Otherwise Life

Making a Herbal Vinegar – Part I

Really this should be subtitled ‘How to Make a Bath Soak’ as this is what mine is going to be used for, but the general recipe works for either cosmetic (ie a bath soak), medicinal or culinary uses.

The reason I’m using vinegar for the soak is for its skin benefits. In this case I’m using apple cider vinegar with the mother, which basically means an unrefined vinegar with the cloudy stuff that sinks to the bottom. The ‘mother’ contains enzymes, bacteria, pectin and trace minerals. Also it contains the alpha hydroxy acids that are put in commercial face washes, so it’s great for removing dead skin cells and reviving the skin. I will add at this stage that putting neat ACV (apple cider vinegar) on the skin will be a bit much for it to take. If you want to use it as facial wash, it’s best to dilute it one part ACV to four parts water, and maybe best to use it once a week.

Anyway, I said this was a herbal vinegar, and my herb of choice is Horsetail (Equisetum arvense). You may have seen it when walking in a woods or forest. It’s a strange looking plant, often treated as a weed, that looks as though it came from the Jurassic period. Indeed, fossils of Horsetail have been found. Also known as Mare’s Tail, it contains a high amount of silica which aids bone and cartilage growth, accelerates healing, prevents bone injuries and helps with arthritis. So a really great plant to use for a bath soak.

“Equisetum arvense foliage” by MPF – Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons –

I must credit the book I got the idea from. Hedgerow Medicine is probably the best herb book I’ve found. By an excellent husband and wife team, it contains information and history of the plants, as well as simple recipes to use at home for medicinal, cosmetic and culinary uses. For more information, please take a look at their website Hedgerow Medicine.

The recipe can be used for all sorts of herbs. You might be able to source the ingredients from a health food store, or herbalist shop. I bought mine from G Baldwin & Co.

What you will need for making the herbal vinegar:

  • Apple cider vinegar (shop bought will work, but unrefined is best)
  • Your herb of choice, fresh or dried. I used dried as it’s easy to obtain.
  • A glass jar or bottle with an air-tight seal. Do not use a metal lid, as vinegar is acidic and will corrode it, which will taint the contents.

The instructions are very simple. First fill the jar with the herb. If your using fresh herb, chop it up as much as you can first, not only to fit it in the jar, but to help release the juices. Then cover the herb generously with the vinegar. I’ve not found any specifics of amounts to use, although I did manage to find this on The Herb Society website:

Herb vinegar: Traditionally a coarsely chopped herb was covered generously with vinegar and left to steep.
In modern practice this translates to 10g (½ oz) chopped or powdered dried herb in 100-150ml (3½ – 5 fl oz) vinegar.
Steep the herb in vinegar for two weeks.
Strain, bottle, label and date.
Average dose for adults 10ml (2 tsp) twice daily.

Using this as a basis, I used 75g of dried Horsetail and 750ml of ACV (as that was the amount in the bottle.) I might have needed a little more ACV, or less Horsetail, but I will have to wait to see how well it has worked.

So all you need to do next is to wait. The Herb Society version above says for two weeks, but other sources I’ve found tend to say four weeks. So erring on the side of caution, four weeks it is. It can be kept on a sunny windowsill or a warm place, like an airing cupboard. Give it a little shake every day or two. When the time’s up, strain it using muslin or cheesecloth, and bottle. Store in a cool dark place. For the bath soak, just add a cupful (approx. 250ml) to the bath water.

Mine is still a work in progress, meaning the four weeks aren’t up yet, so I’ll update the results when I can. I hope you found this post useful. My next project, when I get round to it, is to make an infused oil.