Home Remedies for Rheumatoid Arthritis: Gin-Soaked Raisins
Here's the truth about eating raisins soaked in gin every day for pain and inflammation.
The topic of gin-soaked raisins pops up on a regular basis in the rheumatoid arthritis (RA) community. Inevitably someone will swear by this home remedy’s ability to control the pain of RA.
The recipe is simple. Pour gin or sloe gin over golden raisins so they’re just covered and soak for a week or 10 days. While the amount of raisins to be eaten varies depending on website and author, most recipes and comments I have read recommend eating seven to 10 raisins per day. If you can’t be bothered with the work of putting this together, there are even companies who market their own formulas for the raisins, adding extra ingredients, like honey, that have their own beneficial properties.
The origins of this home remedy are vague, but it’s been around for a long time. The “drunken raisins” remedy got a boost from Paul Harvey, radio host from 1950-1980, and Teresa Heinz Kerry mentioned it on the presidential campaign trail for her husband, candidate John Kerry.
Grapes – particularly the red variety — contain resveratrol in their skins and sometimes in the seeds. It is a compound that is thought to suppress and inhibit enzymes that produce inflammation in the body, at least in lab and animal studies. Other non-human studies have found anti-cancer, anti-aging, and antiviral effects. Gin is made with the oil of juniper berries, which are rich in antioxidants.
How is the science?
The recommendation of famous people isn’t enough; we need science. And that’s where things get tricky. I have been unable to find any scientific research on this remedy, but have found many internet articles and blog posts about it. Since research on the particular remedy is hard to find, we can take a look at raisins and gin individually.
Although both grapes and juniper berries are rich in antioxidants, the actual amount used to make gin and preserved raisins is likely to be minuscule and therefore ineffective.
An additional indication that the theory has some gaps is the nature of raisins. This home remedy is very specific on the choice of golden raisins, but it turns out that doesn’t matter. Most raisins in North America are made from Thompson seedless grapes and that goes for both the regular purple raisins, as well as the golden ones. The color variation is based simply on whether they are dried outside in the sun (purple) or inside with no sun (golden). Moreover, Thompson seedless grapes are green, which means they — and therefore the raisins — contain significantly less resveratrol than red grapes.
Some people swear by gin-soaked raisins, some have stated that the pain and inflammation return soon after they stop eating them. Other people have found them to be of limited benefit. The science suggests that this is likely a placebo effect. Unlike folk remedies such as tart cherries, gin-soaked raisins probably do not have pain- and inflammation-reducing properties.
Does this mean you shouldn’t try gin soaked raisins? Not at all. Psychological factors affect the experience of pain. Many people find that somehow gaining a sense of control can reduce the experience of pain. If eating gin-soaked raisins makes you feel as if you are actively doing something to address your pain, it’s very likely that you will feel better.
Most people continue to take other arthritis drugs in addition to eating the raisins and based on this investigation, that seems to be a wise decision. As well, I still recommend a healthy diet, exercise, and regular contact with a physician about all drugs or home remedies that you use.
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