This Great, Great Grandmother Beat the Spanish Flu and Now COVID: Was It Her Drunken Raisins? (she says yes)

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On January 25th, 2021, Lucia DeClerck, the oldest resident in a nursing home in New Jersey, was looking forward to celebrating her 105th birthday. Instead, she contracted COVID-19. Not exactly the gift for which she hoped.

This great, great grandmother had lived through the Spanish flu, the loss of three husbands and a son, and two world wars. In an interview with The New York Times, Lucia credited her long life to prayer, living one step at a time, and eating no junk food. When she contracted COVID, testing positive just one day after receiving her second vaccine shot, she was initially and understandably quite anxious.

However, after just two weeks in isolation and after showing very few symptoms, Lucia went back to her room celebrating – she had beaten COVID-19!

According to Lucia, her consumption of gin-soaked raisins, also known as drunken raisins, helped her survive coronavirus. Lucia eats nine gin-soaked raisins each morning and has done this for most of her life. Lucia puts raisins in a jar filled with gin, lets them sit, and eats nine a day.

Drunken raisins are not a new thing; in fact, they have been around for a long time. Interestingly enough, many long-standing folk remedies eventually gain scientists’ attention who study hard to figure out how and why they work. This happened with such remedies as lavender for better sleep and chicken broth for colds, both of which are well supported by a growing library of scientific research. Could drunken raisins be next? Could Lucia be right?

Health benefits of raisins

Raisins are dried grapes containing very similar nutritional value as their hydrated self. Many people miss this fact about raisins, and because of this, they are often undervalued.  The main difference between grapes and raisins is that grapes have more water than raisins. Once the water is gone, the nutrients become highly concentrated.

This dried fruit is a nutrition bomb! Raisins are a staple ingredient in many classic dishes. They are great for regularity, bone health, heart health, energy, mood, and even your weight when eaten in moderation.

What are golden raisins?

Also known as sultana raisins, golden raisins are made from sultana grapes, which hail from Turkey. These are the most commonly used raisins for making gin-soaked raisins. Loaded with antioxidants such as resveratrol and vitamin C, raisins also contain ferulic acid, gentisic acid, and salicylic acid — known pain relievers. Also, raisins contain potassium and calcium, both of which help protect against bone demineralization.

Golden raisins are treated with sulfur dioxide to slow down the browning process. After this, they are either oven-dried or flame-dried. Sulfides left on the grapes after drying may provide anti-inflammatory benefits. Sulfur is common in many other arthritis treatments, including natural sulfur springs, garlic, and Epsom salt.

Are there any health benefits to gin?

The main ingredient in all gin is juniper berries. Juniper berries come from juniper trees, evergreen shrubs that grow in many regions around the globe. Juniper berries are deep blue and have a woody, slightly spicy aroma. 

There are known health benefits to juniper berries, including:

Juniper berries contain vitamin C: Juniper berries are similar to other berries in that they contain vitamin C. Vitamin C is beneficial for immune health, blood vessel function, and collagen synthesis. In addition, it also acts as a powerful antioxidant by protecting cells from damages caused by free radicals.

Juniper berries contain powerful plant compounds: Juniper berries contain numerous plant compounds like flavonoids, antioxidants, volatile oils, and chemical compounds called coumarins which offer protective properties. Consuming a diet that includes coumarins and flavonoid antioxidants promotes excellent health and may protect against chronic conditions such as heart and neurodegenerative diseases.

Juniper berries are anti-inflammatory: Juniper berries contain powerful essential oils and flavonoids that reduce inflammation in the body. One test-tube study found that juniper berry essential oil drastically reduced inflammation in human skin cells. Specific flavonoids, including rutin, luteolin, and apigenin, have been found in test-tube and human studies to be powerful antioxidants and anti-inflammatory agents.

Juniper berries could promote heart health: Juniper berries may promote heart health by improving good ( HDL) cholesterol levels while reducing high triglyceride levels and bad (LDL) cholesterol. An animal study found that juniper berry extract reduced total cholesterol and triglycerides by 57% and 37%, respectively, compared to a control group.

Juniper berries have antifungal and antibacterial properties: Animal studies show that juniper berries have potent antibacterial and antifungal properties due to compounds in their oil like sabinene, limonene, myrcene, and alpha- and beta-pinene.

Are the health benefits of gin-soaked raisins real?

Is Lucia onto something with gin-soaked raisins?  This type of simple natural medicine may be more effective than the refined, targeted substances in medications because the gin and raisins’ properties are working together. There is much anecdotal evidence supporting the use of gin-soaked raisins to relieve arthritis pain. The exact causative pathways of arthritis are unknown. There may be many mechanisms in the body that are affected in the development of arthritis.

Perhaps the synergy between the various natural compounds in the drunken raisins remedy creates a communication with the body to allow it to heal on a complex level that modern science cannot yet analyze or address.

Using gin-soaked raisins for relieving arthritis pain was first popularized by the late radio celebrity Paul Harvey, who mentioned them on his show. Harvey spoke about the raisins in 1994. He noted that the practice of soaking raisins in gin for pain relief had been around for over twenty years at that time. Others state that the practice dates back even earlier than this.

Paul Harvey also read letters from his audience, who had experienced positive results with the raisins, which popularized the folk remedy even more.

How to make gin-soaked raisins

The method is simple. It involves putting golden raisins in a shallow bowl and pouring just enough gin to cover them on top. Once the gin has evaporated (usually about one week), move the raisins to a glass jar with a lid. Those who support the use of drunken raisins suggest that persons afflicted with chronic pain consume ten soaked raisins daily. 

Why combine these two ingredients? It is not truly understood what makes the combination of gin and raisins so powerful. However, it is believed that combining certain nutrients can create a powerhouse of a remedy. We are still just understanding how all the macronutrients in a balanced diet work together. We know that the combination works better, sometimes cooked and sometimes raw, to provide the full benefits of food for the human body. So why not give drunken raisins a try? 

To your health,

-Susan Patterson, CBHC and Master Gardener

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