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Gin...without the tonic

While there is no scientific evidence that gin has any medicinal benefit, one piece of folklore has persisted. That’s the use of gin-soaked raisins to treat arthritis.

While there is no scientific evidence that gin has any medicinal benefit, one piece of folklore has persisted. That’s the use of gin-soaked raisins to treat arthritis. The common recipe is to take a box of golden raisins, soak them in gin for a few weeks until the gin evaporates and then eat nine a day. Various explanations have been forwarded as to why this works, usually speculating about anti-inflammatory compounds in juniper berries or in the raisins. Pretty far-fetched speculation given the tiny amounts of these compounds present.

Of course there are testimonials galore. That isn’t surprising since if you are dealing with a disease that has its natural ups and down, like arthritis, you can muster a collection of testimonials for anything be it copper bracelets or snake oil. If an intervention seems to work, you sing its praises, not considering that the improved feeling is just part of a natural cycle. If an intervention does not work, nobody goes around broadcasting the folly of their endeavour.

Famed columnist Paul Harvey’s mention of the drunken raisin phenomenon in 1994 triggered widespread experimentation resulting in a slew of gushing testimonials. Certainly the most entertaining one came from a correspondent who claimed he couldn’t remember if it was to be seven pints of gin and nine raisins or nine pints of gin and seven raisins. He tried both. No pain! My bet is that it was the nine pints of gin that did it. And they did it by the same mechanism with which they can treat a cold. Here it is. When you have a cold, place a hat on the bedpost and start drinking gin. When you see two hats, the cold will be gone. Or at least you’ll forget about it.

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