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Our Four Favorite Healing Vinegar Remedies

Treat indigestion, sore throat, athlete's foot, and hemorrhoids-but not stained teeth
The most frequently requested home remedies that we've ever printed are the ones that use vinegar. And no wonder: Vinegar's an ancient folk remedy used to cure ills from hemorrhoids to athlete's foot. Today, some people tout it for arthritis, osteoporosis, and weight loss, though these claims haven't been proven. To honor our 50th anniversary, let's replay our favorite vinegar home remedies--and offer up a new warning about a use that we don't recommend. So what can this mouth-puckering liquid really do for you?

Manfred Kroger, PhD, a Prevention advisor and professor emeritus of food science at Pennsylvania State University in State College, believes that vinegar is "a nature-given food, and we should make use of its bacteria-inhibiting potential and its antiseptic and astringent qualities as much as possible." Dr. Kroger suggests adding apple cider vinegar to recipes and drinks. (Add 2 tablespoons to about 4 cups of fruit juice for extra zing.)

Apple cider vinegar is one of the most popular varieties, probably because it tastes good. Norman Shealy, MD, author of The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Healing Remedies (Element Books Limited, 1998), recommends it for a host of mild conditions. "I routinely recommend that my patients sip apple cider vinegar for digestive problems and hemorrhoids. I think it's a wonderful alternative to over-the-counter remedies," he says. But don't take vinegar internally if you have a history of stomach ulcers because vinegar's acid can aggravate them.

Here, Prevention readers share their favorite vinegar success stories with you.

1. Speed Digestion I'm 62, and I've had trouble digesting food. Hours after eating, I'd still feel full. All that changed when I began sipping water with apple cider vinegar during meals.
Faith Montalto
New Brunswick, NJ

Many people over 60 experience indigestion because of a slowing in the production of hydrochloric acid, the stomach acid that helps break down protein for absorption into the bloodstream. Sipping a weak acid such as apple cider vinegar "assists the natural process of breaking down food in the stomach," says Dr. Shealy. As a result, the stomach may digest food more efficiently.

To benefit from this digestive aid, mix 2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar in a glass of water. Add a little honey for flavor. "It'll taste almost like apple cider," says Dr. Shealy. Sip slowly during meals.

2. Relieve Sore Throats Apple cider vinegar has always been my family's favorite sore throat remedy. At the first sign of scratchiness, we gargle with a mixture of apple cider vinegar and water. My grandchildren now benefit from this simple remedy and have passed it on to their friends.
Maureen Jacobson
Hudson, NH

For temporary relief of minor sore throats, mix 1 teaspoon to 2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar (depending on taste) in a glass of water. Gargle three or four times daily. If it doesn't kill the bacteria on contact, the antiseptic punch will weaken them. You may even notice improvement the first day.

3. Treat Athlete's Foot Compared to over-the-counter medication, apple cider vinegar is an easy, inexpensive way to stop the awful itching of athlete's foot.
Mark Daniel
Lexington, KY

Dr. Shealy frequently recommends this secret to his patients with this fungal disease. "Paint it on infected areas full strength twice a day with a cotton ball, especially in between the toes, and let it dry," he suggests. In addition to being antibacterial, the acetic acid in apple cider vinegar has some antifungal properties. Just be sure to wash your hands thoroughly after applying to prevent spreading the infection.

4. Soothe Hemorrhoids Strange as it sounds, a friend told me that apple cider vinegar eases hemorrhoids. Last time I had a flare-up, I tried her suggestion and was surprised at its effectiveness.
Emily Ford
Brooklyn, NY

About half of all women develop hemorrhoids by age 50, but they usually last only a few days and go away on their own. To nix the itching and burning of acute outbreaks, gently dab the affected area as often as needed with a cotton ball saturated with undiluted apple cider vinegar. A mild astringent, apple cider vinegar helps shrink swollen blood vessels.

Caution: For some people, full-strength apple cider vinegar may sting when applied externally. If this happens to you, dilute the vinegar with an equal amount of water.

Quick Tip
Swirl a spoonful of vinegar in tomato juice for a refreshing pick-me-up. Quick Tip If full-strength vinegar stings your skin, dilute it with water.

Don't Use Vinegar to Whiten Teeth I read about people going to the dentist for expensive whitening treatments. There is a very simple and inexpensive way of doing the same thing yourself: Simply brush your teeth with apple cider vinegar.
Robert Harsh, Topeka, KS

Before tooth-whitening gels and stain-removing toothpastes were invented, brushing with apple cider vinegar (or white vinegar) was a popular way to remove tooth stains. But it wasn't a wise way.

According to Flora Parsa Stay, DDS, a dentist in Oxnard, CA, and author of The Complete Book of Dental Remedies (Avery Publishing Group, 1996), vinegar can make teeth appear whiter, but it can ruin them in the process. How? Vinegar is acidic, and an acidic oral cavity can act as a breeding ground for the bacteria in plaque-the opposite of what you want for cavity and gum disease prevention. Vinegar will also dry gum tissues-a condition that, when chronic, may be linked to cancer.

When to See the Doctor
Sluggish digestion, sore throats due to colds, athlete's foot, and hemorrhoids may respond to home remedies-or go away on their own-within a few days. If you see no improvement within 2 to 3 days or if the condition gets worse, consult your doctor.

PHOTO (COLOR): Keep a bottle of vinegar in your medicine chest and your pantry.

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By Laura Goldstein , MPH, ureen Boland r, director of the Prevention Walking Club, and editor of the Prevention Walking Club newsletter. and Sarah Robertson, contact the copyediting department at Prevention magazine.

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i recently noticed my dogs has fleas. it is not a major case of them (i have only seen maybe 4 or 5 on him) and the house is not infested. the only place i am finding them is on him but i want to get it treated asap before it gets worse. ASIDE FROM A BATH, i am looking for either a home remedy or a product that is safe and does not contain pesticides. i do not want to try the garlic method. i know it has worked for many people but i am still not comfortable feeding my dog garlic so that route is out for me.

so i am curious if anyone here has tried a home remedy or pesticide-free product and seen results. do flea combs work? what about a spray combo of water/lavender oil/cedar wood oil? i also read that avon skin-so-soft can be combined with water and used as a spray.