Considering alcohol gives us the first opportunity to study the difference between natural and synthetic products, and although hundreds of years have passed since distilled alcohol before the next chemically purified intoxicant, it was the first highly concentrated and purified product, the first synthetic. The difference is very important for the subsequent argument. Alcoholism was rare before the discovery of distillation and was not a social and communal problem. Just as heroin addiction became a pernicious flower, blossomed out of the relatively harmless habit of opium consumption, so distilled alcohol turned the sacred art of the brewer and winemaker into a coarse economic machine of losing human hopes.
Alcohol was not by chance the first intoxicant to undergo this transformation. It can be obtained by fermenting many types of fruits, grains, and plants, so they experimented with it much more widely than with some little-known and limited sources of intoxication. In fact, fermentation, fermentation is a natural process, which in many cases is difficult to avoid. Consequently, fermented alcohol can be produced in huge quantities suitable for trade. Some palm trees in Southeast Asia give juice, in fact, quite usable alcohol, straight from the tree. In birds, raccoons, horses, even in wasps and butterflies, short-term signs of intoxication are known that accompany the eating of fermented fruits.
In the wild habitat, most intoxications are associated with the consumption of fermented fruits, grains, or juices. Field studies have documented many such cases from Sumatra to Sudan, from bumblebees to elephants. Result? In a natural environment, most animals seek food that is loaded with alcohol for the sake of smell, taste, calories, or nutrition. Intoxication is a side effect, but not so serious as to keep them from consuming it further.
It has been established that the sap of some trees becomes intoxicating with appropriate heating and the action of enzymes. In North America, there is a species of woodpecker, a juice lover, hollowing out holes in the trees, which are then filled with juice. Woodpeckers feed not only on the sap itself, but also on insects attracted by the protruding liquid. They move from tree to tree, “leaving the door open” for the fermentation of the juice and the intoxication of other animals until the trees heal. Drinking fermented juice was considered to be the cause of a number of manifestations of abnormal behavior observed in hummingbirds, squirrels, and other unsuspecting juice consumers.
Alcohol can be distilled using heat to evaporate it and separate it from the raw material, unlike alkaloids and indoles, which must somehow be extracted using solvents, and then concentrated. The very fact that a simple condenser for cooling water can pick up alcohol vapors and convert them to liquid form, gave alcohol the opportunity to become the first chemically “isolated” intoxicant. (This property is “captured” again from the evaporated state and initiated the use of the name “alcohol” in relation to distilled alcohol.) [This refers to the English word “spirits” from the Latin word “spirit”
The first mention of some kind of distilled alcohol is found in the IV. n er in the writings of the Chinese alchemist Ge Hoon. Discussing the recipes for making cinnabar, Ge Hoon remarks: “They are like wine that fermented once; it is impossible to compare with pure, transparent wine, which fermented 9 times. ” This statement seems to imply knowledge of the methods of making very strong pure alcohol, probably by trapping alcoholic vapors into wool, from which relatively pure liquid alcohol could be squeezed.