The alleged medicinal benefits of booze have played a major part in alcohol history. For instance, shochu and awamori were valued for their anti-septic uses among Samurai in Edo Japan. Wine, after failing to establish a mass market in Meiji Japan, got a foothold following a major cholera epidemic in 1886. The wine was a component of various concoctions that claimed all sorts of anti-choleric properties. Wine consumption tripled in a year. Shochu`s recent boom started with a magazine article claiming health benefits. (It is not just Japan, by the way, distilled alcohol in Europe got its start as a medicine.)
So it is no surprise that Suntory`s PR department have just given top billing to a press release about an initially peripheral looking study on anti-allergens in whisky. From little acorns do influential magazine articles and TV segments grow!
Basically, the study says that the anti-allergenic components in whisky have not been much studied because the alcohol itself can cause problems for allergy sufferers. The researchers found significant quantities of Lyoniresinol and Syringaldehyde (I hope I have identified those right from the katakana characters used by Suntory) among the polyphenols in whisky. These were found to have anti-allergenic effects.
While we are talking about the health benefits of the Water of Life (and because I have struggled to find an illustration for this post), I want to share this World War I letter to the editor of the Scotsman: