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Health Concerns

Jake Leg Syndrome
In 1930, thousands of people in the southeast were afflicted with a partial paralysis
of their feet and legs as a result of drinking a concoction known as jake.

One reporter in the 1920's described drinking moonshine this way:
"The instant he swallowed the stuff he feels as if he were sunburned all over, his head begins to buzz as if a hive of bees had swarmed there, when he closed his eyes, he sees six hundred million torch-light processions all charging at him, ten abreast, and when he opens his eyes the light blinds him and everything seems dancing about."

It's probably obvious that there are no health standards, no regulatory bodies, that govern the production of moonshine. For generations, moonshine has been made in home- made stills, hidden from sight. The forest, or a swamp, is often the easiest place to locate a still; those located closer to home can be found in barns, chicken coops, or buried underground.

While quality control and sanitation are probably not of the utmost importance to many people who drink moonshine (after all, alcohol kills many bateria, right?), people are sometimes concerned about whether or not the moonshine they just bought is safe to drink. After all, people go blind from drinking bad moonshine, and it has also been known to cause neurological damage, including paralysis.

Moonshiners often add some "extra" ingredients, either intentionally or accidently, in the process of distilling their liquor. Some of these include:

  • lye
  • rubbing alcohol
  • wood alcohol
  • paint thinner
  • bleach
  • formaldehyde
  • embalming fluid
  • chemical fertilizers
  • manure

Depending on the type of still used, pine pitch or lead often leeches into the liquor. The lead is particularly dangerous because it is virtually undectable, and if consumed lead has a cumulative effect in the human body.

While the mash is fermenting in a still in the woods, it is not uncommon for insects and small animals to come and drink from the still. They can fall in and sink to the bottom of the mash.

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