Gin is the lifeblood of dirty martinis (shaken, not stirred, thank you very much) in swanky evening cocktail bars worldwide. But does it have any health benefits? Or just make you look cool AF?
Gin is made using grains like wheat or barley. The grain is fermented and then distilled to at least 80 percent proof alcohol. But that distinct flavor comes from juniper. Ginnovators add these bad-boy berries to the fermented grain, where a gin-tastic transformation takes place.
Some people tout the benefits these berries bring as a sign that gin can act as some kind of elixir. This is a little… ginaccurate. And here’s why.
Does gin actually provide health benefits?
Well… yes and no. It certainly won’t give you magical powers or cure back pain. And most of the awesome benefits of juniper berries don’t survive the fermentation process.
Drinking any alcohol in moderation (that’s 1 to 2 drinks a day maximum) may have some health benefits. But there’s nothing special about gin in health terms — you’re probably going to get similar benefits from any other alcohol.
Drinking booze isn’t ever going to be the key to your health and wellness. Find some balance and lead an active, healthy lifestyle, and the occasional finger of gin will at least not hurt you too much. Chin chin!
Is it too good to be true?
Does gin actually provide health benefits?
No. Or at least no more than moderate amounts of any other alcohol. It is too good to be true.
Juniper berries are packed full of antioxidants and other amazing plant compounds. These compounds can have anti-inflammatory, antidiabetic and antibacterial effects on the body.
Sorry to kill the vibe somewhat, but it’s unclear whether these protective chemicals survive the fermentation process. Drinking certain types of alcohol, like beer and wine, at low amounts seems to benefit the cardiovascular system. However, drinking too much of any type of alcohol is clearly no bueno for your health.
On the plus side, Gin is a super low carb alternative to wines and beers, providing… well, zero carbs, like any distilled booze. Combining gin with a diet or low calorie tonic is ideal for peeps looking for a tipple while trying to cut down on the carbs.
Can gin help with back pain?
Some people swear by gin-soaked raisins to help with their back pain and arthritis (no, really).
But the research here is pretty thin. There’s just no evidence that gin targets back pain any more than moderate amounts of other types of booze. And relying on alcohol for pain relief can become a slippery slope leading to more than back pain.
There are other more conventional methods for managing back pain than alcohol, which you should discuss with your doctor.
Speak with your doctor if you’re struggling with persistent or severe back pain. They will help find a medical solution that works best for you and your diagnosis.
Regularly drinking large amounts of alcohol can also lead to alcohol use disorder and a long list of nasty health issues.
With only 97 calories (kcal) per shot, gin is one of the lowest calorie alcohols out there.
It contains no fat, protein, carbs, or pretty much anything except a guarantee that you’re going to hog the party Spotify playlist and insist every song is all about you.
Most gin-based drinks use mixers, though. These can be pretty sugary. So switch out for something lighter if you’re watching your weight.
We all love a good knees-up, but regular binge drinking is a big no-no.
Alcohol can damage vital organs like your brain, liver, heart, and kidneys. It can also cause depression, anxiety, and other mental health conditions.
Drinking in moderation can have some pretty neat benefits though. Just remember that it’s not a solution to any health issue by itself.
Drinking in moderation may lower your risk of stroke.
If you’re an amateur armchair sommelier, you might benefit from the protective chemicals found in wine. For example, resveratrol, a compound concentrated in red wine, has been shown to offer brain protecting properties. However, these benefits were associated with high dose supplements, not regular amounts of red wine.
According to a 2013 study, drinking a few glasses of wine throughout the week may help you ward off depression.
But drinking heavily can have the opposite effect. At the risk of sounding like a broken record, the key is a balanced lifestyle and diet.
If you’re already managing a mental health condition, keep in mind that drinking alcohol may make symptoms worse for some people.
It’s true, drinking alcohol may help your heart stay strong and healthy.
The findings of a 2012 study showed that vodka and wine have mechanisms in the body that may reduce a person’s risk of developing heart problems, with wine providing the strongest benefit.
Other studies have suggested that beer and wine may reduce risks, but spirits do not. (Sorry, gin.)
Although it looks like a few drinks on the regs provides some benefits, alcohol can harm your health in many ways if you consume too much. And are they any better for your heart than going for a run around the block or doing a few burpees? Probably not.
If you currently aren’t much of a drinker or don’t drink at all, it’s probably best to keep it that way. Straightedge is super in right now, anyway.
Here comes the real talk: Drinking too much alcohol over long periods of time can have a serious and scary impact on your health.
And even on the off chance gin provides benefits that science hasn’t found yet (doubtful), that’s why you should see it for what it is — a fine way to unwind from time to time, but certainly no tonic for any ailment you can think of.
We know, we know… “Shut up, Greatist, you’re not my frickin’ mom!”
Look, everyone overdoes it sometimes. You can obviously let your hair down occasionally. You just need to make sure that one gin-cident doesn’t turn into a bigger problem — or a regular crutch.
Here are some of the ways in which excessive drinking can impact your health.
Alcohol can damage your vital organs, making it more difficult for them to function.
Many of us have had a fuzzy head the morning after a heavy night. The dreaded hangover might be temporary. But regularly drinking too much can actually change the way your brain works.
This can make it harder to think clearly, and can have a seriously negative effect on your well-being.
It can also damage your liver, heart, kidneys and pancreas. And you really need those for your body to function.
There’s a strong link between excessive drinking and certain types of cancer, such as:
- head and neck cancer
- esophageal cancer
- liver cancer
- breast cancer
- colorectal cancer
Alcohol does a number on your immune system. If you’re regularly hitting the bottle too hard, you’re more likely to develop things like pneumonia and tuberculosis.
It also means you’ll just get sick more often.
What to do if you can’t put down the booze
It’s nothing to be ashamed of. There are loads of options out there for help and treatment.
Whether you’re struggling with a drinking problem yourself, or worried about a friend, you always have options.
Here’s a list of useful resources to help you, or a friend, ditch the booze:
- Alcoholics Anonymous: This is an international fellowship for those who live with alcohol use disorder. Find an AA meeting near you.
- NIAAA Alcohol Treatment Navigator: This is a tool to help you find treatment options in your area.
- Al-Anon: This resource can guide you in how to help a friend with a drinking problem.
- SAMHSA: SAMSHA provides a wide range of resources for folks who live with the mental health issues linked to addiction.
Drinking gin might fool your friends into thinking you actually have some class. They might even think that you’re sophisticated as you slosh your martini from hand-to-hand (no promises there).
But in terms of health benefits, you’re probably not going to get much more from gin than you would any other alcohol.
It might not turn you into an actual superhero, but regularly having a few drinks has shown to improve overall health. As long as you’re not relying on gin alone for a health boost, you can enjoy it as a small part of a balanced lifestyle.