Herbal Vinegar: An Easy, Versatile Folk Remedy

| 5/2/2018 2:04:00 PM

Photo by Sarah Baldwin

Vinegar has been one of humanity’s staple brews for millennia, with the earliest known record of its use dating back 10,000 years. Its discovery was likely a happy accident when wine was left out and exposed to air, allowing wild yeasts to ferment the beverage into the health-promoting concoction we know as vinegar. In fact, the word vinegar comes from the French term vin aigre, meaning “sour wine.”

Benefits of Vinegar

There are many different types of vinegar, and most of them possess medicinal properties even without the addition of herbs. Vinegar has been used in folk medicine for numerous issues from indigestion and arthritis to wounds and warts. Many folks consider it to be a health-promoting tonic and imbibe vinegar daily to ease various chronic issues and maintain vibrant health.

Vinegar has been used as an antimicrobial long before the term was created. In times of plague during the Middle Ages, an herbal vinegar known as Four Thieves was used to prevent infection by legendary French robbers who stole from the dead and dying. According to Maggie Oster in her book Herbal Vinegar, recipes for Four Thieves vary, but they often include rosemary, rue, sage, wormwood, mint, lavender, and camphor.

Indeed, modern research has shown vinegar to have antimicrobial, antioxidant, and anti-tumor properties. It can also help lower cholesterol and blood pressure, as well as normalize blood sugar. Adding vinegar to a meal promotes better absorption of calcium, which is especially important for aging women. In fact, vinegar does a great job of extracting minerals from foods and herbs and making them more available to our bodies. Herb-infused vinegars combine the best of both worlds: You get the healing power of plants combined with the added mineral absorption and health benefits of vinegar.

Making Herbal Vinegar

Herbal vinegars are easy to make, very similar to crafting a tincture. Mineral-rich medicinals like chickweed and nettle as well as aromatic leaves like bergamot and lemon balm make great vinegar infusions. You can also choose spicy plants like garlic and ginger or other kitchen-friendly herbs such as rosemary and dill. Apple cider vinegar (ACV) is a good choice because it’s readily available at health food stores in an organic, unpasteurized form. You can use the simpler's method of chopping up fresh herbs, filling a jar, and covering the herbs completely with ACV. Or, you can weigh out one ounce of fresh herbs for every two liquid ounces of vinegar.