For many centuries aromatic vinegars were used to ward off infections.
Today, you can use them as a refreshing and invigorating addition to a hot bath and act as an astringent and skin softener. They can also be made into a cooling wash to clean the face and used as a skin toner after cleansing.
Aromatic vinegars will also do wonders to freshen up a sick room, relieve headaches and to soothe a throbbing temple after exposure to the sun.
The refreshing quality is due to the acetic acid, which dissolves the aromatic substances in herbs and flower petals, making a perfume of a different composition to that made with alcohol.
Aromatic vinegars are best made with good quality cider vinegar, and can be scented with herbs such as rose petals, lavender, rosemary, lemon balm, lemon verbena, basil, hyssop, peppermint, scented geranium leaves and jasmine.
To make your aromatic vinegar, half fill a wide-mouthed, clear glass jar with fresh chopped herbs or fragrant flower petals and top up with warmed cider vinegar.
Seal the jar and leave it where it will receive plenty of sunlight for three to four weeks. Then strain off the vinegar through clean muslin cloth, squeezing and keeping all liquid from the herbs or flowers, and then dilute the liquid by adding an equal amount of distilled water.
If you find it more convenient to use dried herbs or petals to make an aromatic vinegar, put three tablespoons of herbs or six tablespoons of petals in a ceramic bowl. Mix together 300ml each of good quality cider vinegar and distilled water, and heat to just below boiling point. Pour the liquid over the herbs or flowers, cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap and leave it to infuse for 12 hours, then strain and bottle for future use.
Aromatic vinegars also make an excellent face wash. Make the vinegar using fresh or dried lavender flowers, then mix two tablespoons of the lavender vinegar with one cup of rose water (available from most chemists and health food stores), add 10 drops of lavender essential oil, and store in a tightly capped bottle. Apply directly to facial skin whenever you wash your face.
If lavender isn't the herb of choice for your skin type, use a more suitable herb to create your own astringent vinegar face wash.
Use any of the following herbs or flower petals to make your floral vinegar and blend the vinegar with one cup of distilled water.
Basil or lemon verbena is suitable for oily and disturbed skin. Jasmine is best for sensitive skin and sweet scented geranium leaves (Pelargonium spp.) are suitable for all skin types.
To refresh a sick room, soak a small sponge in lavender vinegar and leave it in a dish beside the bed. And after exposure to the hot sun, dab lavender, rose or lemon verbena vinegar behind the ears and on the temples and forehead.
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