Originally published in Arthur No. 22 (April 2006)
The Best Condiment
by Molly Frances, “New Herbalist” columnist
In February, Mrs. Susie Potts Gibson of Tuscumbia, Alabama, passed away at a youthful 115, the third oldest person on the planet at the time. Mrs. Gibson was by all accounts a spirited and healthy SuperCentenarian who lived on her own until she was 106. So what did Mrs. Gibson attribute her extended stay on the big blue marble to?
That’s right young’uns: the “sour wine” just may be what flows from the fountain of youth. Not only has vinegar been revered for thousands of years for its life-extending property, but also as a remedy for a host of ailments: arthritis, digestive disorders, high blood pressure, weight control, laryngitis, migraines, chronic fatigue, warts, acid-reflex and sore throat. Hippocrates, ancient Egyptians, Babylonians, Julius Caesar, Christopher Columbus and Japanese samurai warriors all made use of its awesome tonic properties.
Longevity’s not your bag, you say? Then how about a little spring cleaning? Not only is vinegar a naturally-occurring antibiotic that heals your insides, it is also an antiseptic that will spruce you up on the outside too. It fights germs, bacteria, mold and viruses. Hot date coming up? Surprise your lady with a mold-free shower, sparkling faucets and streak-free mirrors and windows. A 50/50 combo of vinegar and water administered through a spray bottle beats any industrial cleaning product hands down and keeps you from trudging down the least savory supermarkets aisles. By using vinegar as your prime cleaning agent you are also saving money and reducing the amount of unnecessary chemicals in our water supply.
If you’re feeling dull and down, ditch the coffee and booze and reach for a glass of apple cider vinegar instead. This potassium and enzyme-rich concoction made from fermented apples is the nutritive powerhouse of the vinegars and the primary variety for internal use and personal hygiene. Dry skin, fungal infections, ear infections, poison ivy, shingles, varicose veins, insect bites, sunburn and gray hair are all at your mercy when armed with nature’s tangy nectar. Susie Potts Gibson knew this; not only did she splash it on everything she ate, but according to her granddaughter, she applied it topically to chase away those meddlesome aches and pains. So go ahead and ask for that vinegar massage you’ve always wanted. It also makes an excellent de-toxifier when added to a hot bath, or a reinvigorating shampoo. Lord Byron consumed loads of the stuff to maintain the pale complexion that drove the ladies, as well as the boys, hog wild.
Every science nerd knows that vinegar is the essential ingredient in any homemade volcano, but did you know that a splash of vinegar followed by a quick dust of baking soda makes an unbeatable homespun, non-Alzheimer’s-causing underarm deodorant? Just be aware of the possibility that in addition to long-lasting, non-toxic odor protection, you may also experience the aforementioned “volcano effect.” Do not panic. This is normal.
If you can’t be bothered with using vinegar out of vanity, do it for the animals! A few teaspoons slipped into their water bowl will send the fleas and parasites in search of a new host. Your old dog may finally muster up the energy to learn a new trick or two.
What kind of vinegar should you buy? As you know, the industrial powers-that-be have found devious ways to produce visually appealing products while robbing them of their inherent benefits. Vinegar has not escaped this fate. The most common form of commercially produced vinegar is distilled, a process that destroys the spongey cobweb-like particles—known as “Mother” in vinegar lore—that linger in properly fermented vinegar. Don’t be afraid of Mother. Mother is good for you. So do your part to crush the dominant paradigm, and embrace your Mother. Go for the cloudiest, most particle-ridden vinegar brew you can find. This will usually require a trip to your local health food store or farmer’s market, or find it online at bragg.com.
You can drink two teaspoons daily of apple cider vinegar straight up, add honey and water to make a healing elixir, or just drizzle it generously over your veggies. It also makes a mean salad dressing when paired with olive oil and fresh spices. The prophet Muhammed didn’t declare it “the best condiment” for nothing.