Vinegar has been used for thousands of years. In fact, in 2000 B.C., it was a commercial product. It has been used as a preservative, seasoning, beverage and medicine. In fact, Hannibal actually used it to dissolve boulders as he was crossing the Alps.
The Romans gave it to their soldiers to make a beverage to drink on the march. The French actually gave it the common name, which means “sour wine.” If a wine cask developed a crack, that’s what happened to the contents.
While anything with sugar in it can ferment into vinegar, not all of them are palatable. Most commercial vinegars are made with a natural starter called a “mother.” Most cultures figured that out, and there are numerous types around. The most common are apple cider, distilled white, rice wine, red wine, white wine and balsamic vinegars.
Hippocrates loved the healing qualities of vinegar. He wrote of using it to treat wounds, sores and ulcerations. He is considered to be the “Father of Medicine.” Experts agree that it can be helpful to reduce microbes, but recommend against using it on wounds. They do recommend using it to clean dentures, as it is less likely to cause tissue damage than bleach.
Believe it or not, midwives in remote areas have a good use for vinegar…detecting human papilloma virus in women. Contact with the acids in vinegar causes visible changes that indicate the presence of the virus.
Studies indicate that vinegar can lower blood pressure, though it may also effect calcium. One indication the latter is possible dates back to Cleopatra. She once wagered she could consume a fortune in one meal. She dissolved several pearls in vinegar and drank it, thus winning.
Animal studies suggest that it may have some anti-tumor or anti-cancer properties. Scientists have not yet conducted studies in humans, so we are a ways away from using it for that purpose.
Since the late 1980s, scientists have been investigating the use of vinegar to help manage blood sugar in people with diabetes. So far, studies are positive, but again they are not quite ready to recommend a teaspoon or so of vinegar to diabetics.
Mary Bodel, MH has been a master herbalist since 2004 although my training began long before I reached that level. I believe that health encompasses more than taking care of our bodies. It involves everything from what we eat to what we read. It involves our spirit as well as our body.