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Self-medication with alcohol: a review of literature of nations of Central Asia between the 9th and 14th century AD.


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Abstract Alcohol, drunkenness, tavern and cupbearer, are probably the most common words used in classical Persian literature. In general, the term alcohol is used in two contexts; firstly, as a source of physical intoxication, bringing the drinker happiness and ability to forget about every day concerns. This school is represented mainly by Khayam and Manuchehri. Secondly, as an allegory, and a source of spiritual drunkenness mainly by Rumi and Sufi poets, who refer to a divine “wine” and as a source of spiritual intoxication. Drinking is described as one of “the deadliest of the deadliest sins” and the famous physician, Avicenna defines alcohol as “the mother of all evil”. Moreover, Abu Sahl Hamdowi of Balkh (10th century) describes alcohol as “the introduction of the book of debauchery” and in his opinion anyone who “sits on the beast of alcohol, is categorically a deviant”. Despite such a bad reputation, it appears that with a flourishing socio-economic situation and relative freedom, alcohol was relatively freely consumed; not only by nobilities, nevertheless, social drinking was also a prevalent phenomenon amongst intellectuals and ordinary people. Evidence also indicates that alcohol, in particular wine was symptomatically drunk in response to emotional distress or “self-medication”. Rudaki (10th century) defines wine as a remedy for insomnia or “cure for sleepless eyes”. Manuchehri (11th century) praises alcohol for its hypnotic properties, but implies “there is nothing better than wine to free man from the claws of the world”. Abu-Hassan of Balkh and Abu-Ali of Herat (11th century) believe “there is nothing better than alcohol to banish sadness’.  Hafez of Shiraz (14th century) believes wine helps “to forget sorrow, takes away worries and brings peace to mind”. We aim to review Persian literature of the region between 9th and 14th century with focus on alcohol and its symptomatic use or self-medication.  Keywords: Persian classical literature, alcohol, self-medication, Central Asia.



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© Copyright 2019 Morressier GmbH.
All rights reserved.