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The Magic of Wine, Inside-Out

By Elisa T. Keena

The health benefits of wine, although known for centuries, have gained renewed interest in the recent past, with enthusiasts and experts citing the benefits of this “functional food” in many areas of both internal and external health. Wine benefits us both inside and out.


For centuries wine has been recognised and adored as an alchemical, mystical gift from the gods. Like other manna or ambrosia, it aids in health and pleasure, in illness and disease, and in birth and death. It transforms sickness to vitality, calms the nerves, aids in digestion, clarifies the skin, and enhances the pleasures of life.  The salutary effects of wine consumption on the body and soul, in health and disease, are well documented in our histories.  It has been used as an antiseptic, an alternative to drinking water, a cure for lethargy, diarrhea, digestive distress, and the pain of child birth, to name a few.

Wine glass
The history of wine is long and diverse. It is mentioned in the Bible more than any other beverage. (Genesis 9:20: “Noah began to be a husbandman and planted a vineyard.”) Sumerian texts dating back to 2200 BCE include recipes for wine-based medicines. The great explosion of Vesuvius which covered Pompeii with volcanic ash in 79 AD buried more than 200 wine bars in that city. Egyptians were the first to make glass containers to hold their wines (around 15,000 BC) and to make a cork stopper (4000 BC). Plato believed that “Nothing more excellent nor more valuable than wine was ever granted Mankind.” Hippocrates recommended wine as part of a healthy diet and as a disinfectant. Hildegarde von Bingen used wine to treat many gastrointestinal diseases in 12th century. Its history and uses are endless and timeless.

Part of the reason for the recent resurgence of interest in the healing properties of the vine is the French Paradox. It’s been found that typical French diets are higher in fat, saturated fat and cholesterol than many other cuisines, but the French have a lower risk of cardiovascular disease than other populations. The Mediterranean diet, based on fatty foods such as oils, fish, and cheese, and wine results in a decreased risk of heart attack and stroke even though a higher fat content is ingested. Now there are many benefits to both cuisines but they also both regularly enjoy and partake of the fruits of the vine with their meals.

Red grapes

Once again science is proving what your grandmother and her mother and then her mother, back into  antiquity, knew – and what the Buddha  recommended: moderation!  Wine in moderation is good for the body and the soul. But what is it about wine that increases health and what exactly is meant by moderation? What makes this alchemical ambrosia from the gods such a fountain of youth and vitality?

First, let’s discuss moderation. Moderation has a history almost as long as wine! Depending on where you are it can be anywhere from two to five glasses of wine per day. In the Northern European countries two to three glasses a day are considered enough; in Southern Europe and the Mediterranean, it’s five glasses; in the United States, only two. In Ancient Greece, the poet Eubulus (ca. 375 BC) believed that three bowls of wine was the ideal amount of wine per day. Each bowl contained about eight fluid oz. or 250 ml of wine, which is about the same amount as a wine bottle today.

Well, it seems that the definition of moderation has not changed much over the centuries. Once again the grandmothers and the Buddha are right. Take the middle road of moderation.

Wine is filled with polyphenols. These chemical compounds are found in the skin of the grapes. Red wine has higher concentrations of polyphenols as it is in contact with grape skins longer than is white wine during the wine making process. Wine polyphenols in particular, have complex chemical structures, which make them distinct from other antioxidants in our diet. These unique structures contribute to their increased antioxidant capacity and determine their bioavailability, metabolism, and absorption. There are over two hundred different polyphenols in four ounces of wine.

Wine should be held in the mouth and relished because it is here that the  absorption of  health-promoting polyphenols begin. It is thought that 75-100% of ingested polyphenols  are absorbed and digested in the gastrointestinal tract. To maintain high blood levels of  polyphenols it is necessary to have repeated intake of wine. They do not hang around long. We may consume approximately 200 mg to one gramme of different polyphenols in our daily diet as compared to a combined intake of 100 mg of vitamins C, E and beta carotene.

Categories, Classes and Sources of Polyphenols

Category Class Food sources other than wine
Phenolic Acids [arrowlist]

  • Wine


Flavonoids [arrowlist]

  • Flavones
  • Quercitin
  • Catechins andTannins
  • Hesperetin
  • Isoflavones
  • Anthocyanines
  • Proanthocyanidins



  • sweet red pepper, celerytea, onions, apples,tea, green tea, chocolate, cocoaoranges, citrus fruits
  • soya beans and soya protein
  • red fruits, cherries, plums, strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, grapes, currants
  • Apples, pears, grapes, red wine, tea


Lignans [arrowlist]

  • Enterodiol



  • Flax seed


Stilbenes [arrowlist]

  • Resveratrol



  • Red Wine


Polyphenols are antioxidants that prevent cellular damage caused by free radicals, which can lead to (under the right circumstances and with the right genetics) illness, disease, and signs and symptoms of ageing. There is documented proof that polyphenols play a role in protecting against cardiovascular disease (CVD), certain cancers, lung function,  and dementia. Resveratrol is found mostly in grape skins and wines, and in smaller quantities in grape juice, mulberries, and peanuts. It’s a naturally occurring phyoalexin, an antibiotic produced by plants to defend against diseases like fungal infection. It’s been used in Chinese and Japanese medicine for centuries against heart disease. It is  also known to impede cancer, have anti-inflammatory properties and possibly stimulate sirtuin proteins that seem to have the ability to boost the mitochondria – the power house of the cells – so that they live longer and work better.

People drinking wine

Cardiovascular Disease Prevention

Resveratrol and Wine Polyphenols appear to help decrease CVD risk through a number of mechanisms. It is thought that it stops LDL, the “bad” cholesterol, from interacting (being oxidized) with free radicals (loose electrons trying to find a home). These free radicals are clingy thieves that wreak havoc on the body and start a chain reaction of destruction.

When the free radicals steal an electron from LDLs, LDLs migrate to the lining of the artery and start the process of plaque formation. There is an injury to the artery, inflammatory white blood cells and their agents converge in the area. Subsequently fats, cholesterol, and platelets clump together and a narrowing of the artery begins. Eventually, as this process is repeated, smooth muscle cells multiply more than normal and the artery becomes completely occluded – blocked. Hence a heart attack or stroke occurs. Visualise a bad wound or cut with a scab over it that keeps getting re-injured instead of healing. You are left with a big patch of scar tissue instead of skin.

It turns out that the phenolic acids in red wine, specifically Resveratrol, stop or slow this process and decrease the ability of  platelets to clump together. It grabs the free radicals (stopping their search for a home), stops the LDL/free radical interaction, stops the inflammatory agents from being able to bind to the artery walls, and stops muscles cells of the arteries from multiplying.

Resveratrol also has an effect on relaxation in the vascular system. Nitric oxide is needed to maintain relaxation in the arteries. It is formed by the enzyme ENOS and the lining of veins and arteries in our bodies. If there is not enough nitric oxide or the system doesn’t function well there is increased risk of CVD. Guess what? Resveratrol has been found to stimulate ENOS activity. Anyone who ever drank a glass of wine knows that there is a lot of relaxing going on!


Resveratrol also appears to have positive effect on cancer cells. It has been found to affect a number of types of cancer cells including breast, prostate, stomach, colon, pancreatic and thyroid cancers in animals. One way is through the same mechanism as in cardiovascular disease: by stopping free radicals.

There are certain compounds that are harmless in the body until they interact with an enzyme that then makes them carcinogens. Resveratrol seems to decrease the activity of these enzymes in the body leading to fewer possible carcinogens. It also helps the cells to repair themselves by normalising the cell cycle of damaged cells. This allows the body either to heal or destroy the damaged cells and reduce the copying of cells with mutations. This can decrease cancer risk.


Resveratrol has been shown to improve lung function in people with emphysema, Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), or bronchitis. In one study of 1500 men and women, lung capacity increased by 1.5 % with one glass of wine a day, which could add one to two years to your life.


Wine has also been shown to decrease dementia . A study of 6000 people found that people who did not drink had twice the chance of developing dementia as people who drank moderately.

Longevity and Health

There also appears to be some interaction between Sir2 enzymes and Resveratrol. Sir2 enzymes are the enzymes that are responsible for increased lifespan and blunted age-related decline in heart function, when there is a caloric restriction. I’ll take wine and decreased calories for longer life.

Resveratrol acts as an anitinflammatory, causing a reduction in the swelling of collagen, connective tissue, skin disruptions, redness, and glycalation of the skin, which can result in stiffness and wrinkles.

Disease State Biological Activity
Cardiovascular disease [arrowlist]

  • Atherosclerosis
  • Heart attack
  • Stroke



  • Direct antioxidant activity
  • Binds free radicals.
  • Stops inflammatory white blood cells from binding to the vascular wall.
  • Stops vascular smooth muscle cell proliferation.
  • Stops platelet aggregation – clumping.
  • Stimluates ENOS activity – vasodilation.


Cancer Cells [arrowlist]

  • Breast
  • Prostate
  • Stomach
  • Colon
  • Pancreatic
  • Thyroid



  • May function as estrogen agonist/antagonist(same function or opposite function) depending on circumstances.Stops activity of CytochromeP450  –  an enzyme that, when it interacts with certain compounds, can make them carcinogenic.Aids normal cell cycle regulation – when cells  are damaged the cycle stops for repair or destruction. Defective cell cycle regulation leads to increased mutation in the cell that  can contribute to the development of cancer. Normal cycle cycle stops this.
  • Anti-inflammation
  • Anti-angiogenesis – the process by which a tumour cell develops new blood vessels in order to grow.
  • Stops enzymes that increase tumour invasion of normal tissue.


Anti-inflammatory effects [arrowlist]

  • Multiple areas:Skin
  • Connective tissue
  • Joints
  • Cancer
  • Cardiovasculature



  • Stops cellular proliferation.Aids apoptosis (normal cell death).


Longevity [arrowlist]

  • In addition to caloric restriction in animals and cells


  • Stimulates the activity or the SIR2 enzyme which extends the number of times a cell can normally reproduce in cell cultures.Blunts age-related decline in heart and lung function.
Lungs [arrowlist]

  • COPD
  • Emphysema
  • Chronic Bronchitis



  • Increases lung function by 1.5% with one glass of wine a day, and up to 3%  with 3 glasses of wine. Could add one to two years to a person’s life.


Brain [arrowlist]

  • 31% less chance of developing dementia with moderate wine consumption than abstainers


This leads us to the OUT of wine – the effects on our external health. There are number of companies that have added wine and resveratrol to their cosmetics to  enhance the  look and feel of skin. They have found that not only ingesting these compounds but also  topically applying them to the skin has a similar effect on skin cells and collagen that they have on the inside of the body.

They act as an antioxidant and moisturiser on the skin, binding free radicals that cause the signs of aging, wrinkles, decreased collagen, dark spots and dehydration.

One of these companies is Caudalíe. A French company established in 1995  by Bertrand and Mathilde Thomas. The have formulated  three patented vinotherapies  from  the fruits of their family vineyard in Bordeaux.


  • Grape seed polyphenols (OPC) is the most potent antioxidant in the vegetable world.
  • Grapevine Resveratrol is a powerful antidote to damage, and aids in cell renewal.
  • Viniferine protects and repairs skin with dark spots.


Barrels of wine

They also have organic grape water, grape seed oil and vinolevure. Grape water is rich in polysaccharides and possesses  uber-moisturising and soothing properties for the skin. Grape seed oil in rich in Omega 6, and vitamin E which regenerates and intensely nourishes dehydrated skin. Vinolevure is extracted from the walls of the wine yeast and is capable of retaining up to 100 times its volume in water. It reinforces the skin’s immune defences. All of the products and suppliers have to live up to the company’s “COSM- ETHICS.” These cosmetics contain no animal ingredients, parabens, phthalates, mineral oils or synthetic colourings. The company began in 2012 to donate 1% of its annual turnover to a fund to support reforestation of the rainforests, develop a sustainable and fair trade palm and shea butter industry, and work with small local growers to produce exceptional ingredients. Healthy, sustainable products that do an excellent job and promote the environment are the ones I love to use!


  • 1994: Caudalíe established an exclusive worldwide patent for extracting and stabilizing Grape-seed Polyphenols (OPC). These polyphenols are the most powerful anti-oxidants occurring in the vegetable world and the best anti-aging shield for skin by halting free radical damage, the main cause of cutaneous aging.
  • 1999: Grapevine Resveratrol® was patented from grapevine stalks, offering a powerful antidote against cutaneous ageing, aiding cell renewal and restoring skin’s youthfulness and firmness.
  • 2004: Caudalíe researchers identified and patented Viniferine®, a molecule found in grapevine sap that protects and repairs skin with anti-dark spot properties, leaving your complexion incredibly radiant. In the past the sap from the grape vine stalks was used to diminish dark spots and resulted in a radiant complexion. Now we know why.


You can also visit one of the Caudalíe Day spas. The original idea came from the family vineyards – Chateau Smith Haut Lafitte in the Bordeaux area of France. They have locations at the vineyard in Bordeaux and Paris, Bilbao, Turkey, Brazil, and New York City. The aim of the spa is to give the clients a glimpse into the paradise of the vineyard  filling their senses with the scents and tastes of wine. Flowers, relaxing music and the  tactile experience of the Caudalíe spa are signature experiences. These may include a barrel bath, the wine makers’ massage, a honey and wine wrap, fresh cabernet grape  scrub or vinosource facial treatment with fresh grapes.

I have visited Caudalíe’s New York City spa which is located in the Plaza Hotel. You leave the hustle and bustle of New York’s Fifth Avenue and enter an atmosphere of   timeless decadence and peace. The rooms are decorated in stone and wood, connecting you to the feeling of the earth and vines.  Floating in a cocoon of relaxation, you imbibe a glass of wine from the family vineyard. You experience one of the signature treatments –perhaps the crushed cabernet scrub, which combines grape seeds, honey, and brown sugar that are then massaged into the body to stimulate circulation and drainage of excess toxin, followed by an application of a body lotion to restore the skins radiance. Or perhaps you’d prefer the fresh grape massage, which combines a massaging technique with fresh grapes to release flaky dry skin, soothe and invigorate. Or try the Grand Cru Facial which uses the vinotherapy massage technique personalised for your skin. It sends you to nirvana. . ..  Leaving the spa  relaxed, renewed, with beautiful brillant radiant skin I have to ponder… the magical, alchemical mystery of the vine cannot be denied – inside or out.

Wine quotes:

  • Alfonso of Aragon on age – “it appears best in four things old wood to burn, old
    Wine to drink, old friends to trust and old authors to read.
  • Petronius “wine is life”
  • Sir Robert Scott Caywood “Compromises are for relationships not wine
  • Horace: Wine brings to light the hidden secrets of the soul, gives, being to our hopes, bids the coward flight, drive dull cares away, teaches new means for accomplishment of our wishes
  • Bishop of Seville_ I have enjoyed great health at a great age because everyday since I can remember I have consumed a bottle of wine except when I have not felt well then I have consumed two!
  • Babylonian Talmund Babba Buthra- Wine is at the head of all medicine. Where wine is lacking, drugs are necessary
  • Luke 5 :39- No man having drunk old wine straightway desireth new for he saith “the old is better”
  • Sammuel Johnson- Wine makes a man more pleased with himself – I do not say it makes him more pleasing to others.
  • Napoleon – clearly the pleasures wine affords are transitory but so are those of a ballet or  a musical performance. Wine is inspiring and adds greatly to the joy of leaving.
  • Psalms 104:14- He makes the grass grow for cattle,plants for man to cultivate bringing forth food from the earth and wine that makes glad the heart of man.



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