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Drinking Gold Was a Grisly Anti-Aging Trend of 16th-Century France

Gold has been valued for its rarity and beauty since antiquity, and regarded highly for its stability. It does not corrode like other metals. That led to the logical assumption that ingesting gold could imbue the human body with its anti-corrosiveness, and stop the aging process.  

According to Lydia Kang and Nate Pedersen’s book Quackery, gold-drinking evolved from curiosity to downright fervor during the medieval era, when an alchemist figured out how to dissolve solid gold into a liquid. Aurum potabile (sometimes known as aurum potable), as drinkable gold was known around the 16th century, was advertised as a cure-all for everything from epilepsy to mania.

Gold-imbued recipes made their way into chemistry manuals by the likes of French medical professionals Jean Beguin and Christophe Glaser, and even the short-lived Portuguese Pope John XXI. In 1578, he wrote a laborious recipe for a gold-laced, youth-preserving water. It involved taking gold, silver, iron, copper, iron, steel, and lead filings, then placing that mixture “in the urine of a virgin child on the first day,” then white wine, fennel juice, egg whites, in a nursing woman’s milk, in red wine, then again in egg whites, in that order, for the following six days.

In a sense, it worked, because the alternative to aging is early death. Read about the trend of drinking gold and some of its more prominent victims at Atlas Obscura.

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