The exact origin of brandy is unknown, but it likely began in Spain between the 15th and 16th centuries when winemakers there began to make use of the distilleries left behind by the Moors. Brandy is a shortened form of the Dutch word "brandywijn," which means burnt wine and refers to the process used to create brandy. Brandy is distilled from fermented grapes or other fruit to increase the alcohol content and remove impurities. Scientists have identified a number of potential health benefits of brandy.
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Researchers in France at the University of Bordeaux noticed a low occurrence of heart disease in Gascony, the region where Armagnac brandy is produced. Reporting its results in "Thrombosis Research" in 2007, the team found that Armagnac has an anti-platelet function similar to that of the prescription drug Plavix. Armagnac undergoes a unique distillation process and is aged in oak barrels, factors that may contribute to its apparent cardiovascular benefits.
Dr. Gordon Troup from Monash University in Melbourne, Australia, has explored the antioxidant properties of brandy. Grape wine contains high levels of antioxidants that help your body to fight free-radical damage, but it was assumed that the distillation to create brandy destroyed the majority of these antioxidants. As reported on ScienceDaily in December 2005, Dr. Troup and his team found that a shot of brandy contains the same antioxidant potential as 90 mg of vitamin C. These benefits are thought to come from the copper used during distillation, and they increase with the quality of the brandy.
Brandy typically contains between 40 and 45 percent alcohol by volume, and it is considered a relatively high alcohol beverage. Alcohol is a depressant that slows nerve reactions, and it has been used traditionally by many cultures as a sleep aid.
Brandy is a high-alcohol drink that you should consume responsibly. Drink brandy in low quantities, and discuss its use with your doctor if you are taking any medications. Children and pregnant women should not consume alcoholic beverages.