Can Gin-Soaked Raisins Help Arthritis?

Exploring the Facts Behind a Common Folk Remedy

Gin-soaked Raisins

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One of the age-old remedies used to relieve arthritis is gin-soaked raisins. As odd as this may sound, there are many people who swear by it. The treatment, which some call "drunken raisins," involves eating a few gin-soaked golden raisins every day to relieve chronic joint swelling, stiffness, and pain.

Are gin-soaked raisins the natural cure that some people claim or simply a myth with little evidence to support the claims? This article gets to the bottom of the evidence.

Origins 

Like many folk remedies, it is difficult to trace the origin of gin-soaked raisins. The idea has likely been around for a long time but got its first real boost in the 1990s when radio personality Paul Harvey mentioned the remedy on one of his popular broadcasts.

The news soon hit media outlets across the country. Several versions of the remedy and numerous testimonials on its effectiveness have since been published, including the book The People's Pharmacy Guide to Home and Herbal Remedies by Joe Graedon and Teresa Graedon.

Although there are numerous variations on the remedy, there is a basic recipe that involves only two ingredients: golden raisins and distilled gin.

How It Works

It is unclear why golden raisins are used instead of black raisins. For their part, authors Joe and Teresa Graedon noted that golden raisins are preferred but "some people have found that the darker raisins work just fine as well."

Gin-Soaked Raisin Recipe

  1. Empty a box of golden raisins into a shallow container.
  2. Pour the gin over the raisins to barely cover.
  3. Cover the container with cheesecloth and leave a cool dry room. The alcohol will prevent bacteria from growing.
  4. Allow the raisins to soak for a few weeks until the gin evaporates. The raisins will not dry out but will stay moist like normal raisins.
  5. Eat nine raisins a day to help relieve your arthritis pain.

Results can vary, but natural health experts like the Graedons advise that it can take two weeks or more before you feel the effects.

Recap

Gin-soaked raisins are made with golden raisins that have been soaked in gin until the liquor has evaporated. The claim is that eating nine gin-soaked raisins each day will help reduce arthritis pain.

Evidence and Theories

To date, there have been few, if any, studies proving that gin-soaked raisins help arthritis. There is also no real understanding as to why nine raisins are called for. Although some experts will recommend more or fewer raisins, nine seems to be the general consensus.

Despite the lack of research, followers of natural medicine offer theories as to why gin-soaked raisins actually work.

Juniper

There is a widely held belief that the juniper berries used to flavor gin have anti-inflammatory effects that can relieve arthritis pain.

Juniper has, in fact, been used for centuries for this purpose. Juniper contains plant-based compounds known as flavonoids that are thought to reduce inflammatory chemicals in the body called cytokines. These might help alleviate arthritis pain.

Others contend that another group of compounds, called terpenes, is responsible for the pain relief. Terpenes are aromatic chemicals found in juniper and marijuana that may have analgesic (pain-relieving) properties.

Even so, it is unclear if the amount of flavonoids and terpenes found in gin has any real benefit. To date, there is little scientific evidence of this.

Recap

Followers of alternative medicine believe certain plant-based chemicals found in gin, called flavonoids and terpenes, can help reduce inflammation and pain.

Sulfur

Other natural health experts think that sulfur used to process golden raisins may be the active ingredient. Sulfur-containing foods and sulfur baths are among the natural remedies some people turn to treat osteoarthritis ("wear-and-tear arthritis").

Rather than being sun-dried like black grapes, the grapes used to create golden raisins are mechanically dried. During the process, they are exposed to sulfur dioxide that prevents caramelization and helps the raisins retain their golden color.

Some research suggests that supplements containing organic sulfur not only have anti-inflammatory effects but also trigger vasodilation (the widening of blood vessels).

Although these combined effects might in theory provide short-term pain relief, it is unknown if the trace amounts of sulfur in golden raisins (roughly 2,500 to 3,000 parts per million) are enough to be beneficial.

Recap

In theory, sulfur used to process golden raisins has anti-inflammatory effects that can help relieve arthritis pain. Whether the trace amounts found in golden raisins are enough to trigger this effect is unknown.

Summary

Gin-soaked raisins are a home remedy that some people believe can treat arthritis pain. The theory is that golden raisins and gin contain organic compounds (like flavonoids, terpenes, and sulfur) that can help reduce inflammation and pain sensations. To date, there are few studies to support the claims.

A Word From Verywell

There is not enough evidence to suggest that gin-soaked raisins can help treat arthritis in any way. That doesn't mean that they may not have a powerful placebo effect in some people (in which your strong belief in a treatment causes you to feel better).

If you have arthritis and decide to try gin-soaked raisins, speak with your healthcare provider first. There may be reasons why the remedy may not be right for you, such as uncontrolled diabetes or alcoholism.

Keep in mind, as well, that just because a remedy is "natural" doesn't mean it is necessarily safe.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Can gin-soaked raisins help with back pain?

    It is unknown if gin-soaked raisins will have any effect. If the back pain is caused by an injury, they are unlikely to help since the home remedy can take up to two weeks to work. There is no research available to recommend gin-soaked raisins for chronic back pain.

  • Do you refrigerate gin-soaked raisins?

    Traditionally, the raisins are soaked covered only with cheesecloth at room temperature. If you are uncomfortable with that, you can allow them to soak in the fridge. The evaporation process may take longer and can leave your refrigerator smelling of sweetened gin.

  • Can I get drunk on gin-soaked raisins?

    No, since the alcohol will have already evaporated. Even so, people with alcoholism should avoid gin-soaked raisins since the flavor of gin will remain and can be a powerful trigger for a relapse.

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9 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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