Wine, Words & Wednesday, No. 38

paracelsus hat
LOVE the hat, Paracelsus!

Today’s words are brought to you by Paracelsus.  I know, I know.  Para-who??

You know, the 16th century German physician.  Still doesn’t ring a bell?  You’re not alone.  Unless you’re a German Renaissance scholar (or you really like reading about the history of medicine), you’ve probably never heard of this guy.  But, he did make some important contributions to modern medicine.  And . . . he said some words about wine!

Paracelsus’ real name is Philippus Aureolus Theophrastus Bombastus von Hohenheim.  Wow.  Filling out those Renaissance scantron forms at school must have been a real bear.  He later changed his name to the mononym, Paracelsus (kind of like Prince, or Charo).  Good call.

While early Renaissance doctors were busy trying to cure disease by blood-letting at the corner barbershop, Paracelsus went a different direction.  After receiving his doctorate in 1516, he decided universities couldn’t possibly teach him everything, and he set off on a journey of self-discovery across Europe and Asia.  Basically, he spent a bunch of  years wandering around thinking and absorbing big thoughts about medicine.  He condemned Renaissance medicine (which ruffled a lot of feathers), and tried to convince his peers of the importance of things like observation and chemistry in medical treatment.  But they weren’t ready to hear it just yet.

Paracelsus accumulated a great many titles — he’s often called the father of modern pharmacology, the father of modern alchemy, and the father of toxicology.  He was a busy man. Paracelsus named the element zinc in 1526, and he was the first to dissolve opium in alcohol (which worked a heck of a lot better than dissolving it in water), a solution he called laudanum.  For centuries, laudanum was the most effective painkiller available.

Paracelsus also reportedly coined the word, alcohol, which brings us to today’s words:

paracelsusThis makes perfect sense to me.  A little bit of wine is nourishment, a little bit more is medicine (opium optional), and too much is poison.  The challenge lies in figuring out the “right” dosage for you.



  1. Hippocartes said ‘Wine is an appropriate article for mankind, both for the healthy body and for the ailing man’. Good to see he had some followers. Great to learn a bout Herr Paracelsus


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