Q. I am getting tired of reading about raisins and gin for arthritis. Surely you know that arthritis is a serious condition that shouldn’t be treated with home remedies. How can you propose something that doesn’t have scientific validity?
A. It is true that there are no double-blind, placebo-controlled trials for gin-soaked raisins. Nevertheless, we have heard from many people who have found this remedy helpful. Here is one example:
“I had heard about raisins and gin before for arthritis pain, but upon reading your column I offered it to my husband. He has arthritis in his neck from soft tissue damage and a recent whiplash.
“Although before starting this remedy he was taking Tylenol and Advil like candy, he’s actually had pill-free days with the gin-soaked raisins! The jokes are endless, but the results are definitely there.”
We know that such anecdotes do not carry any weight with skeptics. On the other hand, you might be surprised at the lack of science to support the benefits of NSAIDs (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) for arthritis. A scientific analysis of 23 different studies was published in the British Medical Journal in 2004. This “meta-analysis” involved more than 10,000 patients and revealed a shocking discovery:
“NSAIDs can reduce short-term pain in osteoarthritis of the knee slightly better than placebo, but the current analysis does not support prolonged use of NSAIDs for this condition. As serious adverse effects are associated with oral NSAIDs, only limited use can be recommended.”
Another analysis of NSAID use (Rheumatology, Oct. 2000) found that short term improvement over 4 weeks could be detected. The researchers concluded, however, that:
“Our results do not show long-term benefits from the use of NSAIDs in OA [osteoarthritis] and the majority of patients had persisting pain and disability despite therapy.”
So, despite the belief that both prescription and OTC pain relievers work to ease the pain and disability of arthritis, the scientific validity (to quote our skeptic) of such treatment is lacking. Arthritis lasts a lot longer than four weeks. It is a chronic condition that can persist for decades. That is why we are always on the lookout for safer alternatives. Despite the anecdotal nature of the reports we get, we think that the relief people share with us and our visitors is real. Here are just a few more stories from real folks:
“We were visiting family up in Oregon, and my sister-in-law showed me your book, The People’s Pharmacy Quick & Handy Home Remedies: Q&As for Your Common Ailments. She tried the raisins steeped in gin for an arthritic shoulder, and it worked wonders for her. While visiting, I tried the “magic raisins” for my aching knee and was delighted when the pain disappeared after two days’ of dosing with the raisins. I would like to buy a copy of your book. Please tell me how to obtain it.”
We are astonished that some people get relief so quickly. Most individuals report gradual improvement over 6 to 8 weeks. Of course not everyone benefits. But that is also true of ibuprofen, naproxen, indomethacine or diclofenac. Anyone who would like to know more about our book and other publications can find information at this link.
“Recently sent $2.00 check for your pamphlet re: gin-soaked raisins and Alternative Treatments for Arthritis. Since reading your article in the newspaper, I have used your remedy daily. It’s difficult for me to believe, in a way, but I do seem better, and in fact, on the third day, there was no leg pain at all. And, of course, the added joy–no upset stomach. What a relief that is. I’d been using Celebrex for over two years and before, years of diclofenac and other NSAIDs. Anyway, I do have a question that perhaps you can answer. (Perhaps it will be in the pamphlet, but thought I’d ask now):
“Should I just put a handful of the golden raisins in a dish, pour over gin and let evaporate, and then use them until they are gone, or would it be better to prepare daily? I covered the dish with plastic wrap and am using them up now. Would they be more effective if freshly made? Thank you for your many hints that have been helpful over the years, and your help now. L.V.
“P.S. I am an R.N. and have worked in public health, and recognize the value of herbal remedies, as do many M.D.s and D.O.s I know.”
Most people make up a batch, put them in a glass container (they don’t have to be refrigerated but can be) and eat nine daily. For anyone who would like more information on gin-soaked raisins and other nondrug approaches to arthritis pain, we offer our various publications with details on preparation and use. Here is a link to learn more.
Share your own raisin remedy experience below or tell us how you have made out with other approaches for arthritis.