Gin-soaked raisins: Are they purely placebo?
Q: Some people have told you that they think gin-soaked raisins only work through a placebo effect. I don’t care! Arthritis runs in my family; I and my five siblings have it. We are all in our 80s. I started on a drug many years ago and then switched to raisins as soon as I heard about them. I haven’t taken any drugs for my joint pain since. I live in a retirement community now, and am one of the few who can still go up and down the stairs from my second-floor apartment. My siblings, all unwilling to give the raisins a try, are on many different drugs and are very limited in what they can do. I couldn’t care less if the raisin remedy is all in my head. What’s more, raisins, even with gin, are much less expensive than the drugs my sibs have taken over these many years.
A: We first heard about gin-soaked raisins for arthritis more than 25 years ago. Since then, hundreds of people have told us that this home remedy is surprisingly effective against joint pain. As far as we can tell, researchers have shown no interest in this approach. There have been no clinical trials to test the effectiveness of gin-soaked raisins.
Q: After reading about green tea having a positive effect on vision, I wondered if there were any adverse interactions between green tea and prescription drugs. I take several heart drugs since having stents inserted in 2012. My Google search found an article suggesting it might interact with drugs. I’ve recently started drinking green tea, but I’m worried that it could interact with the beta blocker metoprolol I need to take. Should I not drink green tea at all?
A: Luckily, green tea and its active ingredient, epigallocatechin-3-gallate, do not appear to interact with metoprolol (European Journal of Heart Failure, May 2008). It does have other interesting interactions, however. Green tea can lower concentrations of the beta blocker blood pressure drug nadolol (European Journal of Clinical Pharmacology, June 2018). This could make the drug less effective. In addition, green tea compounds might affect blood levels of the cholesterol-lowering drugs simvastatin and rosuvastatin (Journal of Food and Drug Analysis, April 2018).
Q: I’ve always read labels carefully and avoided antiperspirants with aluminum. However, I thought that natural crystal deodorants containing potassium alum would be safe. After all, I’ve used alum for making pickles. You have written that alum is actually aluminum. Now I feel terrible that I have not only used crystal deodorant myself, but I have also given it as gifts to my entire family. I wonder how many other people have been fooled.
A: Alum is an aluminum “salt.” One of the most common forms is aluminum potassium sulfate. It is used in water treatment plants to help solidify floating particles so the water looks clear. Alum is also used in pickling. Pharmacies sell styptic pencils that contain alum. It can stop the bleeding from a shaving cut. Natural crystal ”rock” deodorants often list alum or potassium alum as the primary ingredient. Antiperspirants also contain aluminum salts such as aluminum chlorohydrate. In fact, the Food and Drug Administration requires aluminum salts in all antiperspirants. That’s because such compounds cause swelling of the pores in underarm skin. As a result, the sweat glands are blocked and sweat can’t escape. Although the FDA considers aluminum salts safe, some scientists disagree. They worry that aluminum salts might act to change the way that hormones act in the body, including in breast tissue (Journal of Molecular Biochemistry, 2018).