Daily Archives: April 16, 2011


Now, look at this word closely, or as closely as your aging eyes will permit. Are all the letters in the right order? Does nothing seem as though it has been displaced?

In fact, it is spelled correctly, but how much more your eye probably wants it to be reversatrol than resveratrol – after all, though it may roll off the tongue (with the lips) in a feasible way, resver doesn’t fit in what we expect in English, while reverse is an English word. And resveratrol is said to reverse aging, you know! In fact, it’s touted as an all-purpose agent of rot reversal. We are led to believe that it helps prevent cancer, reduces inflammation, and lowers blood sugar. No doubt even the lover raters will be kind to you if you are fortified with resveratrol!

It really does have the sound of some mid-20th-century wonder drug or engine cleaner or polishing agent, especially with that -ol ending. And indeed it’s the same -ol ending, originally for oil products (from Latin oleum) but more recently also used with alcohols. The rest of it is from res for resinous and veratr for Veratrum, the genus name of the plant in which it was first discovered.

These Veratrum plants, perennial mountain herbs, often with pretty little flowers, are quite poisonous – your heart will stop quickly if you ingest them. This may sound very unpromising, but extracts of the plant have been used, at very low and carefully managed strength, to help high blood pressure and arrhythmia.

But that’s not the best way to get resveratrol; it is found in other plants. And I should add that its main value appears to be as a result of its presence in Vitis vinifera. The product of Vitis vinifera has been condemned by some as poison, but it is quite widely consumed. And enjoyed. In fact, the greatest benefit in resveratrol as far as I can see is guilt removal. If you can tell yourself that every glass of wine you have is helping you live longer, and so not feel bad about drinking, then resveratrol is doing its job. Never mind that you’d need to consume an awful lot of wine to get its documented positive effects (a lot). It’s sort of like the phenols in maple syrup – come on, just have the stuff because it’s so good. And maybe then the word resveratrol will look normal, too.