Researchers have found that drinking wine may hinder the wound healing process.

Wine is widely known to be good for heart health in controlled amounts. According to the National Institutes of Health, studies have proven that adults who drink wine on a light or moderate basis (4 ounces per day or up to 8 ounces for men) have a lower risk for cardiovascular disease compared to those who drink heavily or none at all. Logically, this leads to better blood flow, which is generally good for the wound healing process. However, elements in wine may actually slow recovery.

History of wine in wound healing

Since ancient history, wine has been used to help treat wounds. Among the most celebrated Greek physicians, Hippocrates, believed that wine was not only an essential part of a good diet but also an effective disinfectant useful for reducing risk of wound infection. At the same time, Romans were also actively using wine to disinfect wounds – they would even soak the exposed bowels of soldiers in the fluid before replacing them in the body.

As more recent research has revealed, wine may have actually been useful as a disinfectant – that is, if it was strong enough, which most wines today are not. For a study published in the British Medical Journal, researchers soaked several different types of bacteria in different dilutions of wine and found that pure wine (undiluted by water) was the most effective in killing off these bacteria.

Typhoid bacillus, for example, was killed off after only 30 seconds when exposed to wine with a 50 percent alcohol level. For comparison, 10 percent alcohol wine took 2-3 days to kill the bacteria. Acid also played a big role, and the more acidic wines – namely white varietals – had greater antibacterial properties. Modern day wines are generally less acidic and contain 12-15 percent alcohol, which means it could take days for the liquid to kill off harmful bacteria in a wound.

Effect of drinking wine on wound healing

Despite the fact that wine can be good for heart health in small amounts, research suggests that it may actually be harmful to the wound healing process. Scientists at the Laboratory of Angiogenesis Research and the Microbiology and Tumor Biology Center at the Karolinska Institute in Sweden conducted a study into resveratrol, which is found naturally in grapes and red wine.

They conducted the test on mice and found that the resveratrol, when taken orally, significantly slowed the healing of wounds, compared to mice that did not ingest the liquid. Additionally, scientists kept measurements of the affected areas and discovered that the substance naturally found in wine caused growth in the wound size. In fact, the wounds were significantly bigger from the second day of the experiment and continued to grow. With these findings in hand, the Karolinska Institute researchers concluded that, despite its various health benefits, wine as well as other foods and liquids that contain resveratrol may be bad for wound healing.

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