Vinegar – It’s not just for French fries!


Whenever I had a sore throat, my mother would insist that I gargle with vinegar. I, of course, thought she was nuts: Possibly, because that’s what she used to wash the Windows every Spring. You wouldn’t gargle with Windex, right? And, if the dog accidentally peed on the carpet, she blotted it up and then poured vinegar on it to prevent an odor. Crazy! But, like many things, it turns out that my mother was right. 

These days, vinegar is touted as a cure-all and credited with treating everything from warts to cancer. There is also an impressive history. Hippocrates used vinegar to treat wounds and Cleopatra dissolved precious pearls in vinegar to create a love potion. Sung Tse, the 10th century creator of forensic medicine, washed his hands washing with vinegar to avoid infection during autopsies. And vinegar “teas” were used by US medical practitioners of the late 18th century for ailments ranging from poison ivy and croup to stomach aches.

But what does the evidence say? I looked up two common health issues that affect my family. First, weight loss. In a study in Japan, 175 obese – but healthy – people took either vinegar or water every day, for 12 weeks. They ate very similar foods and kept journals. In the end, those who used vinegar had lost slightly more weight. (They gained it all back when the study was over.)

The theory is that vinegar interferes with the body’s absorption of some fats. It also seems to block the digestion of some starches, which is where the Diabetes comes in. While some studies indicate that vinegar might lower blood sugar, nobody is suggesting that you throw away your insulin. In fact, if you have a slow emptying stomach (gastroparesis), sometimes an issue for diabetics, vinegar might make it worse.

What are the drawbacks to taking vinegar? Even diluted in water, it increases the acid in your system. Some doctors feel this puts a strain on your kidneys – an important consideration if you have Diabetes. And never drink it straight. The high level of acid could harm your tooth enamel and possibly your esophagus, over time.

The most popular, recommended methods is to dilute 1 to 2 tablespoons in a big glass of water and sip it with a meal twice a day. Unfiltered apple cider vinegar is also best, but certainly not the prettiest. It’s usually cloudy and appears to have stuff floating in it, known as “the mother.” But it’s actually beneficial bacteria, including probiotics. It can reportedly boost immune function and might help with constipation.

I bought some nice cider vinegar from one of the local apple orchards. The owner’s daughter told me that her husband started taking “a shot” of vinegar daily and had noticed an immediate improvement in joint stiffness and heartburn. But I just use it on my salads, with some extra virgin olive oil.

Herbal vinegars are fun! They look pretty on the counter and are great in salad dressings. My friend and minister, Susan, formerly owned and operated an herb farm. She taught me to make herbal vinegar:

  • Using the freshest herbs possible, rinse and DRY them well.
  • The more herbs, the more flavor – Don’t be shy.
  •  5% acidic, white vinegar is best and she never uses apple cider or balsamic. 
  • Pick out pretty bottles to store it in. But never use a metal lid. Mason jars are convenient, but buy plastic tops. 
  • There are no rules or steadfast recipes for herb selection – Use what you like. I prefer lots of garlic and some hot, red peppers. Sometimes I use herbs that look pretty floating in the vinegar, like dill and tarragon.

Allow to cure 2 weeks in cool, dark place. In my experience, it keeps for a really long time, even on the counter.

Now, about those squeaky clean windows…. Window cleaning with vinegar will not leave the usual film or streaks on the glass. Mix equal parts of white distilled vinegar and warm water. my mother always used crumpled newspaper instead of paper towels. Our windows were amazing!

Vinegar cubes can be made by filling an ice tray with vinegar and a little water. Run a few through the garbage disposal and then flush with cold water. It disinfects and kills odors.

White distilled vinegar can help to dissolve mineral deposits in automatic drip coffee makers. When my Keurig tells me to descale, I fill the reservoir with white distilled vinegar and run it through a brewing cycle. Rinse thoroughly with water when the cycle is finished. (Be sure to check the owner’s manual for specific instructions.)

Boil a solution of 1/4 cup of white distilled vinegar and 1 cup of water in the microwave. It loosens splattered on food and deodorizes. When you’re done, pour it down the kitchen sink. It clears cogs and deodorizes the drain. Let it stand 30 minutes and flush with cold water.

Washing counter tops, cabinets and floors with white distilled vinegar deters sects, including ants, fruit flies and gnats.

Cleaning with vinegar makes stainless steel appliances shine! And, for cleaner dishes and sparkling glasses, pour 1 ½ cup to 2 cups white distilled vinegar in the bottom of dishwasher, along with regular dishwashing soap. It also removes water stains and mineral deposits.

In the bathroom, vinegar also freshens and removes stains from the shower and the toilet bowl.

You might even use some herbal vinegars for cleaning – Think lavender, citrus or pine!

Really, the possibilities are endless. And vinegar is not expensive. You can spray it, dilute it, heat it or freeze it and it’s still effective! Buy some the next time you’re at the store and let me know what you think!


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