When it comes to alcohol, many people think of alcoholic beverages first. But the benefits of this substance are by no means limited to the production of alcohol. Although it, when used in reasonable doses, can play a beneficial role for our body.

Alcohol and its types

It is the English "Spirit" that underlies the Russian name "alcohol". This substance is an organic product (derivative of carbohydrates ), whose chemical formula contains a hydroxyl group. There are different classifications of alcohols. According to one of them, monoatomic, diatomic and polyatomic substances are distinguished. Chemists also group them into unsaturated, saturated and aromatic. Another classification provides for the division of alcohols into primary and secondary. Simple alcohol is a colorless liquid, but with a characteristic smell and taste, easily soluble with water in any proportions. And the more atoms in alcohols, the easier they combine with water. But for oily and fat-containing substances, alcohol itself serves as a solvent.

In nature, this substance is found, as a rule, in the composition of essential oils. The leaves of many plants contain methyl alcohol. After the fermentation of organic products, ethyl alcohol is formed. By the way, some vitamins also belong to this category of substances, for example, A, D, B8.

Chemists define alcohol as a substance obtained by the hydrogenation of carbon monoxide under the influence of catalysts. Most often, the following alcohols are used in various spheres of life:

  • ethyl;
  • methyl;
  • phenylethyl.

But today we will pay more attention to ethyl substance, which is widely used in the food industry, medicine, and cosmetology.

How ethanol is made

For technical purposes, alcohol is used, obtained from ethylene subjected to hydration with sulfuric acid. In this form, the substance is included in:

  • drugs;
  • various artificial resins;
  • explosives;
  • aromatic substances.

Alcohol obtained after the fermentation of sugary substances is suitable for the food industry. As a rule, in this case, berries, fruits, corn, potatoes, cane sugar, rice, starch serve as raw materials. To “start” the fermentation reaction, yeasts, enzymes and bacteria are used.

The process of "birth" of alcohols consists of several stages:

  • selection and preparation of raw materials;
  • the breakdown of starches into simple sugars;
  • fermentation (yeast);
  • distillation;
  • product purification.

But despite the fact that theoretically making alcohol looks quite simple, repeat this whole process at home, and even create alcohol of the correct concentration (from 96 to 100 vol.) is rather problematic.

Characteristics of ethyl alcohol

Ethyl alcohol, known throughout the world by the molecular formula C2H5OH, is a colorless liquid with a boiling point of 78 degrees Celsius. The substance has a pungent odor. It burns with a smokeless blue flame, which is not always visible in daylight. The physical characteristics of a substance are determined by the presence of a hydroxyl group and the length of the carbon chain. Ethanol serves as a universal solvent for various substances, such as acetic acid, acetone, benzene, tetrachloride, chloroform, ethylene glycol.

Benefits in the food industry

Alcohol entered human life many millennia ago. Historians believe that the first ethyl alcohol appeared about 8 thousand years ago. It is believed that the substance appeared by chance - as a result of the fermentation of fruit drinks. And the "authorship" of the first alcohol product made in the laboratory is attributed to Arab chemists. Modern researchers believe that their colleagues in ancient times managed to create a drink with a high content of ethanol for the first time in the 6th century. But in Europe, the first ethanol was created by the Italians, presumably in the 11th century. In Russia, for the first time, they heard about an alcoholic drink in 1386, when travelers brought aquavit from Genoa. Then began the era of creating alcoholic herbal and berry tinctures, the so-called bread wine (from rye). Pure alcohol of its own production appeared among the Russians more than 4 centuries later.

What is useful

To adequately assess the role of alcohol in our lives, it is not enough to recall only the food and liquor industry, where ethanol is the main component of alcoholic beverages. The use of this substance is much wider. It is difficult to do without this substance in medicine, the chemical industry, in the production of perfumes and cosmetics.

Alcohol is:

  • an antiseptic;
  • deodorant;
  • Foam quencher for ventilation;
  • tincture base;
  • food preservative;
  • solvent;
  • alcoholic beverage binder;
  • warming rub;
  • base for compresses.

And this is not all, but only the main areas of application of ethyl liquid.

Therapeutic properties of ethanol

According to doctors, alcohol is both a tonic and a poison. The difference is only in the dose of the substance taken. It is believed that moderate consumption of drinks containing ethanol is good for the cardiovascular system, they protect against the formation of gallstones and diabetes. But it is enough to cross the line between “moderate use” and “abuse”, as the likelihood of developing cancer, diseases of the digestive and nervous systems increases several times.

In pharmacology, this substance serves as a universal disinfectant. Antibacterial gels are almost 62% ethanol. It effectively kills most bacteria and fungi, as well as some viruses.

An antidote substance

It is ethyl alcohol that is used as an antidote for certain poisonings. In particular, it is effective for eliminating the effects of an overdose of methanol or ethylene glycol.

For the core

A recent study by scientists at Boston University proves that ethanol in small amounts reduces the risk of coronary heart disease. Scientists have noticed a similar effect in the case of cancer. But the researchers also noted another, not so comforting, side of the alcohol theme: most of the suicides were done under the influence of alcohol. And against the background of frequent alcohol consumption, many serious diseases develop.

From a biological standpoint, the idea that alcohol protects against heart disease makes sense. Moderate alcohol consumption increases levels of high-density lipoprotein (so-called good cholesterol ), which, in turn, reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease. In addition, certain chemical processes triggered by alcohol in the body improve blood clotting, increase insulin sensitivity, and prevent the formation of small blood clots that can block blood flow to the heart or brain.

Pain in the joints

Rubbing with alcohol tinctures, which have a warming effect, helps relieve joint pain. Topical preparations on ethanol relieve muscle pain.

Benefits and risks of drinking at different stages of life:

  • pregnant – little to no benefit;
  • men under 30 years of age - alcohol increases the risk of accidents, which negates the possible benefits to the heart from moderate alcohol consumption;
  • men under 60 years of age - moderate consumption of beverages containing ethyl alcohol may provide protection against cardiovascular disease, the benefits potentially outweigh the harms (provided the person is not prone to alcoholism);
  • women under 60 years of age - it is more difficult to calculate the benefit-risk ratio in this case, since approximately the same number of women die every year from breast cancer (risk increases with alcohol) and cardiovascular disease (risk decreases on the background of alcohol). However, the survey showed that women are more afraid of developing breast cancer than heart disease.

Moderate doses of alcohol: to whom and how much

It is often said that moderate alcohol consumption does not harm the body. But how to understand what a "moderate dose" is? Nutritionists have calculated an approximate safe amount of alcohol for healthy adults. It is approximately 44 ml of ethyl alcohol, which corresponds to 355 ml of beer and 148 ml of wine.

In contrast, a dose of 7-8 g of pure alcohol per 1 kg of body weight is a lethal portion of alcohol.

Ethanol as a medicine

Take in different proportions (about 100 g each) marigold, kalanchoe and eucalyptus leaves. Pour the crushed plants with alcohol (the liquid should cover the plants). Insist 72 hours in a dark place. Gargling will help get rid of diseases: dilute 1 part of the tincture with 10 parts of water. Gargle three times a day.

Cholagogue alcohol infusion

Infuse barberry fruits for 14 days (mix 40 g of fresh berries with 40 g of dried ones). Use the medicine 3 times a day, 20-25 drops per 50 ml of water. The course of treatment is at least 2 weeks.

Vasoconstrictive tincture

Pour about 10 horse chestnuts with half a liter of alcohol. After a 2-week exposure, rub the alcohol tincture with massage movements into the places of varicose vessels. To enhance the effect, the same remedy is taken orally - 30 drops 3 times a day. The effect of treatment will become noticeable in a month.

Hazardous properties

The hazardous properties of alcohols are primarily encountered by people working with their fumes. Excessive exposure to such conditions causes a state close to drug intoxication. Longer exposure to methanol or isopropanol vapor (after 8-12 hours) can cause lethargic sleep or even death.

Methyl alcohol is an extremely dangerous poison. Ingested, it causes poisoning, which leads to convulsions, epileptic seizures, tachycardia, blindness. It is enough to take a little more than 30 mg of a substance so that without proper medical care a person will die. And most importantly: methyl alcohol is extremely quickly absorbed into the body - hence the high risk of poisoning.

Ethyl alcohol, although used in the food industry, is also unsafe. It quickly enters the bloodstream (the body absorbs the substance through the mucous membranes of the stomach and intestines). Ethanol does not have the best effect on the functioning of the nervous system, causing either oppression or too strong arousal.

It is also worth knowing that after each intake of alcohol (even in not very large doses), part of the brain cells dies. And this is a scientifically proven fact. Particles of the cerebral cortex killed by alcohol are excreted from the body along with urine.

Under the influence of alcohol, almost all internal organs suffer. Most of all "gets" the liver, kidneys, pancreas, gallbladder. Excessive alcohol consumption causes:

  • alcoholism;
  • inflammation of the liver (alcoholic hepatitis);
  • cirrhosis;
  • hypertension;
  • cardiomyopathy;
  • oncological diseases (oral cavity, pharynx, larynx, esophagus, breast, liver, colon);
  • sleep disturbance.

Ethanol and pregnancy

Folic acid, or vitamin B9, one of the most important elements for pregnant women. The thing is that this vitamin contributes to the proper development of the spinal cord of the embryo, and then throughout the pregnancy affects the correct formation of the fetus. Folic acid is necessary for the creation of DNA - a molecule that actually carries the code for the continuation of life. In addition, proper cell division in an already formed body will also become impossible without sufficient folic acid intake.

Alcohol blocks the body's ability to absorb vitamin B9 and deactivates a substance already present in tissues and cells. Scientists suggest that the development of breast cancer and some other types of cancer is the result of a lack of folic acid against the background of alcohol abuse.

Alcohol overdose

Consumption of drinks containing ethyl alcohol causes intoxication, the level of which depends on the amount of alcohol consumed. The presence of alcohol in the body is determined in the laboratory, by examining blood or urine, but an overdose of alcohol is also noticeable by external signs. Most common:

  • confusion or unconsciousness;
  • incoordination;
  • nausea and vomiting;
  • slow or irregular breathing;
  • loss of memory;
  • weakness.

The effect of alcohol poisoning is increased even more if alcohol is taken along with certain medications. You should not combine ethanol with antidepressants, paracetamol, painkillers or sedatives, anticonvulsants.

And it is important to completely abandon alcohol:

  • pregnant;
  • people diagnosed with alcoholism;
  • in diseases of the liver and pancreas;
  • in heart failure and weak heart;
  • persons with vascular disease.

Alcohol norms

It is not so important what kind of alcoholic drink a person consumes, since alcohol is present in any of the options. It is important how alcohol is consumed. If you drink 7 drinks on a Saturday, this is not at all the equivalent of consuming a safe amount of 1 drink per day. In both cases, the effect on the body will be completely different. But, as studies show, even if alcohol appears in small quantities in the diet 3-4 times a week, this is already a problem. The result is an increase in the risk of developing myocardial infarction by 3-4 times. Women whose diet includes 2 alcoholic drinks daily (even low-alcohol drinks) are almost 40% more at risk of developing breast cancer.

Alcohol and genes

Genetics, according to researchers, play an important role in determining alcohol preferences. The rule of inheritance discovered by Gregor Mendel also works in the case of alcoholism.

The human body produces the enzyme alcohol dehydrogenase, which helps to metabolize alcohol. And this enzyme, as a rule, is presented in the body in two variations: the first allows you to more quickly destroy alcohol, the second does it slowly. People who drink alcohol in moderation produce both versions of the enzyme. Abusing organisms have only one of the options, usually the "quick-acting" one. In this case, the enzyme breaks down alcohol before the body has had time to benefit from it, and the only effect of alcohol on the body is negative.

Alcohol entered our daily life many centuries ago. It can be both useful and extremely harmful substance, if you do not follow the rules of use, as well as the dose of consumption of this substance. And this is the main thing that is important to remember about alcohols. Otherwise, alcohol turns into a drug, the effect of which is compared with cocaine.