(Note: Today, I’m taking a break from the TCM weight-loss series. It’ll be back soon–don’t worry!)

The Chinese sure love their vinegar–see the picture how many different kinds of vinegar we had in our house alone!  And for good reason too.  Vinegar can work wonders in a variety of ways, besides adding a wealth of flavor to dishes for nearly NO calories.

In Traditional Chinese Medicine, there are Five Flavors, which correspond to the Five Elements (which I’ll explain more about in the upcoming months; in the meantime, look in the glossary). Vinegar belongs to, not surprisingly, the Sour flavor.  Each of the 5 Flavors is believe to have certain functions and to more specifically affect certain organs.  Sour is known for its ability to astringe (defined as: constrict or bind or draw together).  Think about it–what kind of face do you make when you bite into a lemon or taste strong vinegar? You pinch your face together and draw inwards.  That’s exactly the astringing quality sour foods, particularly vinegar, are known for.  Why is this useful? For example if you have diarrhea, eating vinegar can slow the diarrhea and the loss of electrolytes and Qi because it draws inward.   Similarly, if you’re sweating too much, eating vinegar can astringe and therefore reduce Qi and electrolyte loss.

Acne is another case where vinegar would be helpful. Through the pores, resulting in acne, is one method by which the body clears toxins. So to prevent the body from pushing them outward and causing pimples, eat more vinegar; vinegar astringes and pulls them back inside.  Then they can be flushed out by drinking more water and eating healthier. Vinegar is helpful not only for clearing, but also preventing, acne.

In TCM, doctors advise using vinegar as a natural way to fight blood fats and lower cholesterol. Livestrong.com also talks about adding vinegar to drinks, dressings, and sandwiches to lower cholesterol.

Vinegar is also known to aid digestion.  After a heavy meal, if the food seems to be just sitting in the stomach and not moving, drink a tablespoon or 2 of vinegar.  Try a less tart vinegar like apple cider vinegar.  There are also some vinegar-juice drinks, which are offered in Xinjiang and Hunan restaurants in China, but are more popular as convenience drinks in Japan, Korea, and Hong Kong.

So to summarize, use VINEGAR for:

– Astringing
– Stopping diarrhea
– Reducing sweating
– Preventing loss of fluids, electrolytes, and Qi
– Clearing up and preventing acne
– Lowering cholesterol
– Reducing blood fats
– Aiding digestion
– When body craves sour flavors

Note: I’m not referring to White Vinegar, which is more commonly used as a cleaning agent. Try Aromatic Vinegar, the dark vinegar used in Chinese cooking, apple cider vinegar (especially good in salad dressings), or any favorite kind you have.