Although gin-soaked raisins are a folk remedy for arthritis popularized during the 1990s, as of 2015, there are no placebo-controlled double-blind scientific studies that support its rumored effect on arthritis pain, explains Carol Eustice for About.com. However, there are multiple untested theories on why this remedy might work.
The specific type of grape used in gin-soaked raisins is known as the sultana grape, which is treated with sulfur dioxide to make golden raisins. One theory suggests gin-soaked raisins' positive effects come from the sulfides, reports Eustice, while another theory attributes them to the juniper berries used to make gin. Furthermore, the anti-inflammatory compounds in grapes, raisins and juniper berries may play a role. However, it is also possible that arthritis pain is mitigated by natural pain mediators and endorphins stimulated by the placebo effect.
Gin-soaked raisins are believed to have first entered the American consciousness during the 1990s when Paul Harvey, a well-known radio host, referenced the folk remedy during a broadcast, states Eustice. From there, the recipe spread and testimonials began to spring up attesting to its efficacy. In 2004, presidential candidate John Kerry's wife Teresa Heinz Kerry brought up gin-soaked raisins during a discussion about health care. Variations on the recipe exist but unanimously agree that the raisins must be golden raisins, sometimes referred to as white raisins.