This month’s Organic Living article comes from guest writer Jennifer Miyakawa Cloke, the Organic Growers School’s Communications Coordinator and Spring Conference Assistant. Enjoy!

Hi All!

When I think “organic living,” the first thing that comes to my mind is, of course, organic eating. We do this by shopping at tailgate markets, using organic ingredients, and doing our best to grow our own food (or, if you’re like me–living in an apartment with a front yard that gets about enough sun to grow kind of wimpy kale a few months out of the year–you get a CSA!) But there is so much more to organic living than just the food we eat. It’s about what we subject the environment to as well.

Next time you’re in the shower, take a look at the back of your shampoo bottle. I’m guessing that, unless you have your PhD in something like Cryptozoological Medicine, most of those ingredients are unpronounceable. Take a peek under the kitchen sink next. When I first did this inventory of the chemicals in my house, I started to get pretty nervous for everyone living downstream of me. Moreover, I started to wonder what all these mystery chemicals were doing to me, my family, and my pets. While it’s possible that all those products are okay to touch and breathe, I never managed to finish my graduate degree in Cryptozoology, so I just don’t know for sure.

Enter my obsession with apple cider vinegar.

DSCN0782Apple Cider Vinegar as a DISINFECTANT

It was not long after this that I discovered the power of apple cider vinegar. Apple Cider Vinegar, or ACV for homesteaders-on-the-go, is a vinegar made from fermented apple must–“must” being freshly pressed juice that still includes scraps of skin, pulp, and seeds. Good-quality ACV maintains its tart apple flavor and smell through the fermenting process, unlike white vinegar, which just smells like, well, vinegar. The microbes that actually do the fermenting produce acetic acid, and it’s this acidity that makes vinegar a disinfectant. According to the CDC, undiluted vinegar is “effective against S. Typhi and E.coli 53, 332, 333.”

After quite a bit of research, I’ve conclude two things about vinegar:

    • If I’ve been cutting raw chicken on the counter or someone brings home influenza, I’ll need a disinfectant rather more nuclear (like this combo of vinegar and hydrogen peroxide for instance), and
    • As a day-to-day cleaner, vinegar knows how to take care of business. Put it in a spray bottle, and you’ve got (almost) the last disinfectant you’ll need. And don’t worry–the smell fades as it dries.

Oh, and one more thing:

    • Vinegar has approximately a zillion other uses.

Apple Cider Vinegar’s Zillion Other Uses

For about as long as humans have been utilizing ferments, ACV has been used as a folk remedy and preventative for a host of conditions. Even Hippocrates–the eponymous author of the Hippocratic Oath and the “Father of Modern Medicine”–prescribed ACV mixed with honey to treat common ailments. Nowadays, studies have shown that taking ACV before meals increases insulin sensitivity and reduces insulin and glucose spikes that occur after meals, which, according to the American Diabetes Association, is very good news if you have diabetes. Similar studies have shown the positive effects of ACV on cholesterol and blood pressure in rats, which does not necessarily translate to conclusive evidence of the effects it might have on humans, but it certainly is promising.

There are some wild claims out there about ACV’s miraculous curative powers, and while some of them are unfounded, others show some real potential. We’ve already touched on ACV’s possible positive effects on diabetes, cholesterol, and high blood pressure, but here are a few more:

It doesn’t stop there, though. ACV has just oodles of uses in your daily life. Here is a list of just a few of its many applications according to this article in healthimpactnews.com:

  • Hair: ACV can be used as a rinse for your hair after shampooing to add healthy body and shine. Recycle an old shampoo bottle and fill it with 1/2 a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar and a cup of cold water. Pour through your hair after shampooing several times a week. Try this baking soda instead of shampoo method, too!
  • Face: ACV can help regulate the pH of your skin. Dilute apple cider vinegar with two parts water and spread the concoction over your face with a cotton ball as a toner. I’ve also heard that apple cider vinegar directly onto age spots can lighten their color.
  • Sunburn: Add a cup of apple cider vinegar to your bath and soak for 10 minutes.
  • Teeth: Rub teeth directly with ACV and rinse out to help remove stains.
  • Aftershave: Fill a bottle with equal parts apple cider vinegar and water and shake to blend.
  • Drain Cleaner: This works best as a clog preventative. As a drain cleaner, sprinkle baking soda down the drain then add apple cider vinegar and let it bubble for 15 minutes, then rinse with hot water. If you want the nuclear option, pour boiling ACV down your drain.
  • Dandruff: A home remedy for dandruff is to mix 1/4 cup ACV with 1/4 cup water. The vinegar solution is thought to restore the pH balance of the scalp and discourage the overgrowth of malassezia furfur, the fungus thought to cause dandruff.

I even put a tablespoon of ACV in my dog’s food every morning and evening, and it seems to make her coat glossier. I personally take a tablespoon of ACV in an ounce of water in the mornings and evenings, and I have seen quite a few positive effects, the most rewarding has been the end of my acid reflux, which I had thought was going to be a friend for life. As with all supplements, do your due diligence and talk to your doctor before beginning any new regimes.

So, next time you’re in the cleaning aisle of the grocery store, you might as well skip it and head over to the salad dressing aisle where they keep ACV by the gallon for dirt cheap. Because Organic Living is about living a little more simply, a little closer to the ground, even little old-fashioned. Your grandmother probably kept vinegar in her house for its myriad uses, and Grandma is a smart lady.

Signing Off,
Jenn

Ask Meredith © 2013 Meredith McKissick & Organic Growers School

Organic Thinkers: Got a question for Meredith? Email it to us at

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Jenn Cloke

Jenn Cloke

Jenn Cloke, originally from Atlanta, has lived in Western North Carolina for since 2006 and wears her Appalachian mantle proudly. Jenn was the Communications Coordinator for Organic Growers School from 2012 to 2014. She and her family run a small farm at the foot of Cold Mountain.