When you think of vinegar, you might think of that liquid that has a strong smell and taste, and that you hold your nose and swallow. You might also use it while cleaning or in making a salad dressing.
However, infused with medicinal herbs, you can turn vinegar into a wonderful alcohol-free healing extract. It is not as potent as an alcohol-based tincture in drawing the medicinal properties out of the substances you use, but vinegar is much better than alcohol at drawing out the minerals and other nutritive qualities from a plant. This makes vinegar a wonderful alternative for children, those who have alcohol sensitivities, and those who abstain from alcohol.
The history of vinegar is fascinating. While we all know that vinegar is a staple in many folk remedies, for thousands of years it was the base of many medicines. Hippocrates prescribed vinegar to his patients in ancient Greece. Before the still was invented, vinegar was the liquid of choice, along with other solvents like water and wine. The original Four Thieves essential oil blend that robbers used to protect themselves from the plague is said to have used vinegar at its base. Columbus made sure he had barrels of vinegar on his ships to help prevent scurvy.
Vinegar, especially apple cider vinegar, has many health benefits. It is antibacterial and anti-fungal, and gives your immune system a good boost. Because vinegar has a high potassium electrolyte balancer, it can help normalize your body's acid/alkaline balance. Studies show that vinegar can help maintain healthy blood sugar levels, as well as helping you to regulate your cholesterol. Including some vinegar in your diet will help aid your digestion, which maintains a good energy level. Besides internal use of vinegar for your health, applying them externally to skin and hair helps keep them healthy, too.
When choosing which vinegar to make your infusion with, avoid the use of distilled vinegars. The distillation process removes important minerals, such as potassium, as well as the important acids that make it beneficial at fending off toxins and unfriendly bacteria. Raw vinegar is usually the vinegar that produces the best results, because it is very enzyme-rich. However, because it is raw, the storage life is much shorter – the vinegar should be used in under two months. If you know that you won't be using it in that period of time, filtered vinegar is the best option.
Besides making an extract from vinegar alone, if you're body allows it, you can also make an extract that combines both vinegar and alcohol to make what's called an acetous tincture. This method will allow for more active properties to be released than vinegar alone. However, properly prepared straight vinegar extracts still have many medicinal properties to offer. Because vinegar extracts do not have the same strength as an alcohol based tincture, the dosage needed for the same effect will needed to be higher.
Fresh herbs infused in the vinegar also make an excellent culinary, as well as medicinal, addition to your foods, since the vinegar extracts the flavor as well as the nutrient of the herb. Next time you make an Italian dish, consider using a vinegar infused with fresh rosemary or thyme.