If a tickle in your throat is driving you into a frenzy, try sipping a little apple cider vinegar mixed with water or juice. Taken three or four times daily, this tart remedy can relieve a dry cough. Customise your tonic by adding your favourite sweetener and a dash of spice.
Apple cider vinegar (ACV) helps restore the body's acid/alkaline balance, and also acts as an antibacterial and antiviral agent, according to Dr. Earl L. Mindell, R.Ph, PhD, author of Dr. Earl Mindell's Amazing Apple Cider Vinegar (2002).
Sipping a tonic made with this healthful vinegar can soothe a parched, raw throat and achy muscles while combating germs and harmful bacteria.
A cough is an explosive expulsion of air to clear the throat or lungs. It's the body's reflexive defence against irritation in the airways. Causes range from allergies, exposure to hot or cold, dampness, seasonal changes, air pollution, and the common cold or virus, to serious illness and life-threatening health conditions. Prolonged hacking, however, can disrupt sleep, interrupt daily activities, and lead to muscle soreness in the jaw, chest and back.
Help a dry, unproductive cough that doesn't bring up mucus or phlegm with a healing drink made from foods in your kitchen. Quality ingredients are available in health-food stores, speciality groceries or online.
Start with raw, unfiltered, organic cider vinegar made from the juice of mashed apples. The best is a cloudy yellow-brown colour, diluted with water to 5 per cent or 6 per cent acetic acid strength. Make sure it contains "mother of vinegar," a term for the acetobacter micro-organisms that interact with yeast during fermentation. Mother appears as sediment in the bottle.
Avoid pills and tablets. A study evaluating eight brands of pill tablets, published in the Journal of the American Diabetic Association in July 2005, noted that a vinegar tablet can cause a burning injury if lodged in the throat, and may contain inadequate amounts of ACV.
Go for certified organic or the best quality and least processed foods you can afford. Pick honey, maple syrup or molasses over refined sugars.
Spices such as ground black or cayenne pepper and ground ginger create heat that can speed healing, according to the whole medical systems of Ayurveda and Traditional Chinese Medicine.
Mixed only with water, apple vinegar delivers a tangy and refreshing tonic. Blend well. A small hand-mixer does a great job, or put the lid on a travel cup and shake.
Make a batch to sip all day or for taking individual doses of 170gr to 227gr. Ingredient proportions vary per remedy, so add more vinegar or water to taste. Mix without sweetener at first. Aim for a pleasant, pungent taste that allows comfortable sipping.
Substituting juice for water will sweeten your tonic. Honey, maple syrup or molasses impart harmonious flavours and nutrition. Calibrate with moderation, though. Four doses of sweetened tonic can easily overload your daily intake of carbohydrates and sugar.
Honey can maximise a tonic's healing of an irritated throat. A study in the September 2008 issue of the Journal of Clinical Nursing concluded that "... honey was a suitable alternative suitable alternative for wound healing, burns and various skin conditions."
The nursing study also cited honey's potential "... within cancer care for radiation-induced mucositis, skin reactions, hand and foot skin reactions in chemotherapy patients and for oral cavity and external surgical wounds."
For sweetening power, the unique flavour of maple syrup enhances other ingredients without overwhelming. Pure maple syrup is graded by colour and flavour. Vermontmaple.org suggests buying the grade that you like best.
Bittersweet, unsulphured blackstrap molasses imparts a bold, robust flavour along with a host of minerals and nutrients in a naturally balanced form, according to healthnews.com.
Stevia, agave nectar and sucralose (Splenda) are non-caloric substitutes listed as sweetener options in the July 2009 issue of Diabetes Forecast magazine, published the American Diabetes Association.
Artificially flavoured syrups, sweeteners and refined sugars, including brown sugar, which is white sugar processed with molasses, add no nutritional or healing value.
Add spices to taste without overdoing it. The goal is a healing tonic rather than a spicy hot concoction. Concentrated extracts are too strong. The bottle or tin of ground black or cayenne pepper, and ginger on your spice rack, should work fine, since these spices need not be freshly ground. Be careful around cayenne, which can irritate skin.
Black pepper, which contributes a rich nutlike flavour, is favoured in old-fashioned American cough cures. Modern cures call for cayenne.
Medicinal uses of cayenne pepper count on the red-hot kick of capsaicin. Capsaicin is a potent anti-inflammatory compound, as noted in the March 28, 2006, editorial of the Journal of Biological Regulators and Homeostatic Agents. Use with caution. Too much of this healing agent can have the opposite effect by increasing mucous.
A staple in Asian cooking, ginger's digestive-enhancing properties are well-known in holistic health circles.
Adjust dosage for your taste and need. Blend well, especially if using spice or sweetener. A small hand-mixer does a great job, or put the lid on a travel cup and shake.
A basic modern cure calls for 1 tbsp of apple cider vinegar mixed with 170gr of water or juice, taken three to four times daily. Water can be warm, hot or room temperature. Increase water to 227gr for more dilution. Add 1 tbsp of honey for sweetening. If using maple syrup or molasses, start with 1 tsp per dose.
For acute conditions, earthclinic.com suggests mixing 2 tbsp of ACV with honey to your taste into 227gr of water. If the taste is too strong, earthclinic.com says to try the standard daily dosage of 2 tsp of ACV per 236ml of water.
Other proportions to try: Mix 2 tbsp of ACV with 4 tbsp of juice. Apple juice works well because of its flavour. Dilute further with either juice or water.
This strong, pungent remedy borrows from Ayurveda and Traditional Chinese Medicine to create a healing heat: Add ¼ tsp of ground ginger and ¼ tsp of cayenne pepper to 1 tbsp each of honey and apple cider vinegar. Mix with 2 tbsp of water.
If you don't want to or can't sip a tonic, inhaling molecules of apple cider vinegar sprinkled on your pillow might give you some rest, according to Dr. Earl Mindell.
Use apple cider vinegar in these cures collected around the country by the Online Archive of American Folk Medicine:
"An egg dissolved in vinegar, shell and all, taken internally for cough," cited by Austin E. Fife in "Pioneer Mormon Remedies," Western Folklore.
"Take a mixture made of equal parts sugar, butter and vinegar," archived by Earl J Stout, "Folklore from Iowa," Memoirs of the American Folklore Society.
Be careful not to overdue any remedy using ACV. Avoid drinking straight vinegar. Acetic acid is harsh on tooth enamel and can damage delicate tissue in the throat and stomach.
Apple cider vinegar can interact with medication, including drugs taken to regulate blood pressure and for osteoporosis. Check with your doctor or health practitioner if you're taking prescribed medication or over-the-counter drugs before beginning a regimen. Seek professional medical help for any cough that worsens or lingers for several weeks.
Avoid oversweetening: 1 tbsp honey has 17g each of carbohydrates and sugar while maple syrup owns up to a whopping 53g each. Molasses contains 14g of carbs and 10g of sugar per tablespoon.
Fruits, vegetables and grains contain sugar naturally. Adding sweeteners can lead to sugar overconsumption, advises Dr. Elson M. Hass, M.D., author of "Staying Healthy with Nutrition: The Complete Guide to Diet and Nutritional Medicine" (21st Century Edition with Buck Levin, Ph.D., RD, 2006).
U.S. Food and Drug Administration labelling guidelines require cider or apple vinegar to be fermented from the juice of fresh apples, with a minimum strength of 4 per cent acetic acid when diluted with water.
The curative powers of vinegar were known as far back as 10,000 years ago, according to the Vinegar Institute. Modern fermentation calls for two biological processes for transforming transform sugar into acetic acid. Besides acetic acid, ACV contains a host of nutritional compounds, vitamins and mineral salts.
Long accepted holistically as a powerful healing agent, apple cider vinegar's use against dry cough has yet to receive evidence-based documentation. Its metabolic effects, however, are attracting the attention of clinical researchers studying health conditions such as diabetes, heart disease and obesity, according to Dr. Mindell.