Health Benefits of Alcohol?

medicinal winesThere was a poem I read years ago that I’ve been searching for called the “Benefits of Wine” by Cheng Man Ching, a Chinese tai chi master and philosopher.  But…I can’t find it.

So, instead of that, I posed a question to my acupuncture peeps:

“I’m totally putting myself out there for criticism, but oh well: what is your opinion on drinking alcohol for liver health? WITHIN THE PARAMETERS OF some people should avoid alcohol, namely: alcoholics, children of alcoholics, diabetics, people with fatty liver, and children. ANOTHER PARAMETER: I’m talking like one or two drinks per day, not binge drinking. So the question is: For a healthy adult with no addiction history, do you think are there health benefits to moderate drinking?”


The YES camp:

Andrea J., L.Ac.:  “Absolutely! We know about the benefits of reasonable/moderate intake of red wine, and it’s also good in small doses for moving and *raising yang Qi (I always have a little hot sake when the weather starts to get cold like it is in KY right now). Additionally, I think about it from a psycho-emotional standpoint. WITHIN REASON having a small amount of wine or other chosen libation can *settle the shen. So as you said, within certain parameters I fully condone moderate drinking.”

John P., L.Ac.:  “Of course, there can be benefits. Christ drank wine long ago and I think that almost anything under the sun is OK in moderation. I can not drink due to stomach problems, but I think a healthy non addictive type of person can enjoy a beer or glass of wine without any problems…and may actually lower their stress level.”

Julie A., L.Ac.:  ” It’s rare…but I have recommended wine to a few patients and they have reported good results! It was so effective for a stubborn neck and shoulder tension due to stress and cold, damp weather. I would never recommend every day though. A really amazing professor of mine often told me I should drink more. It does help! Wine with girlfriends is the best medicine for my *liver Qi stagnation anyways.”

Derek O., L.Ac.:  “Nice perspective on this in the ‘Chinese Medicinal Wines and Elixirs’ book.”

Xuelan Q., L.Ac.:  “There is a Chinese saying: 小酌怡情,大酌伤身 literally means small drink good for peace of mind, big drink hurts the body. It’s all about the right amount, abstinence and balance. It’s the same way about everything. Such as green tea, it is good, but too much may hurt the stomach.  Li Shi Zhen talked about what wine is good for in Ben Cao Gang mu (Compendium of Materia Medica) hundreds of years ago. More modern references, pharmacopoeia of China and Japan. Everything can be poison if used incorrectly. But it doesn’t mean we have to avoid it. Just use it correctly.”



Ann L., L.Ac.:  ” It entirely depends on the person. My folks are in their 80s and have drunk 2 glasses of red wine every day their entire adult lives. They are quite healthy when compared to most folks in the US. I, however, have hardly any tolerance for it as I go through menopause and so it’s not something I partake in more than once every few weeks. Some of my patients have noticed that menopause makes them much more *”liver angry” and alcohol worsens those symptoms. I have had others who say they take vodka at night to help them sleep. Moderation is key, as with most things. In some instances it can really help *move the qi and blood.”

Sarah N., L.Ac.:  ” I think that a healthy amount of alcohol is more like a few drinks per week. Vs everyday. Even 1 drink a day can be too estrogenic/hot/stagnating/ disruptive to *optimal qi and blood for most people.”

Bethleigh F., L.Ac.:  “I think it depends on the person, pattern, situation etc. Just as in all things medicinal:) Some folks alcohol will act like a depressant and so for some folks with depression this might not be good. Also wine can trigger migraines due to sulphates as well as allergies, asthma etc. Organic wine better but still not for everyone.”

Caitlin G., L.Ac.:  “I think moderate alcohol use for LQS is fantastic. Also, diagnostic as I find most people who want to drink are dealing with a lot of repressed emotional stuff, hence they crave the *Liv qi moving effects. I think exercise is just as effective.”


The NO Camp (Only 1 Response)

Patrick C., L.Ac.:  “I’d rather not strain to get alcohol out of my system especially when you can’t undo the damage caused. I’m sure there are other ways to deal with stress.”


*Let me define some of these Chinese medicine terms for you:

1.  “Yang qi” is the warming energy of your body, as compared to “yin” which is your body fluid and coolant.  For optimal health, yin and yang are in balance.

2.  “Shen” is TCM (traditional Chinese medicine) for “spirit”, “mood” or “mental state.”

2.  “Liver” refers to your Liver meridian, not just the Liver organ.  The Liver meridian is connected to the nerves and blood vessels that run through your Liver and Gall Bladder.

3.  “Liver qi stagnation” refers to a TCM diagnosis of one type of irritability or PMS and may also accompany headaches.

4.  “Qi and blood stagnation” refers to overall, systemic hypo-functioning of your blood circulation or a specific area of your body that maybe has pain or malfunction due to old injury or toxins building up.


So there you have it.  There are situations that can merit alcohol consumption.  But within reasonable amounts, which may – for your individual constitution – be zero.  And…don’t invite Patrick to your New Year’s party.


  1. Excellent post. Thank you for the glossary of terms!

  2. Great post!


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