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Are Gin-Drenched Raisins a Big Joke?

A skeptic attacked gin-drenched raisins as offering arthritis sufferers false hope. But many readers have found this remedy helps relieve pain.
Raisins in wooden spoon on raisins background

Whoever said “Getting old isn’t for sissies” certainly got it right. As we age, we often accumulate aches and pains that may be attributed to arthritis. People with arthritis are faced with a horrible dilemma. They can suffer joint pain that makes them miserable and interferes with their ability to function in daily life. Or they can take medications that have potentially serious side effects over the long term. In some cases, they may turn to silly-sounding home remedies like gin-drenched raisins.

Do Home Remedies Like Gin-Drenched Raisins Offer False Hope?

It’s little wonder that some people embrace home remedies that offer the hope of pain relief without the risk of heart attacks or kidney damage. But people can’t benefit from hope alone.

We recently received a letter chastising us for writing about such approaches:

“You are giving readers false hope that any home remedy will help for arthritis. I have tried them all, and they don’t work. Anyone is lying who says they had painful arthritis and gin-soaked raisins or gelatin or any other nonsense cured them or even relieved the pain.

“This month I thought my hand was fractured and went to a hand surgeon. He diagnosed pseudo-gout and gave me six days of methylprednisolone. Within four days the pain was gone, along with all my arthritis pain. But I can’t stay on steroids.

“People have sought an arthritis cure for thousands of years, but death is the only cure. Your home remedies give them false hope.”

Our correspondent was especially dismissive of gin-drenched raisins:

“Does Gordon’s gin pay you to keep pushing gin-soaked raisins? You know these remedies are useless. Even if there is a short-term placebo effect, it is very short term. Anyone sending you stories about this fake hocus-pocus is deluded. It is cruel and unethical to mislead people, especially those who are truly suffering and seeking help.”

This is a very grim view. While some people undeniably get no benefit from gin-drenched raisins, we don’t think this remedy is a hoax or a joke. Certain individuals tell us that they have been helped.

We first heard from one reader 25 years ago. She wrote:

“I had three agonizing years of PAIN and couldn’t get out of bed on my own, even with strong medicines. Now I am mobile again. I started taking the gin-soaked raisins several months ago and my doctor is amazed. I’m still on Imuran and prednisone, but he has lowered the dose. I’ve lost 19 pounds because I am up and active.”

Over the next decade we heard from her periodically. She and her doctor continued to lower her dosage of medicine for rheumatoid arthritis and she continued eating nine raisins daily. We don’t know whether the raisins contributed to her well-being, or whether it was a placebo effect. It was not short-term, however.

Gin-Drenched Raisins Have Some Enthusiastic Supporters:

Here is another testimonial from a reader who appreciates the power of gin-drenched raisins:

“I’ve damaged both knees in every way possible, including rips, tears and breaks right across both balls-and-sockets. I’ve got three pins in one knee and a subluxed (out of place) patella in the other. I’ve always had knee pain, especially when skiing.

“I do take a supplement regimen with hyaluronic acid, turmeric and krill oil for my joints. Two years ago, I added gin-soaked raisins, and gradually my knee pain has just DISAPPEARED! Now I can ski as long and hard as I want, and the knees barely grumble. I don’t even take Tylenol anymore! The gin-drenched raisins are the big reason, I believe. A word of warning: they’re too delicious to limit oneself to 9 raisins. I take about 15. I turn 71 this month.”

Many readers have joked about skipping the raisins and just going straight for the gin. If they prepare the remedy properly, however, there is very little gin remaining–about one drop of alcohol in nine raisins. We don’t think the fact that some people don’t benefit means the others are telling tall tales. After all, some people get tremendous relief from celecoxib (Celebrex) while others don’t find it very helpful. Why would home remedies be so different?

Learn More:

If you would like to explore gin-drenched raisins for yourself, you can learn more about the raisin remedy and other non-drug approaches to joint pain from our book, The Graedons’ Guide to Alternatives for Arthritis. The information is also available as an online resource, the eGuide Alternatives for Arthritis.

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About the Author
Terry Graedon, PhD, is a medical anthropologist and co-host of The People’s Pharmacy radio show, co-author of The People’s Pharmacy syndicated newspaper columns and numerous books, and co-founder of The People’s Pharmacy website. Terry taught in the Duke University School of Nursing and was an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology. She is a Fellow of the Society of Applied Anthropology. Terry is one of the country's leading authorities on the science behind folk remedies. .
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First, I have used drunk raisins for at least 15 years. As a result I only have one or two finger pain flareups annually. Turmeric requires black pepper for proper absorption. Finally, not all gins are actually made from juniper berries, especially cheap gin. Look up gin made from juniper berries to find the proper gins. Several relatives have not had the same positive results.

People who are not like you, (getting no relief) are simply not like you. We are not deluded. When my hands swell from arthritis, about an ounce of Gordon’s gin that has ample raisins soaking in it, does the trick. It is thick and sweet and delicious. I do not take it regularly, only when the swelling occurs. I’m sorry you are not like us because if you were, you would have some relief.

My husband has been wracked with arthritis for years. We came across the gin-soaked raisins on the Peoples Pharmacy site and decided to try. It took about a few weeks, but it works for him. He’s been taking them for quite a few years now, and even his doctor agreed that if it works for him, keep doing it, as the medicine is far more expensive and worse for your body. It may not work for everyone, just as medications aren’t a one pill fits all; but it’s worth a try.

I have been doing vinegar apple cider vinegar honey and water since 1987 yes I have arthritis no it does not bother me I can do things that I’ve always been doing a few years ago I gave in and started taking the gin covered raisins you lay golden raisins in a glass container pour gin over them not a whole lot, see that the raisins are covered, let them sit for 10 days. Put them in a glass jar and eat nine a day. My bursitis is no longer a problem. The main thing is that a person has to do this consistently not just whenever and it does work unless you do not want it to because you would rather take a pill. I am 78 years old and I still do everything for myself good luck. Eating healthy foods intead of junk food helps a lot also.

Luke, the recipe calls for golden raisins, not white raisins. Very important. (Golden raisins are treated with sulfur dioxide.) They’re $3-$4 for a box, enough to make a year’s worth if a person is eating nine a day. A cheap fifth of gin is $10 or so, it doesn’t need to be made with Bombay or Sapphire or Tanqueray. A fifth of gin would be enough to cover 3 boxes of raisins! Gin is important (vodka doesn’t work) because of the juniper berries and other spices used to make gin.

I had severe pain in my shoulder, couldn’t raise my arm over my head. Tried the raisin concoction, eating nine raisins at night just before bed, and by the 3rd morning the pain was totally gone. I am thankful it worked for me.

I am 71 years old. About 4 years ago I fell and hurt my right knee. It bothered me a lot since then. Doctors tell me I don’t need surgery. About 2 years ago I started taking daily Concord juice and Certo, doubting it would work. However, it lessened my knee pain and stiffness enough that I can do just about anything I want. My brother and his wife tried it for several months; did nothing for them. My brother-in-law tried it, and it works for him. Bottom line: some natural remedies work for some individuals; other individuals are not helped at all by them. But to say none of them ever work, and they are just snake oil may be a jealous reaction on the part of those for whom they do not work. Thank you for all you do.

I’ve been taking a tablespoon of gin (no substitute) soaked raisins for over five years along with a small glass of white grape juice (64 oz. bottle filled with a package of Certo,) and a teaspoon of apple cider vinegar in a small glass of low sodium V-8 juice. All these “home remedies” have kept me pain free for over 5 years! I am very consistent and don’t miss a morning! Say what you want, these have worked for me. Again, I do this every day of every week of every year! I do not and will not take medications (poisons) at all.

I have been doing the gin soaked raisins for about 10 years. I have arthritis in my hands and carpal tunnel in my right hand. I am a licensed cosmetologist so having surgery for the carpal tunnel would impact me hugely. Also, the doctor said I would need to stop doing the motions that irritate the nerves. Well, I’m not about to give up my career and income. Started the raisins and never looked back. I do sleep in a wrist splint at night as well.

Hands are great! My 86 year-old mom had frozen shoulder. Painful and little movement. She started taking them, too. Now she has no pain and full range of motion. My sister, as well. Arthritis in her hands. Same positive outcome. I focused on the positive reviews when I first heard of this. This is a cheap, easy way to try. By the way, my first attempt was with Gordon’s gin. It did not work. I almost gave up. Did a little more research and did it again with Bombay Sapphire gin. Just like olive oils there are different grades. The herbs Bombay uses are etched on the side of the bottle and it’s distilled in a vapor infusion way. It made all the difference! I saw results in about 6-8 weeks after starting it. Give it a try. It’s better than side effects from medication. To your health!

I saw your article on gin-soaked raisins in the People’s Pharmacy section of my paper & I’ve sent it to my girlfriends who are experiencing arthritis. I’m going to try it myself for my knees. Not sure it’s arthritis but nothing ventured, nothing gained, right? Thanks.

I first heard of gin soaked raisins about 30 years ago, tried them and got no apparent benefit.
The concept kept coming to my attention, and I would try it again. After 5 or 6 trials I gave up on the idea. Sigh! I REALLY wanted to be free of the knee pain!

The problem was that I kept hearing that it did work so I decided to look at the variables: Ingredients, preparation, expectations, etc.

This is what I do:
1. Buy the raisins and “clean” them. I pour them on a half sheet cake pan and wet them with a little gin. I pick out leaves, stems and busted raisins.
2. I weigh them and measure out the gin. 15 ounces original weight, 13.5 ounces remaining = 13.5 liquid ounces of gin. A half ounce isn’t important; it is just what I do.
3. Put the raisins in a shallow container. I use an old Tupperware marinater. Add the gin, and mix to coat the raisins.
4. As the gin evaporates, tumble the raisins two or three times a day to evenly distribute the botanicals from the gin to enter the raisins.
5. When the gin evaporates the raisins will have a sticky simple syrup on them. In other words it won’t completely dry.
6. Instead of counting the raisins I just use a teaspoon to eat them. There are about ten raisins on a teaspoon but I don’t worry about it.
7. It took about two weeks to suppress the inflammation and relieve the pain.
8. When I neglected to make more, it took three to four weeks for the pain to return. This suggests to me that this is more of a process rather than a “pill palliative,” and it takes time to affect the inflammation.

If it didn’t work for you, and you suggested a placebo effect, I would argue that a placebo would have worked the first day I took it. Additionally, the pain would return the next day after running out of raisins. I’m sorry it didn’t work for you. Your inflammation may be further along the spectrum, too far to be helped by this. Please stop discouraging others from exploring a possible solution by pooh-pooing it and/or saying the help derived is a placebo.

I have read about gin-soaked raisins several times here, and thought it was ridiculous. Even so, I had had horrible sciatica for nearly 15 years. Getting both knees replaced helped the sciatica somewhat (my legs were straightened with the new knees), but not entirely. I decided to try the gin-soaked raisins and mixed up a batch, being sure to use gin that stated it had been made with juniper berries. I also added more juniper berries to the jar. When I tried it, not much happened, but I rather liked having a spoonful of the raisins every day.

Over the last year, my chronic sciatica has nearly disappeared. I did not think it had anything to do with the raisins until I ran out of them and didn’t have a chance to make more for a few weeks. My sciatica got worse and worse for no apparent reason. I finally made more gin-soaked raisins, and within a few days my sciatica disappeared. I’m still not totally convinced, but I will keep eating the raisins. One thing that I DO think is questionable is that you should eat exactly nine of the raisins. There are the standard golden raisins you buy in a box that are pretty much the same size. Then there are the bulk golden raisins that can be HUGE—-sometimes only 4 fit on a teaspoon. Don’t tell me that 9 of the average raisins is equal to nine of the giants.

I have osteoarthritis all over, but it has been worse in my thumbs and neck. I was getting close to surgery on my neck about four years ago when I started taking gin soaked raisins. I have gotten enough relief that surgery is not in my plans now. By the way, the instructions that I have seen call for golden raisins. Any brand of gin should work. I have read that gin soaked raisins do not work for everyone.

I am going to try the gin & raisins. I became disabled at 60 with osteoarthritis. Been on every drug out there for over 30 years. Poor luck with generics. Recently learned about the “authorized generics” here. Did some research and had an epiphany! I checked my current drug from mail order. Made by Company A. and not working well at all. Called local pharmacy. Their generic is made by Company B. Now I am getting good results from the “same” drug! Still not completely resolved but tolerable.

Been taking gin-soaked golden raisins for about 5 years. I have osteoarthritis and urinary frequency problems. I take six triple-strength Glucosamine pills three times a day. That has helped alleviate arthritis pain very much. I also drink low sodium vegetable juice with added lemon juice and as much store brand hot sauce added as much as I can stand. The hot sauce seems to help very much. I was out of hot sauce to add to my vegetable juice for about four days. I could not sleep well because of arthritis pain in my hands.
When I finally added the hot sauce, my hand pain was very much relieved!I could sleep again!

But, back to the gin-soaked raisins: I can’t say they help with arthritic pain. But they do help with urinary frequency!

I’ve used gin soaked raisins (I use gin with added herbs), and it works, truly does, NO LIE! I gave the recipe to a friend who is a body builder with VERY bad ankle arthritis, and he agreed they helped. Every person is different and to say it works or does not work for everyone just because of how you, personally, react, is a function of ignorance. If pain is relieved or removed by using natural remedies, then wonderful! If a person would rather do pharm drugs, go ahead. I’m tired of people saying natural remedies do not work. We are all able to try these and decide for ourselves. Anyone chastising People’s Pharm is rude and uninformed with no insight. IMHO!

Both my thumbs are arthritic, and both hurt most of the time. I would walk around with a bean bag on my thumbs that has been heated in the microwave, to relieve the almost constant pain. I read about and started taking the ginned raisins and, in a very short time, my chronic pain was gone. My thumbs still don’t work, etc., but the chronic pain is gone.

One time I decided I would take the raisins at night instead of in the morning. The pain returned very quickly, so I went back to mornings for the raisins, and all is well again.

I get very annoyed when I read someone say that if a home remedy doesn’t work for that individual then, of course, there is no validity to it. I have osteoarthritis in my right hand, and I have had no pain for the last 6 years of taking gin/raisins. The only symptom remaining is 1 finger that trigger locks and I am pleased this remedy has worked for me.

To the nay-sayers. Everything you digest is made up of chemicals, and chemicals can affect certain conditions in the body. Yes, they may not work on some people but then again in my case the many drugs that I have been prescribed didn’t work either, and they were significantly more expensive. The body is complex, and our medical industry does not fully understand the details of how it really works. Gin-soaked raisins didn’t work for me but a lot of other home remedies mentioned on this program did. Again, chemistry is chemistry no mater what the sources are, drugs or food products.

In 2012 I started having pain in both thumbs and began taking gin-soaked raisins every day; been taking them ever since with no pain anywhere. I use an organic gin from MN and golden raisins. If it is a placebo, so be it.

I think if something works for someone, more power to them.

I tried the gin-soaked golden raisins for 2 months with zero results for my arthritis. What has worked for me is a low-carb diet. NO SUGAR, no grains (pasta, pizza, bread, bagels, etc.), no lactose. It doesn’t work overnight, but given time it heals all kinds of ailments, especially digestive-related ones. If it’s hard to imagine life without these common foods, do a little research to find healthier substitutes – vegetables and fruits for example. You may spend more prep time in the kitchen but relief from chronic pain is worth a lot of sacrifice, and you may never return to the old habits that caused it.

I have found all the home remedies for arthritis to be fake. Gin-soaked raisins are nothing more than a placebo that may fool some people. And that is fine if they are satisfied. But home remedies do not work for arthritis. Arthritis is a serious, painful, disabling disease, and home remedies are not a joke, they are a cruelty to offer false hope to sufferers. People are desperate, and will try almost anything to try to avoid the real medications for arthritis that have dangerous side effects. Going out to buy gin and raisins or any other hocus-pocus is a waste of time, money and hope. Arthritis has been around as long as have people, and snake-oil salesmen have been around a long time too.

Gin contains juniper berry. Juniper berry can have an anti-inflammatory effect.
It may not work for some but it seems to have helped many. If the alcohol is unwanted investigate juniper teas and other possibilities for supplementation. As always use caution and learn and have a good understanding of the effects of the juniper berry.

See: Evaluation on Analgesic and Anti-Inflammatory Activities of Total Flavonoids from Juniperus sabina


From the Conclusion of the above reference:
“Traditional medicines as natural therapeutic remedies have been used in all over the world for thousands of years, and it is widely accepted that multiple constituents are responsible for their efficacy. This experimental result indicated that JSTF has analgesic and anti-inflammatory effects, and usage is safe. These pharmacological activities provide pharmacological evidence for the folk use of for treatment of J. sabina also. Further molecular and cellular experiments will be carried out to explore its effective mechanisms of JSTF including its active components.

JSTF means “Total Flavonoids from J. sabina” (JSTF)

Gin soaked raisins did nothing for me. Neither did Certo with grape juice. Other than being a complete waste of money having given it a few months with daily administration. I think for the people it “worked” it was placebo effect. In other words it was like taking a sugar pill and having faith in that “treatment.”

White raisins and gin are expensive. Certo is VERY expensive. So I probably threw a few hundred dollars out the window.

Have wanted to try this for years, just never got around to it.

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