Grapes (see Also Vine)

Grapes, the luscious and refreshing fruit of the Vine, possess certain

medicinal properties and virtues which give them a proper place

among Herbal Simples. The name Vine comes from viere, to

twist, being applied with reference to the twining habits of the

parent stock; as likewise to with, and withy.

The fruit consists of pulp, stones, and skin. Within the pulp is

contained the grape sugar, which differs
in some respects

chemically from cane sugar, and which is taken up straightway into

our circulation when eaten, without having to be changed slowly by

the saliva, as is the case with cane sugar. Therefore it happens that

the grape sugar warms and fattens speedily, with a quick repair of

waste, when the strength and the structures are consumed by fever,

Grapes then being most grateful to the sufferer. But they do not suit

inflammatory subjects at other times, or gouty persons at any time,

as well as cane sugar, which has to undergo slower chemical

conversion before it furnishes heat and [237] sustenance. And in this

respect, grape sugar closely resembles the glucose, or sweet

principle of honey.

The fruit also contains a certain quantity of fruit sugar, which is

chemically identical with cane sugar; and, because of the special

syrupy juice of its pulp, the Grape adapts itself to quick alcoholic


The important ingredients of Grapes are sugar (grape and fruit), gum,

tannin, bitartrate of potash, sulphate of potash, tartrate of lime,

magnesia, alum, iron, chlorides of potassium and sodium, tartaric,

citric, racemic, and malic acids, some albumen, and azotized

matters, with water.

But the wine grower is glad to see his must deposit the greater

part of these chemical ingredients in the tartar, a product much

disliked, and therefore named Sal Tartari, or Hell Salt; and

Cremor Tartari, Hell Scum (Cream of Tartar).

In Italy, the vine furnishes oil as well as wine, this being extracted

from the grape stones, and reckoned superior to any other sort,

whether for the table or for purposes of lighting. It has no odour,

and burns without smoke. The stones also yield volatile essences,

which are developed by crushing, and which give bouquet to the

several wines, whilst the skin affords colouring matter and tannin,

of more or less astringency.

Grapes supply but little actual nutritious matter for building up the

solid structures of the body; they act as gentle laxatives; though

their stones, and the leaves of the vine, are astringent. These latter

were formerly employed to stop bleedings, and when dried and

powdered, for arresting dysentery in cattle.

In Egypt the leaves are used, when young and tender, for enveloping

balls of hashed meat, at good tables. The [238] sap of the vine,

named lacryma, a tear, is an excellent application to weak eyes,

and for specs of the cornea. The juice of the unripe fruit, which is

verjuice (as well as that of the wild crabapple), was much esteemed

by the ancients, and is still in good repute for applying to bruises

and sprains.

When taken in any quantity, Grapes act freely on the kidneys, and

promote a flow of urine. The vegetable acids of the fruit become

used up as such, and are neutralised in the system by combining

with the earthy salts found therein, and they pass off in the urine as

alkaline carbonates. With full-blooded, excitable persons, grapes in

any quantity are apt to produce palpitation, and to quicken the

circulation for a time. Also with persons of slow and feeble

energies, having a languid digestion (and especially if predisposed

to acid fermentation in the stomach), Grapes are apt to disagree.

They send their glucose straightway into the circulation combined

with acids found in the stomach, and create considerable distress of

heartburn and dyspepsia. Thus, says Dr. King Chambers, is

generated acidity of the stomach, parent of gout, and of all its

hideous crew. Likewise wine, especially if sweet, new, or

full-bodied, when taken by such persons at a meal, is absorbed but

slowly by the stomach, and much of the sugar, with some alcohol,

becomes converted by fermentation into acetic acid, which further

causes the oily ingredients in the food which has been swallowed to

turn rancid. Things sweet to taste prove to digestion sour. But

otherwise, with a person in good health, and not given to gout or

rheumatism, Grapes are an excellent food for supplying warmth as

combustion material, by their ready-made sugar; whilst the essential

flavours of the fruit are cordial, and [239] whilst a surplus of the

glucose serves to form fat for storage.

What is known as the Grape-cure, is pursued in the Tyrol, in

Bavaria, on the banks of the Rhine, and elsewhere--the sick person

being ordered to eat from three to six pounds of grapes a day. But

the relative proportions of the sugar and acids in the various kinds

of grapes have important practical bearings on the results obtained,

determining whether wholesome purgation shall follow, or whether

tonic and fattening effects shall be produced. In the former case,

sufferers from sluggish liver and torpid biliary functions, with

passive local congestions, will benefit most by taking the grapes not

fully ripe, and not completely sweet; whilst in the latter instance,

those invalids will gain special help from ripe and sweet grapes,

who require quick supplies of animal heat and support to resist rapid

waste of tissue, as in chronic catarrh of the lungs, or mucous catarrh

of the bowels.

The most important constituent to be determined is the quantity of

grape sugar, which varies according to the greater or less warmth of

the climate. Tokay Grapes are the sweetest; next are those of

southern France; then of Moselle, Bohemia, and Heidelberg; whilst

the fruit of the Vine in Spain, Italy, and Madeira, is not commended

for curative purposes. The Grapes are eaten three, four, or five times

a day, during the promenade; those which are not sweet produce a

diuretic and laxative effect; seeing, moreover, that their reaction is

alkaline, the cure thereby is particularly suitable for persons

troubled with gravel and acid gout.

After losses of blood, and in allied states of exhaustion, the

restorative powers of the grape-cure are often [240] strikingly

exhibited. Formerly, the German doctors kept their patients, when

under this mode of treatment, almost entirely without other food.

But it is now found that light, wholesome nourishment, properly

chosen, and taken at regular times, even with some moderate

allowance of Bordeaux wine, may be permitted in useful conjunction

with the grapes. Children do not, as a rule, bear the grape-cure

well. One sort of grape, the Bourdelas, or Verjus, being

intensely sour when green, is never allowed to ripen, but its large

berries are made to yield their acid liquor for use instead of vinegar

or lemon juice, in sauces, drinks, and medicinal preparations.

A vinegar poultice, applied cold, is an effectual remedy for sprains

and bruises, and will arrest the progress of scrofulous enlargements

of bones. It may be made with vinegar and oatmeal, or with the

addition of bread crumb.--Pharmacopoeia Chirurgica, 1794.

Other fruits may please the palate equally well, but it is the

proud prerogative of the kingly grape to minister also to the mind.

This served to provide one of the earliest offerings to the Deity,

seeing that Bread and wine were brought forth to Abraham by

Melchisedec, the Priest of the Most High God.

The Vine (Vitis vinifera) was almost always to the front in the

designs drawn by the ancients. Thus, miniatures and dainty little

pictures were originally encircled with representations of its foliage,

and we still name such small exquisite illustrations, vignettes,

from the French word, vigne.

The large family of Muscat grapes get their distinctive title not

because of any flavour of musk attached to them, but because the

sweet berries are particularly attractive to flies (muscre), a reason

which [241] induced the Romans to name this variety, Vitis apiaria.

On attrape plus de mouches avec le miel qu' avec le vinaigre--

say the French.

In Portugal, grape juice is boiled down with quinces into a sort of

jam--the progenitor of all marmalades. The original grape vine is

supposed to have been indigenous to the shores of the Caspian Sea.

If eaten to excess, especially by young persons, grapes will make

the tongue and the lining membrane of the mouth sore, just as honey

often acts. For this reason, both grapes and honey do good to the

affection known as thrush, with sore raw mouth, and tongue in

ulcerative white patches, coming on as a derangement of the health.