The People's Perspective on Medicine

Great-Grandmother’s Indigestion Remedy with Vinegar and Honey Conquered Upset Stomach

Honey and cider vinegar mixed in water makes an old-fashioned indigestion remedy that saved the evening for a restaurant owner.

We love home remedies. We are intrigued by the variety of treatments that have been passed down for generations, though they are sometimes disparaged as “old wives’ tales.” As far as we can tell, those old wives may not have been scientists, but they knew a thing or two! That is why we were excited about this reader’s indigestion remedy from way back when.

An Indigestion Remedy from Norway:

Q. My great-grandmother brought a folk remedy for upset stomach with her from Norway. When I was little and had a bellyache, I’d be given a tablespoon of cider vinegar plus a tablespoon of honey dissolved in a bit of hot water, mixed in a regular drinking glass that was then filled with cool water. It’s actually quite tasty and it works every time, almost instantly!

Several years ago, the owner of a restaurant in my neighborhood was complaining that his stomach was extremely upset. Nothing he’d tried had worked, including an entire bottle of the pink stuff. He couldn’t take the night off and go home (and he never complained about anything, so it must have been bad).

I suggested the cider vinegar/honey remedy. He told me I was crazy, but since he had nothing to lose by trying it, and wisdom from family matriarchs was nearly sacred to him, he trotted off to the kitchen. A few minutes later he was back to his old self and couldn’t stop grinning. Then he spread the word. I was still hearing about it weeks later.

A. Thanks for telling us about the origin of your remedy. We have heard from many readers that this can be surprisingly helpful for heartburn and indigestion.

What Does Vinegar Do?

This indigestion remedy, like most other home remedies, has not been the subject of a randomized controlled trial. A fascinating but small pilot study of a unique gum containing apple cider vinegar (Journal of Dietary Supplements, June, 2015) showed it eased heartburn.

Scientists have determined, however, that acid (such as vinegar) in the esophagus triggers increased salivation (Journal of Gastroenterology and Hepatology, Dec., 2005). Frequently, such saliva secretion can overcome the discomfort of reflux (American Journal of the Medical Sciences, May, 2015).

Some worry that the vinegar will erode tooth enamel, so we were pleased to get this suggestion from a reader: “Use a straw to bypass the teeth so that the vinegar will not harm them.” One might also rinse with water and wait half an hour before brushing the teeth, since vinegar could soften enamel and make it susceptible to abrasion.

Can Honey Help?

The other component of this indigestion remedy, honey, has been studied even less than vinegar. We found an impassioned argument for its usefulness in fighting reflux (Indian Journal of Medical Research, Dec., 2013). Perhaps some day there will be an actual study of the Norwegian great-grandmother’s treatment for indigestion.

You will find other simple remedies for indigestion in our Guide to Digestive Disorders.

Revised 11/22/16

Rate this article
4.2- 42 ratings
About the Author
Terry Graedon, PhD, is a medical anthropologist and co-host of The People’s Pharmacy radio show, co-author of The People’s Pharmacy syndicated newspaper columns and numerous books, and co-founder of The People’s Pharmacy website. Terry taught in the Duke University School of Nursing and was an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology. She is a Fellow of the Society of Applied Anthropology. Terry is one of the country's leading authorities on the science behind folk remedies. .
Digestive Disorders

Download this guide to getting off heartburn medicine. Preventing ulcers. Effective treatments for constipation and diarrhea. Foods and drugs that cause gas.

Digestive Disorders
Join over 150,000 Subscribers at The People's Pharmacy

We're empowering you to make wise decisions about your own health, by providing you with essential health information about both medical and alternative treatment options.

Showing 16 comments
Add your comment

I was having stomach problems for a few weeks (December 2016). It started with cramping and throbbing pains and feeling like I needed the toilet all the time even when I didn’t. It got to where I couldn’t sit up straight without severe pain. I had to cancel travel plans. Something in my stomach just didn’t feel right and I was getting very worried that it might be something serious and considered seeing my doctor. By chance I came across ACV online and decided it was worth a shot. Within half an hour of drinking it mixed with water I actually felt some relief so I took it twice a day. Three days later I was much better. One week later I felt great. It’s now been 2 weeks and I feel no more pains and the funny feeling inside has gone. I’m going to keep taking once per day and see how things go but for me it’s given amazing results so far.

After reading this article I decide to try apple cider vinger for sour stomach but didn’t have any so I slice an Apple up and pour white vinger in a bowl then dip each slice of apple into the vinger and ate it in a few minutes it’s start to work my sour stomach was gone..??

Also, my cardiologist told me not to use herbal teas, especially green tea, since it messes w/ your vitamin K levels. This is specifically important if you are on a blood thinner, ( warfarin).
He said that regular tea was ok.

Also, my Mother treated my fathers ulcer with cabbage juice. Take cabbage and “juice” it, and drink 1 medium glass daily. my mom used a blender. Dads ulcer went away. It smelled real bad, but if Dad held his nose while drinking it, he would NOT smell it. Same for peeling an onion. In retrospect, maybe SHE caused the ulcer?

And lastly, if you have an enfant that has trouble sleeping, or cries often, take an old wind up alarm clock (tick-tock type), wrap it in a thick towel (pinned securely), and put it in the crib. it will simulate the mothers heart beat, and soothe the baby to sleep. Do not set the alarm, on the clock, unless you want to change the diaper more often.

My mother used and recommended Honey & vinegar daily. She mixed it : 1/4 honey, 1/4 acv, And 1/2 water. it has to best stirred before drinking. Doesn’t taste too bad. A book be Dr Jarvis was her inspiration. She corresponded w/ him, and thanks to him, we all had healthy lives, growing up. Check out the book on popular online sites.

Be careful! For twenty or more years I have suffered frequent bouts of chronic indigestion, often lasting days, even weeks, at a time. I have seen numerous health practitioners, had two endoscopies and a blood test, and have been prescribed various medicines, none of which has made the slightest difference. In desperation, I tried a spoonful of cider vinegar in a glass of water. All it did was cause me stomach pains and nausea, without alleviating the symptoms of indigestion.

Absolutely fantastic remedy! I tried it about a half hour ago, and feel much better already. I MUST be better by tomorrow morning, and I was desperate. Thank you, Terry – and thanks to your Great Grandmother.

Art, are you still using apple cider for your gerds and if so are you taking any RX for it as well. I’ve had gerds for 10+ years and have taken several meds for it. Last being dexilant. I would love to quit the RX but if I miss even 1-2 days, my stomach is on fire.

I guess that due to genetic variation and other factors, that we are all quite different from a pharmacologic point of view.
ACV (Apple Cider Vinegar Chewable Tablets) has worked quite successfully in my case for treating what has commonly become known GERD or, “reflux”.
It’s now quite well documented in the medical literature that the use of so called, “PPI’s” (Prilosec or Omeprazole, Prevacid or Lansoprazole, Nexium, Aciphex and, the others), as well as H2A’s (such as Pepcid or Famotidine, Zantac or Ranitidine and the rest) have been shown to be quite dangerous and, are never recommended for long term use.
That’s just an fyi.
In your case you might want to see a GI (Gastroenterologist) Physician as an adjunct to your health care team, if you aren’t already seeing one.

I tried apple cider vinegars Bragg’s brand. After a week I developed horrible stomach pains. I had to stop using it. My system just can’t handle it. Use with caution.

I have used “that pink stuff” for ages, but decided to try the cider vinegar and honey. Good bye “pink stuff!”

I tried this and it works great! Thanks! It definitely worked better for me than just ACV in water and it sure tasted better!

My mother’s advice for a tummy ache when I was a child was,”Lie down flat on the floor and put your knees up.” After a few minutes the pain would subside. Why? I don’t know. I have used it sometimes as an adult with success.

A teaspoon of honey is definitely not a prerequisite.
I cured my severe “reflux disease” by the use of Apple Cider Vinegar (in the form of chewable tablets) after the use of large quantities of antacids stopped working for me, and after trying some Prilosec samples one time, which I had. I didn’t like the way that Prilosec made me feel but I’ve never had any problems with the apple cider vinegar.
“PPI” (“Proton Pump Inhibitors”) of which Prilosec, Nexium, Prevacid, Aciphex, Protonix and others are grouped, can be dangerous to your overall health in the long term because they interrupt the body’s natural process of producing HCL (“Hydrochloric Acid”) in the stomach’s parietal cells for the body’s production of gastric juices for the use of the digestion of food.
PPI’s also interfere with your body’s basic absorption of basic and trace minerals such as Calcium, Iron and other minerals as well.
Finally, PPI’s were almost removed from the market by the FDA when they were first introduced to the American Market in the early 90’s due to being suspected of causing, “Carcinoid Tumors”, but were not removed for some reason.
There may be a place in medicine for the appropriate use of PPI’s but the “natural approach” in treating “indigestion” (now called, “Reflux” by Big Pharma) is a better approach, and certainly safer, and much more affordable for you, I would think.

If indigestion is a frequent problem one should try some digestive enzymes. Start with a mild one that has only 200 mg or so of betaine HCL and the natural enzymes such as lipase etc. Many people have insufficient stomach acid and this will result in soft bones down the road. Increase the dose gradually until one does get an “acid stomach” and then back off to the last good dose.
I’ve been taking digestives for over 30 years. I just had a serious fall two months ago and broke my leg. The break was high on the femur and a single break. The Orthopedic Dr. was amazed that it was a simple break because of my age. I am 68 and obviously my bones are strong. Also the fall did not affect the hip, which amazed him as well.
One word of advice. One doesn’t always get indigestion with faulty digestion. If one’s fingernails crack, peel, and generally are weak one should try the digestives.

Makes sense, because upset and acidic stomach is not due to too much acid, it’s due to too little to keep digestive function adequately supported. In the same way, adding a sprinkling of chili powder to a drink of water will do the same thing. People with upset digestion are often advised to follow a bland diet, but I think that’s the very opposite of what may actually help them.

Sounds a lot more healthful than the commercial anti-acids. Is the tablespoon of honey a requisite? I’m trying to cut down on sugar.

* Be nice, and don't over share. View comment policy^