When great-grandma took a nip of the elderberry wine "for medicinal purposes," she was following a tradition that goes back thousands of years.
Indeed, researchers say they have found evidence that the Egyptians spiked their wine with medicinal herbs as long as 5,000 years ago.
A chemical analysis of pottery dating to 3150 B.C. shows that herbs and resins were added to grape wine, researchers led by Patrick E. McGovern of the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology report in Tuesday's edition of Proceedings of the National Academy of Science.
Adding tree resin to wine to prevent disease was widely known in ancient times, also being reported in ancient China, and continuing into the Middle Ages, the researchers say.
And they note that Egyptian records report that a variety of herbs were mixed in wine, beer and other liquids for medical uses.
Chemicals recovered from the pottery indicate that in addition to wine there were savory, blue tansy and artemisia — a member of the wormwood family — present. Other chemicals indicate the possible presence of balm, senna, coriander, germander, mint, sage and thyme.