Vinegar’s Virtues

Island Epicure


One of vinegar’s first and best uses in the past was, and still is, as an antiseptic. Back in 400 B.C. Hippocrates doctored his patients with “oxymel” which was vinegar mixed with honey. Germs and viruses had not been identified yet. People blamed evil spirits or night air for their sicknesses. Hippocrates had his patients sleep on covered porches. The only medicines he administered were his oxymel, fresh air, simple nourishing food, and lots of rest. His fame for curing the patients at his hospital has endured for 2418 years!

During the plague years of the 1300’s when a huge percentage of Europe’s population died, monks stayed healthy because they washed their walls, floors, bodies and clothes with vinegar. They even took part in gathering and burying the bodies of people who died of bubonic plague without themselves perishing or even getting sick. Let’s remember next winter in flu season to wash our hands often and rinse with half vinegar, half water, and to wash kitchen counters, door knobs and drawer pulls with vinegar. For cleaning purposes, I use distilled vinegar bought by the gallon.

Vinegar kills mold, too. In hot, humid weather mold proliferates. Lets not forget to turn on the fan to keep the air in our bathrooms moving and to dry it after we’ve showered, lest we invite unsightly–and to some folks allergenic–mold to bathroom walls and ceilings. I go over the metal window frames in my house with a vinegar dampened rag or sponge to prevent mold and to remove any black mold that appears.

Vinegar trounces dust mites. My floors are washed with a basin of water augmented with a cupful of vinegar. It cleans and sanitizes floors throughout the house and may be as instrumental in preventing colds as the magic potion and magic tinctures I’ve mentioned often in my column.

Nutritionally, vinegar contains potassium and several vitamins, depending on which fruit’s juice was the basis of the vinegar. I keep several vinegars on hand: apple cider vinegar, rice vinegar, red and white grape wine vinegars, and light and dark balsamic vinegars.

More virtues of vinegar:
Fights fat; keeps weight down
Balances blood pressure
Boosts immune system
Reduces risk of heart attack
Helps prevent cancer
Slows aging
Aids digestion
Eases joint pain

A few drops of vinegar in your pet’s drinking water prevents fleas.
I start the day with a teaspoon of vinegar and a teaspoon of honey in a cupful of hot water. My doctor says I look twenty years younger than my chronological age. I think she flatters me, but even so, the vinegar and honey combo help prevent fatigue and contribute to keeping my body hydrated.
An easy way to treat yourself to vinegar’s advantages is to use it as an ingredient in salad dressing such as this one:

Makes about 1 cup

¼ cup vinegar
¾ cup extra virgin olive oil
½ teaspoon salt
⅛ teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
½ teaspoon, or to taste, Dijon mustard

Place all ingredients in a jar. Lid it and shake it well. Refrigerate until ready to serve. This goes well with a vegetable salad.