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Does Arthritis Remedy from the Grocery (Certo & Grape Juice) Create Benzene?

Q. Thank you for writing about Certo and grape juice. I was having excruciating pain in the metatarsal area of my foot, which caused me great difficulty walking.

After two weeks of using Certo and grape juice as you described, my feet are free of pain. Why isn’t this remedy better studied and more widely known?

A. So far as we know, no research has been done to determine the effectiveness of purple grape juice and Certo (plant pectin used for making jelly) for joint pain. This remedy goes back at least to the 1940s, and we have heard from many people like you who have had success with it:

“My hands used to be stiff when I’d get up in the morning so I tried the Certo and grape juice. It worked wonders. I have been using it for over a month with better results than all the pills I was taking.”

Our Guide to Alternative Treatments for Arthritis provides recipes for this and other arthritis remedies. One approach is to take a tablespoon of Certo mixed in 8 ounces of grape juice daily.

Here are some other anecdotal reports of success:

“I have had arthritis for several years but kept it under control for several years with MSM capsules. Last fall It hit hard and so I tried the gin soaked raisins and the Certo/grape juice remedies.

“The gin-soaked raisins stopped the pain in my knees and hands and the Certo/grape juice restored my flexibility. But, I didn’t really like drinking the grape juice every day. So, I started putting 1/2 tbl. Certo in my breakfast fruit smoothie. It works just fine.

“My smoothie has small amounts of non fat milk, orange juice, cranberry or tart cherry juice, frozen blueberries, frozen strawberries and 1/2 banana. To this I add a small amount of honey to sweeten and the Certo. I also add ground Chia seeds and hemp seeds, a bit of Ceylon cinnamon and cocoa powder (no alkaloids) and a vitamin supplement powder.

“I don’t know if the Certo works with the fruit or if it would work with anything. But for me this does just fine.” SJL

“I have enjoyed reading your column for some time and find that I now have a question of my own.  I have arthritis in my hands, knees and feet.  I was very interested in trying the grape juice and Certo remedy as many people have reported good results with it.  However, being the cautious person that I am, I wanted to do a little bit of research online before I started taking it.

“I found some information that concerned me.  On several websites it was mentioned that Certo contains sodium benzoate, which is used as a preservative.  I see that it is listed as an ingredient in the Certo that I purchased.  It was stated that sodium benzoate reacts with citric acid to form benzene, a substance that is correlated with cancer.  It was suggested to consider this risk before using this remedy.  Now I am hesitant to try it.  Do you know if there is any validity to this information?  I would be very interested in your opinion.  Thanks!” M.D.

Sodium benzoate is a preservative found in a great many foods and beverages. You will find it in salad dressings, soft drinks, juices, jams and jellies. When there is vitamin C in the food or beverage, it can combine with sodium benzoate to form benzene.The questions is, are the levels high enough to pose a risk?

When the FDA tested a variety of drinks for benzene, it found that levels were considerably below those considered hazardous. Although vitamin C (ascorbic acid) is thought to pose the biggest problem with sodium benzoate, there have been concerns raised about citric acid as well. At the moment, that seems to be less problematic.

We suspect that if you make up a batch fresh each time, which is to say if you put a little pectin in with a glass of grape juice and drink it immediately, that the benzene risk is minimal to nonexistent. Making up a large batch and letting it sit for days or weeks might pose a problem.

If you want to avoid sodium benzoate altogether, it is possible to get powdered pectin. Readers tell us that Pomona’s Universal Pectin, made from citrus fruit peel, contains no sugar, preservatives or additives.

Should you wish to avoid the grape juice & pectin remedy entirely and try some of our other suggestions for easing arthritis pain, you may find our book, The People’s Pharmacy Quick and Handy Home Remedies of great value. It has lots of other options from gin-soaked raisins to turmeric and cherry juice. Here is a link that can help you find a safe approach to easing pain and inflammation.

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About the Author
Joe Graedon is a pharmacologist who has dedicated his career to making drug information understandable to consumers. His best-selling book, The People’s Pharmacy, was published in 1976 and led to a syndicated newspaper column, syndicated public radio show and web site. In 2006, Long Island University awarded him an honorary doctorate as “one of the country's leading drug experts for the consumer.”.
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