Body, Mind & Spirit

Why You Should Drink Vinegar Shrubs

Published on October 25, 2016

Article by Victoria Lewis for Bodhi Tree

It’s no secret that vinegar, namely fruit vinegars like apple cider or coconut, is something of a cure-all for many ailments. Healthy beauty hacks include using apple cider vinegar as a scalp rinse, an all-natural toner and a spot treatment for blemishes and eczema; nutritionists recommend sipping on the stuff for its myriad health benefits from digestive support to weight loss.

One way to get your daily dose of healthy vinegar? Try shrubs.

Yes, shrubs. And no, we’re not talking about well-groomed garden hedges. Shrubs are non-alcoholic vinegar infusions with a long health history, now most frequently found in craft cocktails.

The History of Vinegar-Based Shrubs

In the simplest terms, shrubs are sweetened, vinegar-based concentrates infused with fruits, herbs and/or spices. According to Nick Andresen, shrubs purveyor and co-founder of Denver-based Strongwater Spirits & Botanicals, they have their roots in the colonial era of the mid-1600s. “In order to avoid alcohol taxes, smugglers off the coast of England would dump barrels of spirits overboard and retrieve them later at night when they drifted ashore,” he explains. “But the barrels were leaky, so the spirits would inevitably be compromised by saltwater.” Naturally, the smugglers got creative, mixing various liquids into the alcohol, and quickly discovered that vinegar-based shrubs, previously used to preserve fruit, not only masked the salty flavor, but also improved the taste of the drink. “Some argue that this was the first cocktail mixer as we know it,” says Andresen.

Of course, vinegar drinks have been popular beverages for thousands of years. Hippocrates is said to have prescribed a tonic of apple cider vinegar (ACV) and honeycomb to cure coughs and colds. Meanwhile, samurai warriors are reported to have concocted a raw egg and vinegar drink to fortify their bones and boost energy levels before battle. In fact, fruit vinegars have enjoyed a long history of popularity in Asia (namely Japan, Taiwan and Korea), where fruit- or honey-infused vinegar is consumed after meals to help balance stomach pH levels and aid in digestion. Venture into most modern Asian supermarkets and you’ll find an array of drinking vinegars infused with fruits like yuzu, kumquat, pomegranate or pear on offer.

Similarly, shrubs can be made with many different types of vinegars; though the ACV–based ones are what you want to invest in because, as Andresen puts it, “apple cider vinegar reigns supreme on the health scale.”

The Health Benefits of Apple Cider Vinegar

And he’s right; apple cider vinegar’s health benefits are no joke. According to the Pacific College of Oriental Medicine, the raw, organic, unfiltered version can improve digestion, alleviate allergies, support weight loss (due to its appetite-suppressing and blood-sugar-regulating abilities), detox the liver and support skin health, among many other positive effects. And though some of the benefits (namely ACV’s role as a shampoo alternative and cure-all skin toner) are more word-of-mouth than proven by science, there are some hard facts to back up all the rave reviews.

For example, in a 2015 study published in the Journal of Diabetes Research, Greek scientists documented apple cider vinegar’s ability to help lower glucose levels in diabetic patients. A 2006 Japanese study on rats, published in the British Journal of Nutrition, showed that ACV consumption lowered cholesterol and triacylglycerol levels while optimizing liver function. And in a 2009 study published in Bioscience, Biotechnology, and Biochemistry, Japanese researchers found that 15 ml or 30 ml of daily vinegar consumption helped obese human patients shed pounds, shrink waist circumference, and lower body-fat mass and triglyceride levels (over a 12 week trial period).

Still, it’s important to exercise caution when consuming vinegar. For the safety of your teeth and esophagus, nutritionists suggest diluting vinegar in water, instead of drinking it straight. And try not to exceed the recommended one to two ounces per day on a regular basis (15 ml is about half an ounce). However, Bodhi Tree always recommends consulting your doctor before trying any new health regimen.

Easy Tips for Enjoying Vinegar Shrubs

So, how do you work these health-boosting infusions into your everyday life? You could, of course, start increasing your cocktail intake, though that might not be the best option. As an alternative, Andresen recommends a daily tonic or mocktail. “Simply add shrubs to some soda water and drink it over ice,” he says. “The best times to do this are first thing in the morning, to prepare your body for normal digestion, and at the end of the day, to deter any late-night snacking.” And if sipping shrubs isn’t your thing, you can add an ounce to your salad dressing and reap the same benefits.

Here, Andresen provides one of his favorite recipes for a delicious, digestion-boosting drink:

The Burn Away

2 oz unsweetened organic cranberry juice

1 oz soda water

5 or 6 blackberries, muddled

1 oz Strongwater Blueberry Mint Shrub

Shake over ice, top with a splash of soda, garnish with a rosemary sprig and serve.

Published on: October 25, 2016

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