Usually, we use it as a cooking ingredient, but historically it had industrial, medical, and domestic uses. We still use it in some of those ways today.
For example, some household uses of vinegar:
A vinegar application will loosen a rusted or corroded bolt. If you pour half a cup of baking soda down a clogged drain and add 4 ouncesof vinegar and cover the drain for a minute, it will clear the drain in a “green” fashion. Two tablespoons of vinegar and 2 tablespoons of maple syrup to a quart of water will aid in keeping cut flowers longer. For streak-free window washing, use a: ½ cup of ammonia and 3 tablespoons of vinegar added to each quart of warm water is excellent for washing windows without leaving film or streaks. Using newspaper to do the wiping also helps.
It was an accidental discovery in ancient times that grape juice, left undisturbed, turns into wine. That was good. But wine, left undisturbed, eventually turns into vinegar. Not so good – until uses of vinegar were discovered.
We don’t have written records, but legend has it that the Sumerians of ancient Babylonia used vinegar as a cleaning agent. Probably accidentally, they discovered that vinegar slows or stops the action of bacteria that spoils food so they used it as a preservative. Caesar’s armies used vinegar as a beverage and as a condiment. Cleopatra supposedly made a bet that she could consume a fortune in a single meal. She then used vinegar to dissolve some precious pearls. It is said that Helen of Troy bathed in vinegar to relax.
Of course, many of these claims are usually categorized as legend, home remedies, natural healing or old wives’ tales. I don’t know if many nutritionists or physicians would give their stamp of approval to vinegar as a treatment, but scientists and researchers have found a number of vinegar uses to be legitimate.
Vinegar became one of our first medicines around 400 BC. Hippocrates, Greek physician, writer and the father of medicine, extolled vinegar’s therapeutic qualities. He prescribed drinking vinegar to his patients for many ailments.
It’s probably not dangerous to try some treatments. For example, for athletes foot, you can try using vinegar for a week. Same thing with trying it for chapped sore hands or a fungus condition on hands or other parts of the body. And some people recommend it for treating dandruff.
Vinegar shows up a number of times in the Bible in both the Old and New Testaments where it is a beverage (probably in a diluted and sweetened form). Jesus was given vinegar just before he was crucified which seemed to me as a child as a punishment, but it can be viewed as a drink. Biblical references to vinegar show up as as a condiment to dip bread and as a remedy for infections and wounds.
I still see articles regularly on using vinegar to relax, promote deep sleep, get relief from insomnia, rheumatism, arthritis, bone pain, stress, and even heart ailments.
One of the ways you’ll find vinegar consumed is mixed with apple cider and perhaps honey. You can adjust the amount of vinegar and honey for comfort and taste, but a recipe found online in many places is:
250 ml (8 oz) Water – warm enough to melt honey
1 to 2 teaspoons Apple Cider Vinegar (Organic usually recommended)
1 to 2 teaspoons honey (Of course, honey has its own supposed healing properties, including support for heart and
lungs, relief from allergies and to build immunity.
When apple cider and honey combine, the chemical formula of each changes. If you have concern about the acid content of apple cider vinegar or the sugar content of honey, the two working together may not produce negative results.
As a child, my mother used a cloth soaked in vinegar on my forehead as a headache cure. (I hated the smell.) She also used 2 teaspoons of vinegar in a glass of water for gas, indigestion, or diarrhea. The one that seemed counter-intuitive to me was using this “acid” for “heartburn” (acid reflux). Two tablespoons of apple cider vinegar with a 1/4 teaspoon of sodium bicarbonate (Baking Soda) in an 8 ounce glass of water. The science of that is to create a drink with the right pH. Solutions with a pH less than 7 are said to be acidic and solutions with a pH greater than 7 are basic or alkaline.
Legend has it that in France during the Black Plague, four thieves were able to rob houses of plague victims without being infected themselves. When they were captured, the judge offered them freedom if they revealed how they managed to stay healthy. They claimed that a medicine woman sold them a potion made of garlic soaked in vinegar (soured red wine) and ever since then variants have been made under the name “Four Thieves Vinegar.” Don’t expect to find it at your local drugstore, but it is a staple of New Orleans hoodoo practices.