The surprising health benefits of your gin and tonic
The nation's favourite tipple has a surprising history and an even more surprising list of potential health benefits, who knew? So settle in and pour yourself a nice cold G and T, why not? it's 5 o’clock somewhere.
When was gin and tonic invented?
Gin is thought to have been invented in Holland by the 16th century doctor, Sylvius de Bouve. The spirit was originally prescribed as a medical treatment to treat poor circulation. By 1750, Londoners alone would consume over 11 million gallons annually.
In 1857 the British took over governance of India, meaning many Brits were finding their way over to the sub-continent. Many were struck down with malaria or scurvy from the long boat crossing, but who was there to save the day? The Gin and tonic of course!
At this time, tonic waters were very high in quinine, which is an extract derived from a South American tree called the Cinchona. Quinine was found to be very effective at preventing and treating malaria so it became a staple of British colonialism. Quinine also makes tonic water glow under a black light, cool stuff huh?
Because of these high levels of quinine, tonic waters of this time were extremely bitter and hard to swallow so the Brits soon found that adding gin, ice, sugar and a citrus like limes was the perfect way to make the health tonic more palatable. The inclusion of the citrus doubled up to prevent scurvy.
These days the gin and tonic is favoured for its refreshing taste over its malaria and scurvy fighting properties but it isn't any less popular, let's take a look at some of the other health benefits of the gin and tonic.
Gin and tonic health benefits
So, what botanicals are in gin? The key botanical that gives gin its distinctive flavour is juniper berries. Juniper is actually what gave gin its name, decanter.com says “back in the 16th century British soldiers fighting the Spanish in northern Europe used to drink a Dutch spirit before battle (hence the term ‘Dutch courage’), named after the berry that flavoured it. Genever gradually became ‘gen’, then ‘gin’.”
Juniper is the main flavour component of gin but it also has some impressive health properties. Juniper berries are full to the brim with antioxidants, earning them the title of ‘superfood’. Antioxidants are powerful anti-ageing compounds with help with glowing and youthful skin. Juniper is also high in vitamin C, antimicrobial and antifungal meaning they can boost your immune system and fight off infection. Juniper berries can also reduce inflammation, meaning conditions like arthritis could be improved with your next tipple. The berries also act as a natural diuretic meaning you don't retain water and bloating is reduced, while avoiding UTIs.
What an impressive little berry !
-Healthy herbs and botanicals
Besides the juniper berries that make up the main flavour of gin, what other additives might have a beneficial effect on our health? let's take a look
The bitters used in gin aid digestion by boosting stomach acid and digestive enzymes. These acids and enzymes are what our body uses to break down our food effectively.
The plant botanicals used in gin produce essential oils which can ease a cough. If the gin has ginger added it can also help the sore throat that goes along with it.
Due to its distillation process, gin and other clear spirits might help ease hay fever symptoms. Because of the way they are made, clear spirits like gin are very low in histamines and therefore won't aggravate your hay fever symptoms. Beers and ciders on the other hand are very high in histamines and may aggravate symptoms.
Is gin and tonic fattening?
Gin is one of the lowest calorie alcoholic beverages at around 54 calories per shot, and when combined with a diet mixer like slimline tonic or diet lemonade, it remains a good choice if you're watching your waistline. For some comparison, the average glass of wine contains about 160 calories with a pint of beer topping the charts with 208 calories. Gin also contains trace amounts of sugar so again if you choose your mixer carefully, gin can be enjoyed by those watching their figure or diabetics.
While we're not suggesting you drink away all your alignments with gin and tonic it is interesting to know that our favourite beverage is not as bad as we might have first thought and may actually be good for us (that's what we're telling ourselves anyway).