Thursday, June 21, 2012

The First "Diet Drink"

Sarsaparilla
The term "diet drink" didn't always mean a can of sugar free soda. Back in the early decades of the 19th century, diet drinks were what one medical dictionary referred to as "alterative concoctions" (alterative meaning something that would alter and restore you to health). In other words, these were drinks that you were supposed to consume every day for the sake of  restoring and keeping your good health.

One of the most famous of these was called Lisbon Diet Drink, which was made of sarsaparilla and mezereon. This latter is Daphne mezereum, a flowering shrub with highly toxic berries - I don't know what the roots are like. It was supposed to have originated with doctors in (not surprisingly) Lisbon, Portugal.

The Art and Mystery of Making British Wines (1865) tells is that it consists of licorice root, sarsaparilla, sassafras, guiacum [a flowering plant also known as lignum vitae) and mezereon. These are all covered with water, boiled and strained. You had to slice everything up, and the recipe makes it sound like it took quite a long time to get everything just right. Even then, some of the plants involved (like the mezereon) sound a bit sketchy in terms of being good for you.

In 1824, one poor fellow, underweight and weak, tried to restore his health with this. He was advised to drink a pint of Lisbon Diet Drink every day "and fumigated his throat twice a day with the red suphuret [sulphide] of mercury." Ouch. That sounds horrible.

Nopal cactus
Happily, there are much, much better alternatives available today. And you don't need to go to the lengths of making Lisbon Diet Drink to add a healthy drink into your everyday life. Nopalea is a delicious healthful drink made from the Nopal cactus, and can really help make you feel great and reduce inflammation and pain. You can try a free sample for only $9.95 handling and shipping by calling 1-800-203-7063. All natural, all healthy. And you don't need to go out and hunt down any rare plants or doctors from Lisbon, either.

Sources:
Anon., The Art and Mystery of Making British Wines, Cider and Perry, Cordials and Liqueurs (1865), p. 214.
Johnson, James. The Medico-chirugical review, vol. 4 (1824), p. 478.
Parr, Bartholomew. The London Medical Dictionary, vol. 1 (1809)  p. 561.
[Images from Wikipedia]

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