30 Tips in 30 Days Designed to Help You Take Control of Your Health
This article is part of the 30 Day Resolution Guide series. Each day in January a new tip was added to help you take control of your health. For a complete list of the tips click HERE
By Dr. Mercola
Vinegar, said to have been discovered around 5,000 B.C., was originally used as a food preservative. In time, a number of medicinal uses became apparent, and in the 1700s it was used to treat everything from poison ivy and croup to stomach aches and diabetes. While vinegar can be made from virtually any fermentable carbohydrate, including grapes, dates, coconut, potatoes and beets, one of the most widely used is apple cider vinegar, made from apples.
Black seed oil (Nigella sativa) is another healthy household staple revered since ancient times for its medicinal qualities. Either apple cider vinegar or black seed oil, or both, can be used as substitutes for other oils and vinegars to make a delicious salad dressing packed with health benefits for the whole family. But first, let's review some of the benefits of each of these ingredients.
Apple Cider Vinegar Has Many Valuable Health Benefits
Traditionally, apple cider vinegar is made through a long, slow fermentation process that renders it rich in bioactive components like acetic acid, gallic acid, catechin, epicatechin, caffeic acid and more, giving it potent antioxidant, antimicrobial and many other beneficial properties. "Mother" of vinegar, a cobweb-like amino acid-based substance found in unprocessed, unfiltered vinegar, indicates your vinegar is of the best quality.
Most manufacturers pasteurize and filter their vinegar to prevent the mother from forming, but the "murky" kind is actually best, especially if you're planning to consume it. With its wide variety of health benefits, a jug of raw, unfiltered apple cider vinegar is easily one of the most economical and versatile remedies around. I recommend keeping it in your home at all times. Some of the health benefits associated with apple cider vinegar consumption include:
Blood sugar control — Vinegar is said to be antiglycemic and has a beneficial effect on your blood sugar, likely due to its acetic acid content, which prevents the complete digestion of complex carbohydrates. Another theory is that vinegar helps inactivate digestive enzymes that break down carbohydrates into sugar, thus slowing the conversion of complex carbohydrate into sugar, preventing a spike by giving you more time to pull sugar out of your blood.
There are studies supporting the use of vinegar as a diabetic treatment as well. One study1 found vinegar treatment improved insulin sensitivity in 19 percent of individuals with Type 2 diabetes and 34 percent of those with prediabetes.
Heart health — Polyphenols such as chlorogenic acid help inhibit oxidation of LDL cholesterol,2 while acetic acid helps lower blood pressure.3 Vinegar has also been shown to lower triglyceride levels and VLDL (very low-density lipoprotein) cholesterol in animals.4
Weight management — Vinegar may aid weight loss by increasing satiety, another effect attributed to acetic acid. For instance, when volunteers consumed a small amount of vinegar along with a high-carb meal (a bagel and juice) they consumed less food for the remainder of the day. The reduction equated to about 200 to 275 calories a day — an amount that would result in a monthly weight loss of up to 1.5 pounds.5
Sinus congestion — Apple cider vinegar's ability to break up and reduce mucus in your body can help clear your sinuses. It also has antibacterial properties, making it useful for infections. Here's what to do:6
Sore throat — The antibacterial properties of apple cider vinegar may be useful for sore throats as well. Gargle with a mixture of about one-third cup of apple cider vinegar mixed with warm water as needed. Apple cider vinegar with honey and ginger for a sore throat is also a popular and effective remedy. Another mixture for sore throat, recommended by Bonnie K. McMillen, a nurse from the University of Pittsburgh, includes:7
Digestive ailments — Acid reflux typically results from a lack of stomach acid. You can easily improve the acid content of your stomach by taking 1 tablespoon of raw unfiltered apple cider vinegar in a large glass of water daily. The pectin in apple cider vinegar may also help to soothe intestinal spasms. For everyday gut health, a mixture of 2 teaspoons of apple cider vinegar with 1 teaspoon of raw honey in 1 cup of warm water can help.
Skin irritations and warts — Apple cider vinegar also works for a variety of skin ailments, from bug bites and poison ivy to sunburn and even warts. You can either apply it directly to the irritated area or try soaking in a bath with about 1 cup of vinegar added. For warts, soak a cotton ball in vinegar and apply it to the wart, covered, overnight. Repeat until the wart disappears.
Energy boost — Apple cider vinegar contains potassium and enzymes to help banish fatigue. Plus, its amino acids may help prevent the buildup of lactic acid in your body, further preventing fatigue.8
Detox and immune support — Studies have shown apple cider vinegar can be beneficial for liver detoxification and helps cleanse your lymphatic system, which can contribute to improved immune system response. According to The Truth About Cancer:9
Candida overgrowth usually happens when your body is too acidic from excessive consumption of processed foods or sugar, or if there are insufficient healthy bacteria in your system. Because apple cider vinegar is fermented with a beneficial yeast, it can serve as a prebiotic for healthy bacteria, essentially helping good bacteria grow.
The Many Health Benefits of Black Seed Oil
Black seeds and black seed oil — also commonly known as black cumin seed, which is a bit unfortunate as there's also black cumin (Bunium bulbocastanum), which is another plant family altogether — have a long history of use in traditional systems of medicine, including Ayurveda and Siddha.
A tincture of black seeds was traditionally used to treat indigestion, loss of appetite, diarrhea, parasitic infections and skin problems. Traditionally, black seed has also been used for immune system support, general well-being, digestive health, respiratory issues, kidney and liver support and heart health. In Asia and the Middle East, the seeds have long been used to treat asthma, bronchitis, rheumatism and other inflammatory diseases.
The most abundant active plant chemical in black cumin is thymoquinone; other bioactive compounds in the seed include α-hederin, alkaloids, flavonoids, antioxidants and fatty acids. As for its antioxidant activity, black cumin seed has been found to be far more potent than vitamin C.10 In modern times, researchers have confirmed Nigella sativa may indeed be helpful for:11
Reducing asthma symptoms. In one study,14 thymoquinone was found to be instrumental, by reducing two inflammatory mediators of asthma and other inflammatory processes.
Another study15 found black cumin seed also acts as a relaxant, and displays both anticholinergic (reducing spasms in smooth muscle) and antihistaminic (blocking allergic reactions) effects. Here, thymoquinone was found to be superior to the asthma drug fluticasone (a synthetic glucocorticoid)
Enhancing memory and reducing stress. The results showed black cumin seed inhibited stress-induced biochemical changes in a dose-dependent manner. Memory and cognition was also dose-dependent16
Reducing damage caused by cadmium poisoning. May also serve as prophylactic against chemical warfare agents17
Protecting against and attenuating aflatoxicosis18
Alleviating symptoms of allergic rhinitis19
Black Seed Oil Has Over 20 Pharmacological Actions
True to its old Latin name, "Panacea," which means "cure all," Nigella sativa or black seed oil has at least 20 different pharmacological actions, which helps explain how it can be useful for so many different and varying ailments. These medicinal actions include:23
Analgesic (pain relief)
Culinary Uses for Black Seed
Black seed can be purchased both as whole seeds and as oil, and both make valuable contributions in the kitchen. A popular addition to North Indian, Pakistani and Iranian cuisines, black seed gives the dish a warm, slightly bitter flavor that tastes something like a blend of thyme, oregano and nutmeg.
The seeds can also be added to casseroles, stir-fries, smoothies and baked goods. You can also make tea by pouring hot water over the seeds (about 1 tablespoon) and letting it steep for 10 minutes.25 A mixture of black seeds, honey and garlic also makes a powerful tonic for soothing coughs and boosting immunity, especially during cold and flu season or if you feel like you're coming down with an infection.26
All of that said, keep in mind that, like all seeds, black cumin seeds are high in polyunsaturated fats. So, when taken in excess, they could make your mitochondrial membranes more susceptible to oxidation. For this reason, I suggest limiting your daily intake to 1 to 2 teaspoons or less.
Apple Cider Vinegar and Black Seed Oil — Healthy Substitutes for Homemade Dressing
With their plethora of health benefits, apple cider vinegar and black seed oil are two staple ingredients well worth keeping on hand at all times. Aside from the culinary suggestions already mentioned above, here are a few more tips for how to get these healthy ingredients into your diet on a regular basis by using them in your homemade salad dressing:
- Try mixing apple cider vinegar, black seed oil, fresh lemon juice, cilantro and tahini. Experiment with the ratios to enhance the flavor you enjoy the most
- A simple and yummy dressing that goes particularly well with broccoli, asparagus or salad greens includes: 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar, 1 tablespoon lemon juice, 1/2 teaspoon minced garlic, a dash of ground black pepper and a few fresh basil leaves, chopped
- Alternatively, you can use apple cider vinegar and/or black seed oil as substitutes for other oils and vinegars in whatever dressing recipe you're already using. Keep in mind that the black seed oil does have a spicy kick to it, so substituting the full amount may make it too spicy. Start by adding just a small amount, and experiment to find the ratio of vinegar, olive oil and black seed oil you enjoy