Medicine Making: Apple Cider Vinegar

February 5, 2015


Medicine Making - Apple Cider Vinegar

What is it?

Apple cider vinegar is a fermentation of apples. A chemist would say apple cider vinegar is an acid, composed primarily of acetic acid and malic acid. An herbalist would say that its sour taste is acidic and therefore contains acids. Medicine made with apple cider vinegar is called acetate.

To make your own apple cider vinegar:

  • Find local apples, preferably from your own or your neighbor’s apple tree. You need apples that are still covered in natural airborne yeasts to make the fermentation

  • Cut the apples into quarters. Where I live the apples do not get too big, so quarters work. You many need to cut your apples up a little more.

  • Let them brown up a bit while doing the next steps.

  • Fill a large jar or bucket; depending on how many apples you have, with spring water. For each cup of water, add 1 tablespoon of unpasteurized honey.

  • Stir the water until the honey dissolves.

  • Then add the apples. Stir some more while thinking good medicine making thoughts

  • Cover the jar with cheesecloth.

  • Stir frequently, at least once a day. Don’t forget the medicine making thoughts.

  • First it will turn into hard apple cider, but give it a few more days, and it turns to vinegar. Strain, bottle and label.

Buying Your Apple Cider Vinegar

It is really important to pick up unpasteurized apple cider vinegar, preferably organic and unstrained. If the apple cider vinegar is heated, all its healthful flora (remember it’s a fermentation) is killed off. Many people use Braggs Apple Cider Vinegar Raw Organic. The extra cost is worth it.

Why useful apple cider vinegar in medicine making?

There are so many reasons why apple cider vinegar is an excellent solvent to put to use in the apothecary.

  • It’s easy to make it yourself and therefore cost effective and local! (See below for recipe)

  • It supports an alkaline environment in the body. An alkaline body has higher stomach acids. (This is a good thing; minerals and proteins are broken down efficiently in the stomach before entering the absorption arena of the small intestine. Often an acidic body has lower stomach acids thus creating more digestive upset including heart burn.)

  • Anti-microbial. An alkaline body tends to suffer with fewer infections.

  • Eases pain. An acidic body, one where the diet is heavy on red meats and carbohydrates, tends to be more painful than an alkaline body, particularly in the joints. Apple cider vinegar eases the acids from joints reducing pain.

  • Studies show apple cider vinegar help moderate blood sugars for those struggling with type two diabetes. No one is sure why, it may have to do with enzymes contained in the apple cider vinegar or perhaps again it is the alkalizing effects of apple cider’s acids.

As a solvent

Apple cider vinegar is a great solvent is you choose the herbs to combine it with carefully. It is the superior solvent for extracting minerals (including trace minerals) from plants. I also use it when I am specifically after a plant’s alkaloids.

Solvent for mineral rich plants

When using apple cider vinegar to extract minerals from plants, it is best to use dried plants. Apple cider vinegar is not only high in acids, it is also high in water. As water from the fresh plants makes its way into the medicine, your final medicine become dilute and its shelf life is diminished.

Some great mineral rich plants to use are: nettle, raspberry leaf (you can use fresh leaves as they generally contain little water), alfalfa, oat straw, chickweed, and plantain.

Mineral Rich Acetate

You may want to try this mineral rich blend of herb and apple cider vinegar:


            30 grams nettle leaf

            20 grams chickweed

            30 grams alfalfa

            20 grams plantain

Powder the herbs in your coffee grinder and place in a jar.

Add to the jar, 500 mls of apple cider vinegar.

Put on the lid. Label with list of contents and date. Store in on a dark shelf for a couple of weeks.

When ready, strain through a coffee strainer. Bottle, label and take 1 tablespoon per day in a half glass of water.

Solvent for plant alkaloids

Often an herbalist, when making medicine, wants to moderate the extraction of alkaloids from plant material. Alkaloids are a strange group of phytochemicals full of rule breakers and one really does need to eventually become familiar with each individual plant and its motely crew of alkaloids to make best use of its medicine. Often alkaloids have a strong acrid taste. This is a nice way of saying they stimulate the gag reflex at the back of the throat making the medicine impalpable while the stomach heaves.

Too many, of the wrong types of alkaloids can have a detrimental effect on the liver, and cause nervous system disruptions, such as excess drowsiness.

But then there is lobelia (Lobelia inflata). I love lobelia, a plant medicine with at least 14 different alkaloids and commonly referred to as puke weed, as it has a strongly acrid taste.

What I love about lobelia is it will relax rock hard muscles, particularly muscles used to breath! A little lobelia in a formula taken internal naturally deepens the breath as the chest muscles relax. Rubbed on the skin, over muscles where tension burns and complains, eases pain and releases stress.

Here is how I make a lobelia acetate.

100 grams of dried lobelia leaf.

I powder it in my coffee grinder and put in a jar.

Then I add 800 mls of apple cider vinegar to the jar, label it with ingredients and date. Let it sit in the dark cupboard for a couple of weeks and then strain using my coffee filters. 

Extracting other phytochemicals

I have used it to extract volatile oils from thyme and rosemary, but the result was more like salad dressing. Yummy, but not medicine.

I have also played around with extracting flavonoids with vinegar. Flavonoids jump on and off sugar molecules in plants. If they are attached to a sugar molecule vinegar will catch them and turn them into medicine. But if the flavonoids are not getting a lift through the plant on a sugar molecule, they will not make it into the medicine and go into the compose with the used up plant material. For this reason I still prefer using some alcohol when making medicine high in flavonoids.

Shelf Life?

Vinegar is largely water. For this reason medicine made with it does not have the shelf life as those made with alcohol. This is probably why one does not see commercially available acetates. In your personal apothecary, make enough of an acetate to last a year. If you do not use it, and I cannot imagine why you would not, pour it out at the end of two years. You might, just might, get lucky and be able to keep it for a third year.


Try to always dilute apple cider before taking it internally. Recall that is dissolves minerals. This means that too much apple cider vinegar in contact with your teeth will dissolve the enamel. It will also if taken in excess dissolve your bones. How good if apple cider vinegar at dissolving minerals: Hannibal of Carthage (c. 200 BC), the great military leader and strategist, used vinegar to dissolve boulders that blocked his army's path.


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