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Honey (and Cider Vinegar)

Honey & Dr. Jarvis



"If you care to go to school, go to the honey bees, fowl, cats, dogs, goats, mink, calves, dairy cows, bulls and horses and allow them to teach you their ways.”

(D. C. Jarvis, M.D.)


Deforrest Clinton Jarvis (1881-1966) received his M.D. from the University of Vermont Medical College, and was a member of the American Academy of Ophthalmology and Otolaryngology. Today, he is best known for his advocacy of honey and cider vinegar as the preventive and the cure for many common illnesses. Dr. Jarvis' years of observation and experience seem to have given him good reason for his major dietary recommendation: acidify your diet. He states that one may do so by drinking a teaspoon or two of cider vinegar, dissolved in water with a little honey, every day.


There have long been divergent opinions on acid/alkaline foods and how they affect body pH. Occasionally, there have been attempts to co-opt Dr. Jarvis' work in order to support consuming an alkaline diet. This misrepresents his work. Some sources will tell you that distilled or "white" vinegar acidifies, but apple cider vinegar is actually an alkalizing food. That is incorrect. Both acidify. As found in stores, apple cider vinegar and distilled vinegar have about the same acidity. The acetic acid in either type of vinegar is still acetic acid. Acetic acid is not alkaline. Vinegar has a pH of about 3. Neutral is 7. This stuff is definitely an acid.


Distilled vinegar is made from ethyl alcohol, which is commonly made from corn or other carbohydrate source. Indeed, if you take no-preservative apple cider and let it set for a week or so, you get hard cider, as the sugar converts to ethanol (beverage alcohol). If you let the hard cider sit for a week or two more, it will turn into vinegar. Same with grapes, which ferment into wine, and then further to vinegar. I have done both. It's easy.


But neither are very strong vinegars. Distillation makes them stronger. Then, for sale in grocery stores, they are reduced (diluted) to about 5% acidity. 

One might speculate that the potassium in cider vinegar is what supposedly could alkalize the cider vinegar in the body.  Yes, potassium on the periodic table of the elements is an "alkali metal." But you do not consume potassium metal. You consume potassium ions, taken in as dissolved potassium salts.   

Cider vinegar is made from apples. Dr Jarvis advocated potassium, and apples are high in it. But apple cider vinegar, in the one- or two-teaspoonful dose Dr. Jarvis recommended, would only provide around 10 mg of potassium. Even if potassium ions were wonderfully alkali forming, that would not matter a whit in the large amount of potassium that you eat every day. The US RDA is 4,700 mg/day for an adult. Even if you did not meet that, you'd still be taking in several thousands of milligrams of potassium daily. Plant foods (fruits, vegetables, nuts, beans) are all good sources of potassium. To increase your dietary potassium, you can eat more fruits and vegetables and their juices. And even if you didn't, meat and dairy products contain potassium.  

So there is a whole lot more acetic acid in cider vinegar than there is potassium. Consuming an acid does not alkalize. Indeed, Dr. Jarvis specifically wanted to acidify the urine, and in Folk Medicine, discusses this in some detail. Urine is what your kidneys filter out of your blood for excretion. If it is in your urine, it was in your blood. Your blood, however, is constantly buffered by an amazing chemical mechanism that keeps your blood pH very close to 7.4. That is slightly alkaline. It is also automatic and not dependent on your diet, fortunately for us all.

But you can, and Dr. Jarvis did, measure urine pH and see that urine can be acidified. Vitamin C as ascorbic acid does that, too. This slight acidification helps prevent urinary tract infections (UTIs). Dr. Jarvis believed that it also prevented colds, sinusitis, neuralgia, digestive ailments, headaches, and quite a few other illnesses. 

Whether you go along with that or not is up to you. However, to know what Dr. Jarvis thought, we need to go directly to what he wrote. You might want to start with chapter 6 and also p 75 of Folk Medicine. I urge all interested to read his books and make up their minds for themselves. As my father always said, "Go to the organ grinder, not the monkey."
Jarvis DC. Folk Medicine. New York: Holt, 1958.

Jarvis DC. Arthritis and Folk Medicine. NY: Holt, 1960.


Here follows my original article that further discusses the subject: 

 Honey and cider vinegar as a remedy has been made well known and somewhat well respected by D.C. Jarvis, a Vermont medical doctor of considerable experience. His book, Folk Medicine (1958), fully discusses why and how to prepare and use this obviously harmless self-treatment.  Essentially, a tablespoon or two of each is dissolved in a glass of water and taken several times daily as needed. White (distilled) vinegar is not recommended, by the way. Dr. Jarvis states that numerous common ailments, including colds, infections, rheumatism and arthritis may be relieved, and even cured with this simple treatment.

One rationale for the vinegar and honey regimen is that a person's blood stream tends toward becoming alkaline through a modern diet of fats, starches and de-vitalized processed foods (here we go again, right?). Dr. Jarvis found that the acidity of cider vinegar, although weak, is enough to correct this excess alkalinity, and that a slightly acidic bloodstream prevents and fights infection. Since vinegar solution in a tea-kettle dissolves mineral build-up, Dr. Jarvis also suspected that calcium deposits in the joints might also be dissolved by a slightly acidic bloodstream. He experimentally proved both of these theories with patients of his, after first studying cows.

"Milk fever" in cows is usually treated with calcium injections by the veterinarian. A critically ill cow generally then makes an immediate recovery and is often on her feet again in minutes. Dr. Jarvis reasoned that vinegar must be dissolving calcium into the bloodstream, for when he gave cows with milk fever some vinegar, they too recovered immediately. This lent support to his premise that calcium deposits could be dissolved from the joints of the body in arthritic persons. 

By observing cows out at pasture, Dr. Jarvis saw that they preferred eating the most acidic of the plants and grasses. He also noted that the modern diet of a high-producing dairy cow under intensive milking lacks these acidic greens and is high in alkaline-producing grains. At the same time, these heavy milkers are prone to mastitis, an infection of the udder. Dr. Jarvis felt that their alkaline diet facilitated infection, so he gave cows a few ounces of cider vinegar daily in their feed. The cows so treated failed to develop mastitis. This lends support to the belief that vinegar is anti-infective.

Honey added to the vinegar naturally makes the mixture more drinkable for people. Honey also contains subtle amounts of energies and minerals just beginning to be noticed, let alone fully understood. Curative powers of honey were known about in ancient civilizations, and naturopathic doctors recommend it still.  It is what is not known about honey that is probably of greatest medicinal value.

As a sweetener, honey is more than just the sum of its sugars. Traditional nutritional authorities say that sugar is sugar, and that the source or state of it doesn't matter nutritionally. You may choose to believe that or not. I think that there is quite a significant difference in life-supporting qualities between processed white sugar and dark, raw honey. The darker, cloudier, and less filtered the honey, the better. Light, crystal-clear, pasteurized honey is lacking the trace factors that nature had the bees put into the comb.

Honey is by nature pure; why on earth anyone would pasteurize it is beyond me. Heat does in fact destroy valuable enzymes in the raw honey.  In addition, bacteria can grow on the surface moisture left under the cap of processed honey as a result of heating and condensation. Raw honey actually contains natural antibiotics. So eat the honey the way the bees made it; the very best way is comb and all. (It's delicious and makes a great sandwich spread. Honey in the comb doesn't leak through your bread as much.)

Honey has a self-limiting effect on the appetite. A person who could eat a one-pound chocolate bar with ease might have great difficulty eating a quarter-cup of honey all at once. Try it on your kids next time they are pestering for candy: give them a teaspoon or two of honey. Dates and raisins work the same way. Who do you know that can eat a couple of handfuls of dates right down? Nature has put more into many foods than we fully realize.

Copyright 2004 and prior years Andrew W. Saul.


Andrew Saul is the author of the books FIRE YOUR DOCTOR! How to be Independently Healthy (reader reviews at ) and DOCTOR YOURSELF: Natural Healing that Works. (reviewed at )

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Andrew W. Saul


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