Fermented beverages (Alcohol) have been with us for ages, some records show that we have been using them from as early as the Neolithic age (circa 1000 BC). The exact period of the advent of alcohol, or when humans began to purposefully utilize fermented beverages is impossible to trace, but probably when the first person ‘forgot’ to wash their pot and let residues of rice, millet, grapes, or honey ferment. They didn’t know that they would create a worldwide sensation that is now inseparable from modern social gatherings and is also vital in health and industry.

Wine, beer, spirits, and cider are different forms of fermented beverages formed by the conversion of sugars to ethanol using microorganisms such as yeast or bacteria. The production of alcohol is made use of when fruit juices are converted to wine; when grains are converted to beer, and when foods rich in starch such as potatoes are fermented and then distilled to make spirits such as gin and vodka.

Alcohol in health and industry

Alcohol widely used in health and industry, owing to its low cost and ease of availability. Only a few forms of alcohol are fit for oral consumption, but most have found use in many other areas of health and industry. Alcohol has been utilized before as a sleep aid but it was problematic due to poor risk-benefit ratio when it increased nocturnal micturition and sleep disruptions while liver enzymes metabolize alcohol. 

Alcohol in its various forms has been utilized as an antiseptic, disinfectant, and antidote. In the medical setting, usually, to attain sterility of surgical procedures, alcohol is applied to the skin and hands of health care workers as a disinfectant.

Alcohol has been utilized in mouthwashes with other ingredients such as chlorhexidine; it has also been taken by mouth or injected into a vein when used to treat methanol or ethylene glycol poisoning when fomepizole is not available. Ethyl alcohol is used in cough syrups and tonics for the cure of respiratory and coughs related disease and is also a good diluent because of its high solubility.

Alcohols are effective against a wide range of microorganisms in concentrations of 60% to 90%, though largely ineffective against spores, and its use has been greatly augmented as hand and surface disinfectants against the novel coronavirus.

The most utilized types of alcohol include ethanol, denatured alcohol, 1-propanol, and isopropyl alcohol.

Many cases of methanol poisoning have been reported and are a cause of concern in public health


  1. Hui YH, Meunier-Goddik L, Josephsen J, Nip WK, Stanfield PS (2004). Handbook of Food and Beverage Fermentation Technology
  2. McDonnell G, Russel AD (January 1999) “Antiseptics and disinfectants and resistance”

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