Grapes are one of the oldest fruits eaten and cultivated by human beings since the Bronze Age 8,000 years ago. In Chinese culture the meaning of grape, ‘Podo,’ is derived from ‘蒲萄’ which means ‘reveling in drinking liquor and getting drunk.’ Lee Si-jin, a Chinese pharmacologist who lived in the 16th century (1518~1593), wrote that for eons people had turned grapes into wine that they had drunk with gleeful abandon so that the berry was called ‘葡萄’ in Chinese. The 葡 of the 葡萄 had the meaning of drinking wine gaily (with gleeful abandon) and the 萄 of the 葡萄 meant ‘to get drunk.’
According to the Bon-Cho-Gang-Mok ( ‘Compendium of Materia Medica,’ a herbal book compiled by Lee Si-jin in 1596), after pounding grapes, putting the resulting juice into a clayware pot and boiling it, it is effective to drink the boiled juice with a dash of honey to offset the bitterness. Generally, this alcoholic beverage made from berry has the meaning of ‘praying for health and longevity.’ So it can be appreciated why in Chinese culture it holds the meaning of the filial piety of a good son.
The Bon-Cho-Gang-Mok states that the succulent nature of grapes helps the easy and comfortable discharge of water (micturation). They can eliminate water from the intestines and help alleviate ‘Imjeung’ (the symptom of urethral pain when urinating). According to the Dong-Ui-Bo-Gam (‘The Precious Mirror of Oriental Medicine’, a comprehensive medical work written in 1613 by Hu Jun during the Joseon dynasty), the nonpoisonous and sweet taste of grapes helps ‘Seupbi’(twinging in the joints and sinews and experiencing a paralyzed feeling due to humidity) and Imjeung. They also aid the passing of unclogged urine, boost the energy and volitional power, and help to relieve a tightened chest. Also according to the Bon-Cho-Gang-Mok, grapes help the feeling of hunger and the enduring of a blustery wind and coldness. The compendium says that eating grapes for a long time makes the body lighter and helps human longevity.
It is particularly good to have grapes when eating greasy food. According to the Bon-Cho-Gang-Mok, of the Five Elements of metal, wood, water, fire, earth, the nature of grape comes under the category of earth. It says that when people living in the South-East of China eat grapes a lot they have fever. On the other hand, when people in the North-West of the country eat them they have no sickness at all. As grapes have the nature of penetrating downwards into a watercourse, so that they are good for the people in the North-West region. Since the weather of this region is generally cold, usually those who live there eat greasy food a lot and their bodies contain much fat. But those who live in the South-East part of China eat sliced raw fish and their bodies tend to be cold. As, then, grapes get rid of fat they are good for those who consume a lot of oily foods but bad for those who enjoy a vegetable diet.
Other parts of grape as well as the berries can be used for medicinal purposes. According to the Bon-Cho-Gang-Mok, after boiling roots, vines, and the leaves of grapes, and sipping, nausea can be controlled. This concoction is also effective for those feeling sick after suffering from cholera morbus. Moreover, drinking grape juice can mollify the discomfort experienced by a pregnant woman when the energy of her fetus soars. The juice raises her energy level. After boiling grape roots, wiping the body with the boiled water is good to treat ‘Yogaktong’ (aching in the waist area and in the legs) and ‘Jitoetong’ (aching in the limbs and thighs). Drinking the boiled water helps urination and is good for cleaning out the small intestine. It is also good for treating boils and abscesses. To treat dropsy 14 buds of grapes and 7 mole crickets with their heads and tails amputated have a useful effect. The ingredients are first moisturized and then dried in sunlight. After grinding, liquor is added and the mixture is ready to eat. It is especially helpful in scorching hot weather.
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