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Claim Check

Gin-Soaked Raisins: Kooky Arthritis 'Cure'?

by Densie Webb Ph.d., R.d.  

The claim: Eating raisins that have been soaked in gin eases arthritis pain.

The facts: The gin-soaked-raisins remedy has been promoted on and off for decades for arthritis sufferers, though it has never actually been scientifically studied. Paul Harvey mentioned the “drunken raisins” treatment on his popular radio program, which ran from the 1950s to the 1980s. Teresa Heinz Kerry, wife of former presidential candidate John Kerry, advocated it as an arthritis remedy in 2004, while on the campaign trail with her husband.

It goes something like this: Take some gin (no specific amount or brand) and a bunch of golden (not black) raisins and let them soak in the gin for a week or two (again no consistent recommendation). The “dose” varies too. Some proponents recommend eating seven to nine of the soaked raisins twice a day for two weeks and then once a day after that. Don’t want to make them yourself? Some websites sell vacuum-packed “drunken raisins.”

Though the remedy’s effectiveness is unproven, advocates cite various scientific findings to make it at least sound plausible. First, the oil from juniper berries, which gives gin its distinctive flavor, is rich in antioxidants that have anti-inflammatory properties. But just how much remains after gin is distilled and bottled is uncertain—and likely very small. And brands of gin vary greatly in the amount of juniper oil they contain, according to a study in the Journal of Chromatography A.

The raisins themselves have also been promoted as a source of anthocyanidins (compounds believed to reduce inflammation) and resveratrol (an antioxidant that has been shown to protect cartilage in mice with inflammatory arthritis). But raisins actually contain little or none of these specific compounds. Golden raisins, in particular, are high in other types of antioxidants, however, because the sulfites used to preserve their light color while drying prevent some of these compounds from being destroyed.

But even if the antioxidant compounds found in both the gin and raisins could benefit people with arthritis, it’s highly unlikely there would be enough in the small amounts consumed to have any effect.

Then there is the alcohol itself, which, of all components of the remedy, might be the one most likely to subdue the pain, at least temporarily—if you consume enough of it (you may have to wash down the raisins with a shot or two of the gin straight for that to happen). More likely, any benefit of gin-soaked raisins is due to a placebo effect.

Bottom line: While the drunken raisin remedy sounds like fun, you’re better off eating lots of antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables and checking in with your health care provider about prescription or over-the-counter options for arthritis pain relief if needed. If you still want to try it, note that people who are allergic to sulfites need to avoid most golden raisins.

As Paul Harvey said, “And now you know the rest of the story”…

Also see Do B Vitamins Really Give You Energy?