Vinegar was used as medicine for thousands of years in China and Europe. Historically people would create curative beverages involving mixtures of culinary herbs, spices, water, and vinegar. The famous Hippocrates used a mixture of honey and vinegar in his medical practice to treat coughs. Drinking vinegar was called switchel by American colonialist and it is considered a classic American remedy for many conditions.Today, drinking vinegars have gained momentum in large cities. Recently a famous Portland, Oregon restaurant, Pok Pok, made drinking vinegars very popular when they started to serve and sell them in local grocery stores. Drinking vinegars are surprisingly tasty and refreshing beverages. They are often flavored with fruit and are a good option for electrolytes rebalancing after a hard workout. In Chinese Medicine drinking vinegar is considered to soothe the Liver and is a natural remedy for stress, tension, headaches, hypertension and other conditions.
What is a normal Liver?
When Chinese medical practitioners use the term Liver, they are not necessarily referring to the organ located on the left side of your abdomen. The Liver in Chinese Medicine is a term for a number of physiological and mental processes.The Chinese do not separate the mind, body and emotion as different human processes like in Western society. Mind, body and emotion all are intertwined in Chinese Medicine theory so terminology often sounds simplistic but really encompasses many levels of physical and psychological health.
A dysfunctional Liver is very common in American culture, as many people feel stressed and suffer from pain.
Some physical signs of a Liver in excess
- difficulty sleeping
- grinding teeth at night/jaw pain
- frequently sighing
- feeling on edge, about to burst,
- tendency to anger outbursts
Some emotional Signs of Liver in excess
- Emotional repression
- Difficulty making decisions
- Mental rigidity (my way or the highway)
To learn more about the Liver in Chinese medicine check out these two previous blog posts.
How does vinegar help create balance in the Liver?
Vinegar is considered both bitter and sour in flavor in Chinese medicine. Sour flavor consolidates and generates fluids. The bitter flavor descends. These energetic properties to the flavors of bitter and sour found in vinegar with help descend the edgy, chaotic, rising energy of liver in excess. Just think about how anger rises in your own body, tenses your neck, and sometimes will cause tension headaches. That is the exact experience of liver in excess. By using the dual flavors of bitter and sour vinegar calms the rising tense physiological and emotional energy in the body.
Soothing the Liver, in the Chinese sense means calming down processes and feelings in the body that are that are amped up or stuck. Frustration is a feeling of stuckness. Anger and stressed feelings often stem from feelings of frustration and pressure. Feeling amped up or constantly “on” can lead to energy in the body rebelling and spurting upwards creating hypertension headaches and tense neck and shoulders. Drinking vinegars help balance many physiological processes in the body that can become dysfunctional with the Liver is unregulated.
There are many high quality drinking vinegars you can find in grocery stores and food co-ops. However making drinking vinegars at home is easy. This recipe is easy to make. Drinking vinegars are very safe to consume but if you have any questions talk to your Chinese medical practitioner if drinking vinegars are right for your health needs. And always remember to dilute vinegar before drinking it – drinking undiluted vinegar is harmful to your teeth. 1tsp of unfiltered apple cider vinegar contains 11mg of potassium. And 1tsp of blackstrap molasses contain 1460mg (or 1.46g) of potassium. People need between 2-4g of potassium a day. Vinegar also contains sodium, a necessary electrolyte making it a great alternative to high sugar sports drinks for replenshing eletrolytes after a hard workout.
Homemade Drinking Vinegar
- 1tsp unfiltered apple cider vinegar
- 1tsp honey or molasses
- 1 cup of water
Mix the apple cider vinegar, honey/molasses and water together and drink. You can work your way up to 1 tablespoon of cider to 1 tablespoon of honey/molasses. If you are a menstruating women with heavy periods, consider using the molasses to sweeten your drinking vinegar. One Tablespoon of molasses contains 20% of our iron needs, and is especially helpful to consume while on your period.
Otherwise, try mixing up the flavor of your drinking vinegar by mixing it with 1 tsp of grapefruit bitter, regular bitters, or adding in some crushed, fresh herbs like thyme, rosemary, lavender petals, basil, or fresh ginger. For crushing fresh herbs, I like to use a mortar and pestle.
An example recipe by Lindsey Thompson
- 1tsp apple cider vinegar
- 1 tsp grapefruit bitters
- 1 tsp honey
- ½ tsp crushed lavendar petals
- 1 cup water
Or swap out the lavender for ¼ tsp grated, fresh ginger.
You can also take a jar fill it with 4-8 sprigs of fresh thyme or rosemary, and fill the rest of the jar with apple cider vinegar. Let it sit for a week and then you will have a deliciously, herb infused vinegar to use to make drinking vinegars.
-Bennet Jr, Paul Muscle Cramps are Symptoms of Improper Hydration and/or Electrolyte Imbalance http://www.1vigor.com/article/electrolytes-hydration-athletic-performance/ Date Retrieved 3/9/16
-Pitchford, Paul. “Healing with Whole Foods” North Atlantic Books. Third Edition. 1996.
-Homemade Drinking Vinegars http://imbibemagazine.com/homemade-drinking-vinegars/ Date retrieved 3/1/2016
-Drinking Vinegars http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1785201/ Date retrieved 3/1/16
Photo credit:Heart Beet Kitchen http://heartbeetkitchen.com/2015/canningpreserving/apple-shrub-recipe/