Gin-Soaked Raisins Help Arthritis: True, False, or Undetermined?

A Natural Cure or Quack Remedy?

Gin-soaked Raisins
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Daily consumption of gin-soaked raisins was once a popular folk remedy for arthritis, destined to take its place among other unproven arthritis folk remedies such as copper bracelets, bee stings, certo fruit pectin, and magnet therapy. When people learn of this practice, the typical reaction and response is, "Are you serious"? Some are serious and swear that the gin and raisins remedy helps relieve arthritis pain.

Background of Gin-Soaked Raisin Remedy

Where and when did this remedy get its start? Since it is a folk remedy, it's hard to say just when and where it began. Allegedly, the remedy got its first real boost in the 1990's when radio icon Paul Harvey mentioned the remedy during one of his popular broadcasts.

After the remedy got press, it made its way into media outlets across the country. Several versions of the homemade recipe, plus many convincing testimonials on its effectiveness, have now been included in several books about home and folk remedies for arthritis.

According to a report in the New York Daily News, while on the 2004 presidential campaign trail, Teresa Heinz Kerry (wife of Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry), who was in Nevada to discuss health care,  mentioned what she called "a highly effective" remedy for arthritis which drew laughter and some skepticism from the audience.

She reportedly said, "You get some gin and get some white raisins—and only white raisins—and soak them in the gin for two weeks. Then eat 9 of the raisins a day." Needless to say, the political bloggers yielded a great deal of space in their columns to her comments, which only added to her quirky image.

Does It Work?

To date, there have been no placebo-controlled double-blind studies to prove the efficacy of the remedy. However, many "theories" do exist as to why this remedy might have some value.

  • Some think it's the sulfur or sulphides used in the process of making the "white" or golden raisins. However, according to the Raisin Administrative Committee, "In much of the world, including the US, the golden raisin is also referred to as a bleached raisin. This is an incorrect term, as the dark raisin is not bleached. Rather, the enzymatic browning that normally occurs in a fresh grape is slowed down by treatment of sulfur dioxide gas. The raisin is preserved in a glimmering golden color. In the United States, we call this a golden raisin."
  • Some think it's the juniper berries used in gin. According to Barry Lazar from montrealfood.com, "The flavor of gin comes from juniper berries. These come from conifer plants, evergreens common in Europe and North America. New berries appear in the fall and can take two or three years to ripen. They are rich in vitamin C and terpenes, the essential oil which, in large quantities is manufactured into turpentine. During the Middle Ages, the berries were kept in nosegays to help block the scent of the plague. For centuries, medicinal usage favored using them in anti-inflammatory prescriptions."
  • Some think it's the placebo effect. It is known that when people believe strongly in a treatment their endorphins and natural pain mediators are enhanced. Also, arthritis characteristically has periods of flares and remission. You may attribute feeling better to the gin and raisins when it's truly due to a remission.

The Gin-Soaked Raisin Recipe

There are several versions and variations of the gin-soaked raisin remedy, but the basic recipe instructs you to:

  • Take a box of golden raisins. (Note: It must be the golden variety, sometimes called white raisins, not ordinary black raisins).
  • Place the raisins in a shallow container.
  • Cover the raisins with gin.
  • Let the raisins soak in the gin for a few weeks until the gin evaporates.
  • Then, eat 9 of these "drunken raisins" a day to help your arthritis. (Note: 9 a day is the number you see most often, but you may find other suggestions.)

The Bottom Line

Snopes.com, the online destination for checking out urban legends, misinformation, fallacies, and old wive's tales, has tagged the gin-soaked raisin treatment as "Undetermined". That's presumably correct, since scientific studies are lacking.

If you are considering this or any other remedy, you should discuss it with your doctor first, before ingesting it. There could be negative interactions with other medications or treatments. As a guideline, when home remedies are considered, they should be "in addition to" rather than "instead of" current medical treatment. But, it is most wise to stick with proven treatment options and to seek the approval of your doctor.

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