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The Missing Link #10: Vinegar

Lin Abigail Tan 

~A weekly column exploring the delightful, most arbitrary intricacies of our world through the lens of medicine~

Happy 2020! Let’s kick off the school year with one of my mom’s favorite cleaning supplies–vinegar. 

The word “vinegar” derives from Latin, with vinum meaning wine and acer meaning sour. Indeed, the acidic substance registers at about a 2.5 on the pH scale. Produced through the fermentation of ethyl alcohol, vinegar contains acetic acid–a carboxylic acid with antimicrobial and anti-fungal properties. 

Vinegar has been used as a medicinal and antiseptic agent for thousands of years. It was reportedly discovered in Babylonia around 5ooo B.C. by a courtier (definition: one who attends to the royal court; advisor to the king or queen) who stumbled upon some neglected grape juice. In 400 B.C., Hippocrates (father of medicine, Hippocratic Oath Man) used vinegar to treat his patients’ wounds. The liquid was also allegedly used by Cleopatra to dissolve pearls and create love potions. 

Other ailments that were remedied by vinegar include the following: poison ivy, diabetes, stomach issues, croup (definition: inflammation of larynx and trachea in children), and dropsy (definition: old-fashioned term for edema, or fluid buildup in body cavities/tissues). 

So the next time you’re an ancient Greek magistrate suffering from an unfortunate bout of flatulence, or just a desperate and broke homeowner trying to clean the kitchen counter, try vinegar! It probably works, according to my mother. 

“You can attract more bees with a spoonful of sugar than a cupful of vinegar” ~Saint Francis de Sales, patron saint of the deaf in the Catholic church


Works Cited

An Ancient Medicine and Popular Home Remedy.” Vinegar.

Moncel, Bethany. “What Is Vinegar and How Is It Made?” The Spruce Eats, The Spruce Eats, 6 May 2019.

Johnston, Carol S, and Cindy A Gaas. “Vinegar: Medicinal Uses and Antiglycemic Effect.” MedGenMed : Medscape General Medicine, Medscape, 30 May 2006.

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