The Power of Vinegar

As I read the Parade section in last week’s Sunday Forum, the headline of an advertisement caught my eye: Vinegar is like a Drugstore in a Bottle.  Since I actually “prescribe” vinegar for certain conditions, it peaked my curiosity. Certain types of vinegar have been touted as a wonder cure for hundreds of ailments since ancient times, and the ad listed almost every one of them.

 And beyond its potential healing properties, vinegar’s cleaning properties also make it shine. Even before the days of  “eco-friendly,” a big jug of white distilled vinegar lived in the cleaning closet at my grandma’s house, my mom’s and now, my own home.
Here are my favorite uses for vinegar:
1. Ear Drops.  When I see patients who complain of painful and itchy ears, I first do a careful exam, of course. I remove any wax. Sometimes I find yeast or fungus in the ear canal, which can cause significant inflammation and needs to be treated with antifungal drops and sometimes oral medication. These ears also require cleaning one to two times a week until all of the fungi is gone. Once things have settled down, I recommend a half and half mixture of white distilled vinegar and everclear alcohol, placed in a dropper bottle and used as ear drops, 3 to 4 drops three times per day. Rubbing alcohol can be used as well, but has a higher water content than everclear. These drops shouldn’t be used when the ear canal is acutely inflamed, or if there is a hole in the eardrum or a tube. It would really sting!
2Laser treatment recovery.  After I perform a CO2 or fractional resurfacing laser treatment for smoothing facial wrinkles, I suggest diluting vinegar soaks. It helps to minimize itching and softens any crusting that occurs. Starting the evening after the treatment, I have patients use cold filtered water, adding 1 to 2 teaspoons of white distilled vinegar. A few wet 4 by 4 gauze pads are applied over the treated areas, replacing them before they dry… every five minutes or so. This is done for 30 minutes 4 times a day for 2 to 3 days. after a pat dry, with no rubbing or picking, Vaseline or Aquaphor is applied liberally.
3. Sunburn, eczema, poison ivy outbreaks. Vinegar soaks can also be very helpful for these conditions. If it is too stingy, use a little less vinegar and make sure the water is nice and cool.
4. Cleaning. When I grew up, a floor wasn’t clean unless it was scrubbed by hand with vinegar and water. My mom thought mops just pushed the dirt around. So on our hands and knees, we scrubbed. We also used vinegar and water in a recycled spray bottle for the mirrors and windows. I have a front loading washing machine, and I use a quarter cup of vinegar with every load to combat the musty smell.
5. Salad dressing. My friend Heidi in Seattle taught me how easy it is to make the dressing in about two minutes. I use a glass jar that used to hold spices. Use one part vinegar of your choice to 3 parts olive oil, a little bit of sweet (like a generous teaspoon of honey or maple syrup) and a teaspoon of brown mustard. If I’m going sugar-free, I use  stevia. Then I use a little salt and pepper and shake it up. Easy and very tasty. You can use different types of vinegar and add herbs if you’d like to change things up.
Some people swear by a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar in water as a morning drink. I haven’t tried it, but many people feel that it’s a preventative tonic for them.
Enjoy!
Dr Sue

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