Rating the raisin remedy

July 19, 1998|By Liz Doup

Searching for relief from arthritis pain, some folks will try anything.

Eating gin-soaked raisins, for instance.

"I've had patients tell me they've tried this, but there's no science behind it and they find it doesn't work," says Dr. Cody Wasner, a rheumatologist and medical adviser for the Arthritis Foundation. "There's a prevailing attitude that arthritis is simple and you can treat it with folk remedies, like you're treating a corn. But arthritis isn't simple."

The gin-raisin theory has been around at least since 1994, when commentator Paul Harvey reported it on his syndicated radio program and in his newspaper column. The theory resurfaced recently in columns by Joe Graedon and Teresa Graedon, whose People's Pharmacy column runs Sundays in The Sun.

The recipe for relief: Each day eat nine - some versions call for seven - golden raisins that have been soaked for seven days in gin. Harvey claimed that the juniper berries in gin are the active ingredient that helps ease the pain.

For those who insist that the gin-raisin treatment is effective, the Arthritis Foundation points to the placebo effect. It's like wearing a copper bracelet. You might think it works if you believe in it.

The foundation also issues this warning: Alcohol should be avoided by those who suffer from gout, a form of arthritis, because alcohol can make the condition worse.

Alcohol does have some fleeting pain-relieving effect and raisins contain vitamins, minerals and traces of anti-inflammatory compounds, according to a nutrition newsletter published by the University of California at Berkeley. But it also notes that a few raisins can't contain enough of these substances to have any effect.

The newsletter's suggestion: "For pain relief, stick to pain relievers sold in drugstores, put raisins on your cereal and skip the gin."

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