Gin soaked raisins are reputed to be an effective treatment for arthritis. I am not usually one for toting around old wives’ remedies, but this one both intrigued and tickled me.
Methods vary, but it essentially boils down to this: Take some golden raisins (not the dark variety) and soak them in gin for a week. Some sources say to leave them open to allow the alcohol to evaporate, some say to keep them in a sealed jar. After a week the raisins should have absorbed the gin and have plumped-up.
Once ready, refrigerate and eat nine or ten raisins a day. Reports suggest that symptoms are gradually relieved until after five weeks when the relief reaches maximum effect.
There is speculation abound about what makes this work for people. Some people think it is the sulphur dioxide that is used in preserving the colour of the raisin (given that dark raisins don’t appear to have the same effect). Some people think it might be something to do with the juniper oils in the gin, having been used historically for treatment of inflammation, amongst other things. Others extol the virtues of the grape (and by extension the raisin), claiming that they are crammed with pain reliving and anti-inflammatory chemicals.
I will point out that I have been unable to find any scientific evidence for the efficacy of this treatment, but there is plenty of anecdotal testimony out there. Whether this actually works, is a placebo effect or whether being slightly inebriated makes people feel better about their pain, I simply cannot say. Please don’t take this as medical advice and always consult someone who knows what they are talking about before self medicating like this.
I am thankfully not afflicted with arthritis, so I cannot really try this myself (except maybe trying it on elderly relatives).However, if I do reach a ripe old age and find myself suffering with arthritis, I will be hitting the gin and dried fruit.
Gin has a murky and checkered past, but where did it come from?
Well, juniper berries have seen widespread use for centuries; the Egyptians used them to treat tapeworms, the Greeks used juniper to increase physical stamina in athletes and the Romans used it as an inexpensive bulking agent for the expensive black pepper.
In the 11th century, Italian monks were using juniper berries to flavor crudely distilled spirits and was used as a treatment for the bubonic plague. There are various accounts of the distillation of juniper berry wine as was common across large parts of Western Europe through the ages.
However, the man generally accredited with the invention of gin is the Dutch physician Franciscus Sylvius. Rather than gin, it was then known as Jeneve and was far from his only achievement; he established the first academic chemical laboratory and founded the Iatrochemical School of Medicine, which expounded that diseases were the result of chemical actions. His research into the brain led him to the discovery of the Sylvian Fissure (also known as the lateral suculus) and he was a keen art collector. Not a bad patriarch for gin, eh?
Sylvius was credited with the invention of Jeneve in 1650 and it was sold in pharmacies as a treatment for a catalogue of kidney and gastric disorders across Holland. English soldiers fighting in the Eighty Years’ War were said to have taken a liking to the spirit, so much so, that through the bravery that mild inebriation brought, the term Dutch Courage was born. However, since the Eighty Years’ War ended in 1648, there is some historical discrepancy between these two accounts.
Whatever the particulars though, gin was bought to us by the Dutch and popularised by English soldiers; and the English have been grateful ever since.
Watch this space for the continuing saga of gin.
So, what is gin?
Gin is a spirit which derives its main flavour from juniper berries. Each gin is different and will typically have a number of other ingredients that add to the flavour; these are termed ‘botanicals’ and, as the name suggests, are plant-based.
EU law defines three types of gin.
Sometimes known as ‘compound gin’, this is made from ethyl alcohol and flavourings. The alcohol does not have to be re-distilled and the flavourings can be either approved natural or artificial flavourings. The alcohol and flavourings are just mixed together (compounded) to form the gin. There are no restrictions on the addition of other additives (as long as they approved for food use), sweeteners may be added as well as colourings.
Frankly, this should be called ‘gin-flavoured spirit’.
Distilled gin is a bit more traditional and is made in a traditional still by redistilling alcohol in the presence of natural flavourings. Additional flavourings can be added after distillation and these can be either natural or artificial and colourings may be added.
This is where the quality steps up a notch. London Gin is made in a traditional still by re-distilling alcohol with natural flavourings. The alcohol used must be of a higher standard than usual guidelines (methanol content in the ethyl alcohol must not exceed a maximum of 5 grams per hectolitre of alcohol). The flavourings have to be approved natural flavourings and they must impart the flavour during the distillation process. Artificial flavourings are not permitted and no flavourings may be added after distillation. Small amounts of sweetening may be added after distillation, provided the sugars do not exceed 0.5 grams/litre of finished product (although most London Gin doesn’t have any sweetening). London Gin cannot be coloured.
So, that’s gin in a nutshell.