The term "vinegar" can be applied to solutions derived from the fermentation of a wide range of bases, including apple juice, other fruit juices, wine, beer, barley and rice. Besides its distilled form, which has acetic acid as its main ingredient, vinegar finds its way into our kitchens in salad dressings, pickles, ketchup, and mayonnaise. The health benefits of vinegar are ancient and wide-ranging.
What health conditions can common vinegar cure or alleviate? Based on what is passed down across generations, a more appropriate question might be: what can't it cure? Among other things, vinegar has been brought to bear on wounds, ulcers, arthritis, high blood sugar, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, urinary tract and yeast infections, sunburn, jellyfish stings, insect bites, headaches, warts and hiccups. It is also said to aid in dieting by creating a feeling of fullness that results in less food intake.
Many of these uses date back to the beginning of recorded history. Vinegar was praised by the Babylonians, Hippocrates, and Muhammad. According to the New Testament, it was offered to Jesus while he hung on the cross — an action generally regarded as a continuation of his torture, but which may actually have been merciful. In today's kitchens, vinegar is used mainly as a condiment. Balsamic vinegar and vinaigrette are popular salad dressings, and fish and chips are traditionally flavored with vinegar, as well.
A Japanese study conducted in 2006 indicated lowered cholesterol in rats that were fed acetic acid, and two tablespoons of vinegar taken with meals has been shown to reduce the glycemic index of pre-diabetics. In fact, based on tests done at Arizona State University, the journal Diabetes Care compared vinegar to anti-diabetes drugs such as Metformin. Most dramatically, vinegar seemed to moderate the inevitable spike of insulin and glucose after meals.
With arthritis, it appears that a mixture of apple cider vinegar and honey has the capacity, in some cases, to dissolve the acid crystals that develop in joints and cause much of the discomfort for arthritis sufferers. There is, however, no evidence that the vinegar will “cure” the condition, and even pain reduction doesn’t seem to happen in every case.
Perhaps most curious is the effect that a teaspoon of white distilled vinegar “straight” has on hiccups. By most accounts, the relief is almost instantaneous, along with a pained and puckered expression.
The town of Roslyn, South Dakota in the United States celebrates the health benefits of vinegar as part of its annual Vinegar Festival.