"Medicine" for body and soul

November has arrived and like every year, the cauldrons for the production of zivania make their appearance. Zivana or Zivania, from the word zivana (=stemphyla) is a spirit of wine or stems produced in special cauldrons using the distillation method. Usually its alcohol content varies on average from 47-52%. For the production of zivania in Cyprus, a significant amount of fresh grapes is used, which represents approximately 1/5 of the annual average production.

According to the Department of Archeology of Cyprus, the first references to the drink are found in Homer's Odyssey. When Odysseus was passing by the island of Laistrygoni, the giant inhabitants destroyed Odysseus' ship because it was under the influence of zivania. In later reports we find the zivania in excavations that took place outside the village of Panagia in the province of Pafos that date between the 5th and 6th centuries AD. as the ancients used grapes that only grew on limestone rocks.

The production of zivania is carried out by the practical application of fermentation technology. Fermentation is a complex biochemical process in which yeasts convert sugars into alcohol and carbon dioxide while simultaneously creating other components such as acids, esters, aldehydes and higher alcohols that shape the organoleptic characteristics of the final product.

In Cyprus the method of distillation began to be used during the years of the Venetian rule (1489-1571) and the first Venetian alchemists worked in secret laboratories because they did not want their art to spread.

As the zivania ages in barrels it becomes better and more aromatic. In many villages the zivania is flavored with cinnamon and acquires a reddish color, while in other villages it is flavored with anisole to prepare the village ouzo (zoukki).

Zivania has many uses, something that was also known in the past as it was widely used for therapeutic purposes, such as for rubbing, for colds, for disinfecting wounds since it has antimicrobial properties, for fainting, for toothache, as a tonic drink in winter, etc. Due to the presence of alcohol, it causes vasodilation and lowers blood pressure. It is associated with a reduction in cardiovascular deaths and non-fatal myocardial infarctions. Improves levels of risk factors for cardiovascular disease (body mass index, total cholesterol, LDL, HDL, triglycerides, glucose, insulin). It reduces the adhesive ability of platelets, the blood molecules responsible for blood clots.