If you have a television and ever turn it on, you are inundated with ads for new & improved household cleaners and “wonderdrugs.” This one will really deep clean and that one will prevent a pesky build-up, and it hardly matters whether we’re talking about ovens or arteries.
I eye all those commercials with skepticism for the dubious claims, the toxic chemical components, and for the cost. I’ve been suckered into those before and literally or figuratively been burned.
It turns out that there actually is a substance that is pretty close to a “wonder” liquid. It’s good for your health, it makes a great household cleaner, and it’s incredibly cheap by comparison.
It’s time to take another look at vinegar.
A lot of people wrinkle up their noses at the mere mention. I teach science labs in our homeschool group and take a lot of ribbing for the telltale odor on the days we work with vinegar (though nothing like I hear when we use cabbage water as a pH indicator!). But it really is multi-purpose.
The History of Vinegar Use
Vinegar has been in use for about as long as humans can remember. It was prescribed by Hippocrates already 2400 years ago. Laborers in the Old Testament created an electrolyte-replacement drink from vinegar, salt, and water also.
Vinegar was used to treat scurvy and digestive problems in Greece, the Roman Empire, and in Asian cultures. When the Roman army was on the move through varying climates and during battle, they used vinegar to help their bodies recover from the stress.
During the Plague, some people claimed to have survived their exposure by breathing through a vinegar soaked cloth. Since vinegar is credited with antiseptic qualities, it may very well have been the element that saved them.
Early on, people also realized that vinegar, due to its acidic nature (a pH value of approximately 2), was a good preservative. This allowed them to keep uneaten food without refrigeration. In many cases, they probably improved the nutrition of these hunted and foraged items.
Another lesser known historical use of vinegar is as a leavening agent in baking. Think back to that volcano model you had to help your child with for Science Fair. What did you combine to make the lava erupt? Vinegar and baking soda (another fine substance- but a topic for another day).
What is Vinegar?
This pungent liquid is really a product of alcohol fermentation. It can be made from a variety of juices (grapes, rye, rice, etc), but the most familiar one is apple. This kind is a gold mine of healthy components. Unfortunately, most vinegar we see in stores is not true apple cider vinegar (ACV) but distilled vinegar instead.
The distilling process creates a more visually pleasing product, but robs this wonderful liquid of its life-blood of nutrients. It is thought that the beneficial bacteria in ACV are what provide the positive health benefits, much like those in yogurt. When using ACV for health reasons, you will want to seek out unprocessed (not distilled) vinegar. It may be cloudy or even appear to have some sediment in it. This is a good thing- it means the beneficial parts have not been removed.
For cleaning solutions, the cheaper distilled versions common in every grocery store (often used in making pickles) will work perfectly well (and probably be less pungent).
Top Medicinal Uses of Vinegar
You won’t find any pharmaceutical companies rushing to study vinegar’s amazing health benefits because they can’t patent it, so don’t expect to hear much about vinegar during commercial breaks. You’ll have to dig into history and folk remedies to find recipes.
- treatment of acid reflux and heartburn- despite the fact that vinegar is an acid, it has proven to be a great help to many people when taken with water.
- regulating blood sugar– vinegar appears to help stabilize the levels of sugar in the blood after meals. Including vinegar in the meal- through salad dressings or pickles maybe- could help prevent spikes.
- stings– to reduce the pain, swelling, and other symptoms related to stings from insects or even jellyfish
- absorption of other nutrients– some vitamins and minerals are only optimally used by the body in the presence of each other (for example, calcium and vitamin D- the reason it is added to milk). Vinegar seems to help the body utilize nutrients in food.
- killing food-borne pathogens– acidic vinegar has been shown to reduce illness from food poisoning by killing the bacteria and parasites before they can sicken people.
Top Household Uses for Vinegar
Many people know that vinegar can be used as a replacement for window cleaning fluids, but here are a few you may not be as familiar with.
- preventing cross-contamination in the kitchen– it has been recently discovered that using separate mists of hydrogen peroxide and vinegar on surfaces is more effective at killing bacteria and viruses than even bleach solutions.
- fabric softener– this is a low-cost, chemical-free way to get soap build-up out of clothes and leave them fluffier and soft.
- meat marinade– brings out flavor, tenderizes, and kills bacteria present on the cut surface of the meat
- absorbing bad smells– we were skeptical of this, but can attest to it. Ten years ago, our beagle was sprayed by a skunk at point blank range on our porch. She immediately fled into the house and the smell was awful. Someone told us to put out bowls of white vinegar. Desperate, we tried and within hours, the smell was gone.
For more ideas, check here, here, and here. Also, you may be interested in Honey, Garlic, and Vinegar Home Remedies and Recipes, the source for some of the above information.
Okay, so vinegar isn’t quite a panacea, but as you can see, it has hundreds of uses and deserves a prominent place in your preparedness plans.
What is your favorite use for vinegar? Please share it in the comments section below.