Herbal vinegars are an excellent way to preserve the goodness of nutritious, tonic herbs and to create a valuable nutritional supplement. The herbal vinegars I’m talking about are not the culinary vinegars made with a few sprigs of kitchen herbs like rosemary or thyme, but are concentrated herbal formulas using nutrient-dense herbs and wild foods like Dandelion, Burdock, Nettles and many others.
I make at least 5 or 6 herbal vinegars each year and find I am able to use them all in various cooking projects and medicinal preparations. Over the years I have come to deeply appreciate the simple but amazing virtues of herbal vinegars.
The Virtues of Vinegar
Vinegar is an incredible medicine in its own right, with long lists of healing powers credited to its name. It comes to us from ancient times. Vinegar is mentioned several times in the Bible. Hippocrates prescribed the drinking of vinegar for his patients in ancient Greece. Columbus had barrels of vinegar on his ships for the prevention of scurvy. In fact, ancient civilizations as far back as the Sumerians used vinegar as a condiment, a preservative, a medicine, an anti-biotic and a detergent. It is antibacterial and anti-fungal and gives the immune system a good boost. As a high potassium electrolyte balancer, it remineralizes the body and helps normalize the blood’s acid/alkaline balance. Vinegar is proving most beneficial to people with arthritis because it breaks down calcium deposits in the joints while supplying minerals to the bones. Here are just a few of its other benefits:
- Reduces cholesterol (the dangerous LDL cholesterol type)
- Regulates the water content in the cells and body
- Reduces water retention in the body
- Removes excess sodium from the body
- Helps regulate blood pressure
- Assists in preventing circulatory problems
- Helps with diminishing premature calcification of the arteries
- Helps increase concentration and memory
- Assists in blood circulation
Vinegar as a Solvent
Herbal vinegars are technically a type of extract or tincture made by simply infusing (steeping or soaking) herbs in vinegar for several weeks. Vinegar acts as a solvent, which is a substance that extracts and dissolves into itself the nutrients and medicinal components of an herb. Water, alcohol, glycerin and vinegar are the basic solvents used by herbalists in medicine making. Each solvent has its strengths and weaknesses. Alcohol is considered the most powerful for extracting medicinal compounds as it can dissolve many substances that water and vinegar cannot.
Vinegar trumps alcohol by far in its ability to dissolve nutrients, and in particular minerals and trace minerals. We see this action demonstrated when vinegar is used to dissolve calcium or lime deposits that build up inside a tea kettle from hard, mineral-rich water. This same power that cleans the tea kettle can be harnessed to extract the vitamins and minerals from our herbs and wild foods!
Thus herbal vinegars are a supreme nutritional supplement. One tablespoon of a good herbal vinegar has roughly the same amount of calcium as a full glass of milk! They are excellent for preventing or countering osteoporosis as well as for building and maintaining strong, healthy bones and teeth. In fact, daily supplementation with mineral-rich herbal vinegars can replace the need for factory vitamin and mineral pills entirely!
The combination of the health-enhancing vinegar and the life-giving herbs is truly a match made in heaven!
Using Your Herbal Vinegar
- Daily Supplement : 1 or 2 Tablespoons of a good, strong herbal vinegar goes a long way towards supplying your body’s mineral needs. Vinegar is pretty intense to take straight up so just mix it with a little water. Honey-sweetened vinegars are surprisingly delicious once you get used to it. Vinegar is also really good in a glass of tomato juice, a great way to start the day.
- Salad Dressings: You can really boost the nutritional value of your salads with homemade dressings. Healthy olive oil, super-nutritious herbal vinegars, raw garlic and wild nutritive herbs are the building blocks for classy, high-powered dressings. Store-bought dressings will be history once you get the hang of making your own!
- Pickles:If you are a home canner, you can use your herbal vinegars in your pickles! How about Dandelion Dill Pickles? I make both my canned pickles and my refrigerator pickles with herbal vinegars.
- Mustards and Condiments: Homemade mustard is incredibly easy to make. It’s basically whole mustard seeds soaked in vinegar for a day or two, then sweetened and ground in a blender. There are endless variations once you have the basic recipe. Many condiments like barbecue sauce, ketchup, mayonnaise, marinades, and chutneys all have vinegar in them.
Making your own condiments is fun and a great way to show off your amazing herbal vinegars!