Page:Alcohol, a Dangerous and Unnecessary Medicine.djvu/17

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ALCOHOL


CHAPTER I.

HISTORY OF THE STUDY OF ALCOHOL.

The only intoxicating drinks known to the ancients were wines and beers. That these were used for medicinal as well as beverage purposes is evident from sacred and secular history. About the tenth century of the Christian era, an Arabian alchemist discovered the art of distillation, by which the active principle of fermented liquors could be drawn off and separated. To the spirit thus produced the name alcohol was given. A plausible reason cited for this name is that the Arabian for evil spirit is Al ghole, and the effects of the mysterious liquid upon men suggested demoniacal possession.

Medical knowledge at this time was very limited; there was no accurate way of determining the real nature of the new substance, nor its action upon the human system. It could be judged only by its seeming effects. As these were pleasing, it was supposed that a great medical discovery had been made. The alchemists had been seeking a panacea

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