Jul 05, 2014 I Paul Seaburn

This Magic Elixir of Life Contained Rhubarb and Booze

When someone lives long enough to receive the title ”World’s Oldest Person,” they’re usually asked what their secret is and it inevitably includes alcohol A recent discovery in New York City of a 200-year-old bottle labeled “Elixir of Long Life” led researchers to the recipe and, sure enough, the main ingredient was booze.

According to DNAinfo, the bottle was discovered during an excavation for a hotel at 50 Bowery by Chrysalis Archeology, a company that provides cultural resource management at dig sites. The greenish glass bottle was found with other liquor bottles in a former German beer garden. With that information, they were able to find the recipe in an old German medical guide.

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Elixir of Long Life bottle found during construction excavation in New York City.

The search for the Elixir of Life and its gift of immortality dates back thousands of years. It was said the Greek gods thought it contained ambrosia and nectar while Egyptian mythology says Thoth and Hermes drank liquid gold. The Sumerians wrote about kings drinking Ninhursag’s milk and Hindu thought their gods drank a milk called Amrita.

According to this recipe, they were all wrong. The 19th century guide called for 2.3 grams each of rhubarb, gentian root, white turmeric and Spanish saffron mixed with the juice from 13 grams of aloe, 4 ounces of water and 12 ounces of grain alcohol. Shake frequently for three days, then filter through a cheesecloth.

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Some of the ingredients of the Elixir of Long Life.

Like many old elixirs and snake oils, this one may have had a few health benefits. Rhubarb and gentian root aid digestion, turmeric helps cell regeneration, saffron is used to treat depression and aloe is an anti-inflammatory.

If you decide to mix up a batch and achieve immortality, the team from Chrysalis Archeology points out that the bottle held less than an ounce so it was probably ingested a drop or two at a time.

Any more than that and you may just get an immortal hangover.

Paul Seaburn
Paul Seaburn is the editor at Mysterious Universe and its most prolific writer. He’s written for TV shows such as "The Tonight Show", "Politically Incorrect" and an award-winning children’s program. He's been published in “The New York Times" and "Huffington Post” and has co-authored numerous collections of trivia, puzzles and humor. His “What in the World!” podcast is a fun look at the latest weird and paranormal news, strange sports stories and odd trivia. Paul likes to add a bit of humor to each MU post he crafts. After all, the mysterious doesn't always have to be serious.

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