Chinese medicine categorizes alcohol as having a hot and damping effect on the body. When there is Dampness in the body, the person’s body retains pockets of moisture or water or becomes boggy. Damp conditions include among others athletes’ foot, edema, and excess fat. Alcohol is considered a hot substance in that the energetic effect of drinking the substance leads to hotness in the body that can leave you dry, irritable, restless, and…hot. In Chinese medicine, the nature of alcohol is a little more nuanced than the general definition of damp heat.
Wine has an energetically warming quality, and white wine is considered less warm than red wine. This can be confirmed when after drinking a glass of red wine the ears of a person turn hot and red. As with all alcoholic drinks, wine tends to trigger the flow of Chi, moreover, its light nature can assist in digestion after a rich or heavy meal.
The resveratrol in red wine is known to be a potent antioxidant. But in order to extract the benefits of wine, one would need to drink lots of it. Instead, most people simply take resveratrol supplements in order to gain its health benefits. To include the bitter, sour, sweet, and/or warming properties of wine into the mix, some Chinese herbal formulas and herbs have been prepared with wine.
In terms of its energetic property beer has a cool quality. Its taste is deemed to be sweet and bitter, and since beer can be a potentially extremely dampening substance; the more bitter it is, the less dampening it becomes and too much of it can overwhelm your Chinese Kidney and Spleen. No matter how dark or light your beer is, it can disrupt your water metabolism and digestion causing you problems related to dampness. If what you’re really drinking is dark beer, these issues may take a little longer to occur. The dampness, over the course of time, can potentially transform into heat, regardless of the nature of the beer.
Fortunately, for beer lovers, here’s a bit of good news. Dark bitter beers in reality are deemed to be a bit nourishing to the body–but they could not be deemed as nutritional as say, a carrot. Beer can be a good choice when you’re living in a warm climate and during summer since it’s considered cool.
Tequila, scotch, vodka, gin and other spirits are a different story from wine and beer. They can be very dispersing and extremely effective in eliminating stagnation. Since they have damp and hot qualities, spirits taken in excess can be quickly toxic to your body. Too much intake of spirits in Chinese medicine can generate an excess of heat and can stress the Liver.
Generally speaking, all alcoholic drinks tend to be dispersing and moving. They help you forget the frustrations of the day, give you a sense of well being, and relax you. But, as with everything in life, in general, and Chinese medicine, in particular, a little of it is okay, but too much can be overpowering.