Whatever problems might be associated with alcohol consumption, certain alcoholic drinks have always been thought to have had medicinal value.
Alpine rescue teams traditionally attached containers of brandy to tracking dogs who would search for lost souls in the snow. The alcohol was thought to be helpful in warming a frost-bitten patient and aiding in rehabilitation. Similarly, St Paul in the Bible suggested that wine was good for the disgestion (1 Timothy 5:23). More recent medical research though has called these medicinal benefits into question.
It would seem that alcohol has no food value whatsoever. It contains none of the nitrogenous elements found in meats, eggs, milk, vegetables and seeds, out of which tissue is built, or any of the carbonaceous elements found in fat, starch and sugar.
Medical professionals have subjected alcohol to various tests and experiments and have found that it has none of the qualities of structure-building foods. Further, Alcohol is incapable of being assimilated or converted into any organic proximate, and hence cannot be considered even remotely nutritious. It is therefore not a food in any sense of its being a constructive agent in building up the body and supplies nothing essential to the bodily tissue.
The other question is whether it is of any value as a source of heat or energy. Stangely, it seems that alcohol does not undergo any bodily combustion (like fats, or starches, or sugars) such as would give heat to the body. This is counter-intuitive, as experience tells us that drinking alcohol reguarly warms the core of the body. The medical explanation for this though is that the alcohol draws more blood to the stomach and so increases heat at the centre at the expense of the rest of the body.
This would suggest that the brandy-bearing St Bernards probably did more harm than good by administering brandy to subjects who may have been suffering from hypothermia. While the brandy may have given the perception of warmth by drawing more blood to the stomach, it was probably drawing the blood away from the areas where it was most needed! Over time the practice of using brandy to warm frost-bitten subjects was indeed abandoned, and physicians have instead recommended the entire exclusion of spirits in cold climates in order to retain heat under unfavorable conditions.
For the above reasons we have to dismiss any idea that alcohol can make you fitter or stronger, even temporarily. Certainly it can make the subject feel more confident and powerful, and this may partially be accounted for by the fact that strength experienced after the use of alcohol is not new strength added to the system, but is the result of calling into action pre-existing nervous energy. Beyond this though, all perceptions of increased power and ability are undoubtedly illusory. Indeed, The ultimate effect of continued alcohol consumption is exhaustion.
This last point reminds us though that while alcohol
may be of no nutritional value to the body, it may be of great value to the mind. Indeed,
no one would deny that alcohol can function marvellously to aid in relaxation and reduce stress. The problem of course is that when a person become reliant on alcohol to maintain mental equilibrium it can lead to alcohol addiction, which in turn can lead to severe bodily ailments and can take a terrible toll on the addicts life and relationships.