Naturally fermented vinegars are medicines in and of themselves, and they are also an excellent medium for extracting the medicinal properties of herbs. In fact, vinegar facilitates and strengthens the effects of the herbs extracted within it, especially stimulant and expectorant herbs, and we’ve been using vinegar in this way since the days of ancient Sumer. Medicated vinegars are easy to make, easy to take, and they last for decades.
If you’ve ever used diluted apple cider vinegar as a face wash, you know the cleansing, softening, and toning effect it has on the skin. Vinegar has the same purifying effects when taken inside the body. Like all fermented foods, naturally fermented vinegars such as apple cider, malt, grape, or rice vinegar are incredibly healing and beneficial to the digestive tract. They aid in kidney function and alleviate inflammatory conditions both internally and externally, including fevers. These vinegars are rich in nutritive minerals and help the body regulate its acid/alkaline balance. The potassium salts contained in vinegar bring balance and vitality to the nerves, lungs, metabolism, and blood.
Unlike alcohol-based tinctures, medicated vinegars can be given to just about anyone, regardless of their tolerance for alcohol, and they last just as long if made with dried herbs. Herbal vinegars can be sweetened with honey and fruit juices to become an absolutely delicious way to take medicine or enhance your culinary dishes. Your imagination is the limit when it comes to the types and styles of medicated vinegars you can make, and you’ll always have potent medicine at hand. For hands-on experience and tastings, come to Betsy Miller’s upcoming class on making Medicinal Vinegars and Syrups on April 22nd at Smile.
It’s best to use dried herbs when making vinegars. If you have fresh herbs to use, make sure you let them wilt or dry slightly, perhaps overnight, so that you aren’t introducing too much water into your vinegar.
To make a medicated vinegar:
- Grind or chop your herbs into powder or smallest pieces possible.
- Combine your herbs and vinegar in a wide-mouthed jar, making sure the vinegar completely covers the herbs.
- Seal it well and place in a cool, dark place. Shake it every day for 10-14 days or up to 8 weeks.
- Strain out the herbs, squeezing through a cheesecloth if you have it, store your vinegar in sterilized bottles or jars, cap it tightly and keep in a cool, dark place.
- Don’t forget to label it!
If you’re infusing roots or barks (instead of leaves and flowers), there’s an extra step: After you’ve strained your vinegar, heat it to the boiling point, but don’t boil it. Filter it again while it’s hot. Then pour into your sterilized bottles and label.
Build Those Bones Vinegar Tonic:
from Claudia Joy Wingo
Combine any of the following herbs to an amount of 1 ½ cups:
Dandelion leaf & root (Taraxacum off.)
Horsetail (Equisetum arvense)
Nettle leaves (Urtica dioica)
Red Clover leaves & flowers (Trifolium pretense)
Oatstraw (Avena sativa)
Red Raspberry Leaves (Rubus sp.)
Plantain leaf (Plantago sp.)
Yellow Dock root (Rumex crispus)
Lemon Balm leaf (Melissa off.)
4-5 prepared and crushed free range egg shells* (see below)
2 cups apple cider vinegar (with the mother)
1 tbs organic honey
Combine all of the above in a sterilized wide neck jar, making sure vinegar completely covers the herbs. Add a bit extra if needed. Seal well and place in a dark, cool place, at least 2 weeks and up to 8 weeks, shaking several times daily. Strain well and reseal.
Use 1-2 Tbs daily over salad, vegetables or straight for an absorbable mineral source.
1 Tbs = 100-150 mg calcium
*To prepare egg shells, peel out the filmy inside layer, wash well and bake in a low oven (300F) for 10-15 minutes to sterilize.
Herbal Vinegar For Colds & Flu
3 tbs minced onion
3 tbs minced garlic
3 tbs grated fresh ginger
3 tbs grated fresh horseradish
3 tbs mustard seeds
3 tbs black peppercorns
1 or more whole cayenne chilies (or 1 tsp dried chili flakes)
about 1 cup vinegar
1/3 cup honey
Combine all ingredients into a sterilized, wide-mouth jar. Cover completely with vinegar so there is about 1 inch of liquid space above the ingredients. Let the mixture sit for 2 weeks, shaking daily. Pour vinegar over the mixture to fill the jar. There should be about 1 inch of liquid space above the other ingredients. Cap with a plastic lid (since the vinegar will corrode a metal lid). Let the mixture sit for 2 weeks shaking the bottle daily to mix the herbs and the liquid. After two weeks, strain the mixture using cheesecloth so that you can squeeze the herbs to extract all of the liquid. You’re almost done with your herbal vinegar at this point. Add the 1/3 cup of honey to help preserve your mixture. Pour into a clean bottle, and label and date it before storing it away in your cupboard.