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Nourishing and Tonifying Herbs: The Hidden Keys to Health - Vinegars - by Susun Weed

Most herbalists, throughout history, have been fascinated with poisonous plants. This fascination, along with careful study, experimentation, and observation, has given rise to pharmacy - the use of concentrated poisons - on the one hand, and to homeopathy - the use of diluted poisons - on the other.

While respecting the ability of plants to stimulate and sedate, I have focused my studies elsewhere, specifically on the nourishing abilities of plants. The main premise of the Wise Woman Tradition is that health is inherent in each being, with nourishment being the key that unlocks it. Thus, I have spent the past 30 years recommending the use of nourishing herbs to a wide variety of people with a wide variety of problems.

Because nourishing plants, by definition, can't kill, they are scorned by many herbalists. Their effects are said to be slow and weak. Yes, poisonous plants do create instantaneous results, and I do use them when I need that immediate reaction. But they always undermine health.

Nourishing plants always build health. Their effects are slower, but still rapid - with significant improvement in well-being seen in 10 days or less - and powerful, often life-changing.

I call the nourishing herbs "people's herbs" because they are safe for anyone to use for any reason. And the use of nourishing herbs is "people's medicine," our birthright of health. People's medicine is a direct threat to hierarchy medicine, whether mainstream or alternative. It returns the power of health to the hands of the individual, out of the hands of the elite.

Nourishing herbs are powerhouses of protein, minerals, vitamins, and phytochemicals that counter cancer and prolong life. The best ways to extract this richness are those that rely on water and dilute acid as solvents: that is nourishing herbal infusions and mineral-rich medicinal vinegars.

 

Mineral-Rich Medicinal Vinegars

Herbal vinegars are an unstoppable combination: they marry the healing properties of apple cider vinegar with the nutritional genius of plants - the mineral- and antioxidant-rich, health-protective green herbs and wild roots. Herbal vinegars are tasty medicine, enriching and enlivening our food, while building health from the inside out. Vinegar is unique in its ability to draw minerals out of plants. The addition of vinegar to cooked greens magnifies the minerals available to our bodies. And the addition of mineral-rich medicinal vinegar to our diet magnifies health by making high-quality minerals available.


Vinegars Seek Minerals

Minerals are important for the health and proper functioning of our bones, our heart and blood vessels, our nerves, our brain (especially memory), our immune system, and our hormonal glands. No wonder lack of minerals can lead to chronic problems and getting more can make a big difference in health in a few weeks. One of the best way to get more minerals - besides drinking nourishing herbal infusions and eating well-cooked leafy greens - is to use herbal vinegars.
     

Vinegar and Your Bones
 

It is not true that ingesting vinegar will erode your bones. Adding vinegar to your food actually helps build bones because it frees up minerals from the vegetables you eat and increases the ability of the stomach to digest minerals. Adding a splash of vinegar to cooked greens is a classic trick of old ladies who want to be spry and flexible when they're ancient old ladies.  (Maybe your granny already taught you this?)  In fact, a spoonful of vinegar on your broccoli or kale or dandelion greens increases the calcium you get by one-third. All by itself, apple cider vinegar is said to help build bones; when enriched with minerals from herbs, I think of it as better than calcium pills.


Vinegar and Candida

Some people worry that eating vinegar will upset the balance of gut flora and contribute to an overgrowth of candida yeast in the intestines. Some people have been told to avoid vinegar altogether. My experience has led me to believe that herbal vinegars help heal those with candida overgrowth, perhaps because they're so mineral rich. I've worked with women who have suffered for years and kept to a strict "anti-candida" diet with little improvement and seen them get better fast when they add nourishing herbal vinegars (and fermented foods such as sauerkraut, miso, and yogurt) to their diets.

 

Making Herbal Vinegars

Fill any size jar with freshly-harvested and coarsely-chopped aromatic herbs: leaves, stalks, flowers, fruits, roots, and even nuts can be used. For best results and highest mineral content, be sure the jar is well filled and the herb well-chopped.

Pour room-temperature vinegar into the jar until it is full.  Cover jar:  a plastic screw-on lid, several layers of plastic or wax paper held on with a rubber band, or a cork are the best covers.  Avoid metal lids - or protect them well with plastic - as vinegar will corrode them.

Label the jar with the name of the herb and the date. Put it some place away from direct sunlight, though it doesn't have to be in the dark, and someplace that isn't too hot, but not too cold either. A kitchen cupboard is fine, but choose one that you open a lot so you remember to use your vinegar, which will be ready in six weeks. You can decant your vinegar into a beautiful serving container, or use it right from the jar you made it in.

 

Which Vinegar?

I use regular pasteurized apple cider vinegar from the supermarket as the menstrum for my herbal vinegars. I avoid white vinegar. Malt vinegar, rice vinegar, and wine vinegar can be used but they are more expensive and may overpower the flavor of the herbs.

Apple cider vinegar has been used as a health-giving agent for centuries.  Hippocrates, father of medicine, is said to have used only two remedies: honey and apple cider vinegar. Some of the many benefits of apple cider vinegar include: better digestion, reduction of cholesterol, improvements in blood pressure, prevention/care of osteoporosis, normalization of thyroid/metabolic functioning, possible reduction of cancer risk, and lessening of wrinkles and grey hair.


Notes for Herbal Vinegar Makers

  • Collect jars of different sizes for your vinegars.  I especially  like babyfood jars, mustard jars, olive jars, peanut butter jars and individual juice jars. Look for plastic lids.
  • The wider the mouth of the jar, the easier it will be to remove the plant material when you're done.
  • Always fill jar to the top with plant material and vinegar; never fill a jar only part way. 
  • Really fill the jar. This will take far more herb or root than you would think. How much?  With leaves and stems, make a comfortable mattress for a fairy: not too tight; and not too loose. With roots, fill your jar to within a thumb's width of the top.
  • After decanting your vinegar into a beautiful jar, add a sprig of whole herb. Pretty.

 

My Favorite Herbal Vinegar

Pick the needles of white pine (or pinon pine) on a sunny day. Make herbal vinegar with them. Inhale deeply the scent of the forest. I call this "homemade balsamic" vinegar.
 

Using Your Vinegars

Herbal vinegars taste so good, you'll want to use them frequently. Regular use boosts the nutrient level of  your diet with very little effort and virtually no expense.

  • Pour a spoonful or more on beans and grains as a condiment.
  • Use them in salad dressings.
  • Add them to cooked greens.
  • Season stir-frys with them. 
  • Look for soups that are vinegar friendly, like borscht.
  • Substitute herbal vinegar for plain vinegar in any recipe.
  • Put a big spoonful in a glass of water and drink it. Try it sweetened with blackstrap molasses for a real mineral jolt. Many older women swear this "coffee substitute" prevents and eases their arthritic pains.  
  • Herbal vinegars in the diet have a reputation for banishing grey hair and wrinkles.
  • Spray sage or lavender vinegar in the armpits as a highly-effective deodorant.
  • Use rosemary or lavender vinegar as a hair rinse to add luster and eliminate split ends.
  • Anything vinegar can do, including clean the kitchen, herbal vinegars can do better.

Weedy Herbal Calcium Supplement

 

Use one or more of the following plants to make an herbal vinegar that can reverse and counter osteoporosis. Dose is 2-4 tablespoons daily.


Amaranth (Amaranthus retroflexus) leaves

Cabbage leaves

Chickweed (Stellaria media) whole herb

Comfrey (Symphytum officinalis) leaves

Cronewort/Mugwort (Artemisia vulgaris) young leaves

Dandelion (Taraxacum off.) leaves and root

Kale leaves

Lambsquarter (Chenopodium album) leaves

Mallow (Malva neglecta) leaves

Mint leaves of all sorts, especially sage, motherwort, lemon balm, lavender, peppermint

Nettle (Urtica dioica) leaves

Parsley (Petroselinum sativum) leaves

Plantain (Plantago majus) leaves

Raspberry (Rubus species) leaves

Red clover (Trifolium pratense) blossoms

Violet (Viola odorata) leaves

Yellow dock (Rumex crispus) roots

 

Plants That Make Exceptionally Good-Tasting Herbal Vinegars

Apple mint (Mentha sp.) leaves, stalks

Bee balm (Monarda didyma) flowers, leaves, stalks

Bergamot (Monarda sp.) flowers, leaves, stalks

Burdock (Arctium lappa) roots

Catnip (Nepeta cataria) leaves, stalks

Chicory (Cichorium intybus) leaves, roots

Chives and especially chive blossoms

Dandelion (Taraxacum off.) flower buds, leaves, roots

Dill (Anethum graveolens) herb, seeds

Elder (Sambucus canadensis) berries

Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare) herb, seeds

Garlic (Allium sativum) bulbs, greens, flowers

Garlic mustard (Alliaria officinalis) leaves and roots

Goldenrod (Solidago sp.) flowers

Ginger (Zingiber off.) and Wild ginger (Asarum canadensis) roots

Lavender (Lavendula sp.) flowers, leaves

Mugwort (Artemisia vulgaris) new growth leaves and roots

Orange mint (Mentha sp.) leaves, stalks

Orange peel, organic only

Peppermint (Mentha piperata and etc.) leaves, stalks

Perilla (Shiso) (Agastache) leaves, stalks

Rosemary (Rosmarinus off.) leaves, stalks

Spearmint (Mentha spicata) leaves, stalks

Thyme (Thymus sp.) leaves, stalks

White pine (Pinus strobus) needles

Yarrow (Achilllea millifolium) flowers and leaves


Herbal Vinegars Where You Eat the Pickled Plants, too

 

Burdock (Arctium lappa) roots

Chicory (Cichorium intybus) leaves, roots

Dandelion (Taraxacum off.) flower buds, leaves, roots

Garlic bulbs

Leek tops

Purslane (Portulaca oleracea) leaves and stalks

Yellow Dock  (Rumex crispus) roots

Rosehips (Rosa rugosa)

Raspberries/blackberries

 

Chart 1: Minerals in Herbs Used As Medicinal Vinegars

per 100 grams dry weight

  • Peppermint: calcium (1620mg), manganese (6.1mg), magnesium (661mg), phosphorus (772mg), potassium (2260mg), and selenium (1.1mg)
  • Garden thyme: calcium (1350mg), chromium (2.0mg), iron (147mg), magnesium (436mg), manganese (6.4mg), selenium (1.6mg), silicon (20.2mg), and zinc (1.5mg)
  • Yellow dock root: calcium (1000mg), magnesium (320mg), phosphorus (757mg), potassium (1220mg), selenium (2.5mg), and silicon (1.3mg)
  • Garden sage: calcium (1080mg), chromium (0.3mg), magnesium (285mg), manganese (3.0mg), potassium (2470mg), silicon (3.1mg), and zinc (5.9mg)
  • Burdock root: calcium (733mg), chromium (2.0mg), iron (147mg), magnesium (537mg), manganese (537mg), phosphorus (437mg), potassium (1680mg), selenium (1.4mg), silicon (22.5mg), and zinc (2.2mg)
  • Dandelion root: calcium (614mg), chromium (0.9mg), iron (96mg), magnesium (157mg), manganese (6.8mg), phosphorus (362mg), potassium (1200mg), selenium (0.86mg), silicon (4.7mg), and zinc (1.3mg)

 

Chart 2: Minerals in Herbs Used Mainly As Vegetables

  • Kelp: calcium (3040mg), magnesium (867mg), manganese (7.6mg), phosphorus (249mg), potassium (2110mg), selenium (1.7mg), silica (7.6mg), and zinc (0.6mg)
  • Amaranth greens: calcium (1210mg), phosphorus (324mg), and potassium (1864mg)
  • Dulse: calcium (632mg), chromium (2.7mg), magnesium (593mg), potassium (2270mg), selenium (3.3mg), silicon (36.8mg), and zinc (3.9mg)

 

For Curious Minds

 
Experiment Number One      Test vinegar's ability to absorb minerals

 
Put a fresh bone in a jar and completely cover it with vinegar. What happens? Does the bone becomes pliable and rubbery? How long does it take? Will eating vinegar dissolve your bones? Only if you take off your skin and sit in it for weeks!

 

Experiment Number Two      Make egg shell vinegar

Fill a jar one-quarter full of vinegar. Drop crushed egg shell into it. What happens? Does the vinegar foam? How long does it take? Egg shells are exceptionally rich in bone-building minerals. Can you taste the calcium in this vinegar?

 

Experiment Number Three   Explore medicinal vinegars

Make four or more vinegars with the same plant, using different types of vinegar, including both pasteurized and unpasteurized apple cider vinegar. (For the others, use rice vinegar, malt vinegar, wine vinegar, or even white vinegar, but not umeboshi vinegar.

Taste your vinegars daily for a week, then weekly for five more weeks. You may, if you wish, decant some of your vinegars for use after six weeks. But you may also wish to keep observing them as they age (for years, if you wish). I have some vinegars which are more than 30 years old and still in good shape. Note which stay edible the longest, and what happens to those that become inedible.

             

Experiment Number Four     Explore medicinal vinegars

Buy a quart or more of unpasteurized apple cider vinegar. Use two cups to make several small herbal vinegars: one with roots, one with leaves, and one with flowers. Boil the other two cups. Make one herbal vinegar with the boiling hot vinegar. Make another with the boiled vinegar after it has cooled. Continue as in experiment number three.

 

Further Study

 

1.        Drink 2-4 cups of nourishing herbal infusion for a month and see if your health changes in any way. Best if you don't drink coffee or tea during this month.

2.        Choose a green ally to focus on this year.

3.        Read Healing Power of Minerals by Paul Bergner.

4.        Read about stinging nettle and oatstraw in my book Healing Wise.

5.        Make vinegars at different times of the year and compare them.

6.        Unpasteurized vinegar can form a "mother."  In a jar filled with herb and vinegar, the vinegar mother usually grows across the top of the herb, and looking rather like a damp, thin pancake.  Kombucha is a vinegar mother. Does your local health food store sell mothers? Kombucha? What is a vinegar mother? Is it harmful?

7.        What is an ionic form of a mineral?

8.        What is a mineral salt?

9.        How do our bodies uptake and utilize minerals?

 



Susun Weed, green witch and wise woman, is an extraordinary teacher with a joyous spirit, a powerful presence, and an encyclopaedic knowledge of herbs and health. She is the voice of the Wise Woman Way, where common weeds, simple ceremony, and compassionate listening support and nourish health/wholeness/holiness. She has opened hearts to the magic and medicine of the green nations for three decades. Ms. Weed's four herbal medicine books focus on women's health topics including: menopause, childbearing, and breast health.

 

Visit her site  for information on her workshops, apprenticeships, correspondence courses and more or contact her at:


Susun Weed

PO Box 64

Woodstock, NY 12498

Fax:  1-845-246-8081


For permission to reprint this article, contact us at:
susunweed@herbshealing.com

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Legal Disclaimer: This content is not intended to replace conventional medical treatment. Any suggestions made and all herbs listed are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease, condition or symptom. Personal directions and use should be provided by a clinical herbalist or other qualified healthcare practitioner with a specific formula for you. All material contained herein is provided for general information purposes only and should not be considered medical advice or consultation. Contact a reputable healthcare practitioner if you are in need of medical care. Exercise self-empowerment by seeking a second opinion.

 

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Browse the publishing site - Ash Tree Publishing - to learn more about her alternative health books.

 

Venture into the NEW Menopause site to learn all about the Menopausal Years the Wise Woman Way.

Or Join the Forum! Susun Weed’s Wise Woman Forum - an open space for discussion. Make yourself at home, post a message or start a discussion. This place is for you to share your questions, concerns, and comments with other wise women like you. Take a moment to register and become part of the community. Enjoy!
 

 

Susun Weed’s books include:

 

Wise Woman Herbal for the Childbearing Year

Author: Susun S. Weed. Simple, safe remedies for pregnancy, childbirth, lactation, and newborns. Includes herbs for fertility and birth control. Foreword by Jeannine Parvati Baker. 196 pages, index, illustrations.

Retails for $11.95 Order at: Ash Tree Publishing

 
Healing Wise 

Author: Susun S. Weed. Superb herbal in the feminine-intuitive mode. Complete instructions for using common plants for food, beauty, medicine, and longevity. Introduction by Jean Houston. 312 pages, index, illustrations.

Retails for $17.95 Order at: Ash Tree Publishing

 

New Menopausal Years the Wise Woman Way

Author: Susun S. Weed. The best book on menopause is now better. Completely revised with 100 new pages. All the remedies women know and trust plus hundreds of new ones. New sections on thyroid health, fibromyalgia, hairy problems, male menopause, and herbs for women taking hormones. Recommended by Susan Love MD and Christiane Northrup MD. Foreword by Juliette de Bairacli Levy. 304 pages, index, illustrations.

Retails for $16.95 Order at: Ash Tree Publishing

For more great info on menopause, visit the site.

 
Breast Cancer? Breast Health!

Author: Susun S. Weed. Foods, exercises, and attitudes to keep your breasts healthy. Supportive complimentary medicines to ease side-effects of surgery, radiation, chemotherapy, or tamoxifen. Foreword by Christiane Northrup, M.D. 380 pages, index, illustrations.

Retails for $14.95 Order at: Ash Tree Publishing

For more great info on Breast Health, visit Susun's Breast Health site.



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