Q: My husband had severe pain in his legs and hips. A friend told us about using golden raisins soaked in gin. He started taking this and experienced remarkable improvement. He is not sure if this pain was from traumatic arthritis, as he had a major accident in the past.

I hope you will share the raisin-and-gin remedy with your readers. It has been a miracle for my husband. You only take 10 raisins per day, in the evening. He could barely get out of a chair before he started taking this home remedy.

A: The first time we heard about the “gin-and-raisin remedy” was more than 25 years ago. A reader sent us this message: “A neighbor gave my wife a recipe for arthritis relief that involves soaking golden raisins in gin. When the gin has completely evaporated, she is to eat nine raisins a day. She’s just starting to eat these raisins, so we don’t know yet whether it will make any difference. Our neighbor says it has helped his shoulder pain. What do you think?”

Because this was the first time we had heard about this remedy, we didn’t have an opinion. Our answer was lame: “Gin is flavored with juniper berries, but the concentration is not very high. Juniper has been used historically for treating stomach problems, as an inhalant for bronchitis, and even for arthritis. We could find no research confirming that juniper is helpful in arthritis, let alone gin-soaked raisins.”

That was written on May 16, 1994. Since then we have heard from hundreds, if not thousands, of people that eating nine gin-soaked golden raisins daily can help ease arthritis pain. Not everyone benefits, though. Why some get relief and others do not remains a mystery.

For more details about this and many other quirky remedies, we offer our book, “Graedons’ Guide to Alternatives for Arthritis.” It can be found in the book section of our store at www.PeoplesPharmacy.com.


Q: A friend told me recently that some vitamin formulations may interfere with thyroid medication. I take 125 micrograms of levothyroxine. Sometimes I take my thyroid pill with my cereal and milk, coffee, juice and vitamins. Would any of that change the effectiveness of my thyroid replacement?

A: It is entirely possible that your breakfast routine is interfering with your thyroid medication. If your multivitamin contains minerals like calcium, iron and/or magnesium, those minerals could block adequate absorption.

Milk, yogurt or calcium-fortified orange juice also could impede thyroid absorption. Finally, coffee can reduce the amount of thyroid that gets into the bloodstream (Thyroid, March 2008).

You would be better off taking your thyroid medicine at least two hours before or after breakfast. Have your doctor monitor your blood levels carefully, as changing your routine may impact your thyroid requirement.

Q: I read once that long-term use of ginseng might lead to high blood pressure. I feel that happened to me.

I am now on a “mild” blood pressure medicine called valsartan. I never had hypertension until I started taking ginseng.

A: The effect of ginseng on blood pressure is controversial. A systematic review analyzed data from nine randomized controlled trials. Some studies actually showed that Korean red ginseng might lower blood pressure (Current Vascular Pharmacology, Issue 6, 2017). Other research did not confirm this and some data suggest that ginseng may contribute to high blood pressure (Acta Cardiologia, Jan. 1, 2018). We would encourage caution.

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In their column, Joe and Teresa Graedon answer letters from readers. Write to them in care of King Features, 628 Virginia Drive, Orlando, FL 32803, or email them via their website: www.PeoplesPharmacy.com. Their newest book is “Top Screwups Doctors Make and How to Avoid Them.”