Folk Healing from the Plains: GIN

I don’t think this is restricted to just ’round here, but one folk remedy that we firmly believe in (some of us, anyway) is Gin.

Arthritis? Soak white grapes in gin. Eat nine a day. Believe it or not, it works.

Heart burn or stomach cramps? Mint leaves bruised with a spoon with ice-chilled gin poured on top.

Congestion in the chest? Gin with tonic – heavily laden with lemon.

Most of these are probably recognizable cocktails. But the history of gin goes further than just the bar. It was originally a medicine. There are several varieties of gin from ‘Dry’ gin, to Geneva Gin, Bombay Gin, etc.

But one cannot talk ‘Gin,’ until one speaks of Juniper Berries. Juniper Berries have been used for medicinal purposes as well as a blood cleanser. The actual ‘berry,’ is the female seed-cone from a juniper tree. Cuisine (my own included) uses juniper berries as a spice. It’s got a sharp spicy flavor that works well with chicken and wild fowl. For food, the Scandinavians make a jam from the berries for bread, the French use juniper as a pepper substitute, etc.

Anyway, juniper berries were used as medicine as far as Egypt, Greece, and the

Celts as well as Germans were noted to have used it. In our modern day, I use the juniper berries crushed with slippery elm for urinary ailments that works very well – crush and either place in water, or in gin or vodka. Drink twice a day. Also crushed berries in a dark tea help me and mine with indigestion.

Be careful – the berries can be an irritant to the digestive or urinary tract! Do shit-loads of research before you try it. It contains sabinal – which can be hazardous to your health – such as convulsions and renal failure. (

Onto Gin! The Dutch were the first to come up with this spirit. Gin is essentially made with juniper berries. Coming from a brewer family, there is a difference between fermentation, and distillation.

Fermentation is the use of yeast in a must or solution which feeds on sugars to produce carbon dioxide and… alcohol. Distillation is the vaporization of the liquid by heating, and condensing the vapor into the magically delicious drinks we know and… Well, yea. YouTube. But depending on who’s making the Gin, a combination of the two may be employed, or just one or the other. It depends by brand.

Franciscus Sylvius (also known as Franz de la Boe), a Dutchman is the one who gets the toast for the creation of gin. However, the actual juniper spirit can date back as far as the 11th century, and there are some who speculate Gin is possibly Pre-Christian.

But onto the 1600’s and 1700’s – this drink was mixed with anise, caraway, mint, I’ve seen one old account of adding cinnamon, and other herbs for the medicinal cures from chest congestion, kidney disorders, gallstones, stomach ailments, stiff joints, lumbago, gout, and still there’s more.

You should check out ‘Beer Street and Gin Lane,’ by William Hogarth.

Because of the drink’s ability to relax the person, it was one of the original drinks of ‘liquid courage,’ did you know that? It was after the 80 year war that the soldiers brought Gin to England.

From what I’ve gleaned, England really made the drink come out to the people in popularity, thanks to William of Orange (1688). Also, due to the fact that Gin was made from poor quality grain (grain too shitty for beer) Gin stills were popping up everywhere. It was a low-man’s drink, but hell if you’re living in the Ghetto during the 1750’s – Gin was a blessing. Add in the ‘Gin Craze,’ of the 1700’s with few to no regulations, many believe this drink was a nightmare, but others say that the nay-sayers’ numbers are speculation.

Of course, people have blamed the booze for social problems since time immemorial. It isn’t the booze that’s evil – it’s the under-layers of the person, that get stripped naked as the booze reveals them. With this, some people just shouldn’t touch alcohol.

But it didn’t stop jargon. The term ‘gin joints,’ to describe disreputable places is an older term, which I have yet to hear myself… But maybe I’m just too far from a city. Other terms are ‘Mother’s Ruin,’ and ‘Gin Mills.’ However, there are some good jargon as well – ‘Gin Palaces,’ for example.

In the 19th century ‘Old Tom Gin,’ became popular as it was sweeter, made with

sugar. Through the Colonies in America and onwards to Prohibition, Gin takes it’s place in the ‘Speak-Easy,’ ‘Joints,’ and other terms for bars – During Prohibition, you find ‘bathtub gin,’ in which I made with my own Grandfather growing up. HE called it Gin, I called it ‘Hooch,’ and Forensic science just shrugs.

The Gin that we Americans know today is a sister if not indirect clone of the London Dry Gin. Doesn’t change the medicinal powers of this drink, it’s versatility, as well as the ‘mood enhancing’ properties… Because when you’re in pain, Gin DOES make you feel better.




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