night.”

“No, no. It’s not a hang-over. I’m really sick. Maybe it’s typhus.”

“OK, I’ll humor you. What are your symptoms?”

“My head hurts. And my stomach hurts. And my whole body hurts. And I feel like I might throw-up. Again.”

“My dear, I love you, and I don’t want to sound callous here, but you have a hang-over! And that’s no excuse to miss a train.”

At this point she had returned to bed and fallen to sleep. There was no hope of waking her. Accepting that we would not be on that train leaving in 10 minutes, I wandered out to gather supplies and change our tickets for a later train.

By 5 p.m. we were finally sitting in the train station, waiting to board the next train. My friend said to me, “You know, I think I am starting to feel better. Maybe you’re right. Maybe I did just have a hang-over.”

Back in my acupuncture school days, I had a terrific western pharmacology professor who was always sharing tidbits of medical wisdom with us. My personal favorite was the classic, “The only difference between a medicine and a poison is dosage.” Red wine is a perfect example. In moderation, it inhibits cancer cell growth. In excess, it causes poor judgment, terrible pain, and missed trains.

Herbs are no different. In correct dosage, they have remarkable restorative properties. In excess dosage, they can cause problems. To date, a number of herbs that in the correct dosage and application have been beneficial to patients for thousands of years are banned from use in the United States because of incorrect use. This is unfortunate.

Let the story of my best friend serve as a cautionary tale the next time you are suffering from whatever and find yourself thinking, “Well, I’ve already had 10 times the recommended dosage of herb Formula X today. Another dose shouldn’t be a problem.” It might be. Don’t make yourself the guinea pig and get good herbs banned for the rest of us.

One question my mind still struggles with to this day: how did my friend attended 4 years of college never having had a hang-over? I mean, I was at her graduation party….

Photo by Jiří Děcký

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