19th Century

Vinegar and cholera
Ancient infective disease, coming from distant Asian regions. It is still present in several European countries and has often been mistaken with acute gastroenteritis, with which it has many similarities. In any historical period, cholera has been treated with vinegar. During the last century (1830 and 1884) the Government in Wien passed an order in view of the cholera outbreak, whereby people had to wash their hands before and after visiting a sick person, and also fruit and vegetables before eating them, with vinegar. It is well known that cholera can be transmitted through food; hence the need to take prophylactic measures and disinfect food.
Recent trials, as confirmed by the study carried out by Franco Mecca
(“Wine vinegar as a tool to prevent outbreaks and cholera outbreaks in particular”, Franco Angeli Editore) show that vinegar has a “clear and marked” disinfectant effect on the cholera vibrios and other intestinal pathogenic germs. The vibrios on the surface of fruit and vegetables, in contact with vinegar, are destroyed within 30 seconds – 1-2 minutes.
Vinegar as a beauty product
Kings and princes used vinegar as a beauty product in the last century. As confirmed by an advertisement published in “Il Secolo” on 15th February 1873, the king of Portugal, the queen of Holland, the queen of Belgium and the princess of Wales were chosen to advertise the properties of vinegar “that gives water a pleasant scent and has tonic and refreshing properties”, prevents the formation of chilblains and gives strength to the muscles. The same advertisements also describes ammonia vinegar salt, used as a disinfectant by those who had to visit hospitals, lazar houses and “all the places where noxious exhalations are present”. Vinegar has also been used in ancient and recent times for cleaning purposes. As Misette Godard points out, the situation in the European cities at the time can only be understood by comparing it with the modern Calcutta.
Vinegar, a multi-purpose product
In the 19th century women smelled vinegar to recover their senses or if their corset was too tight or to treat the headache. The lady of the house would also leave an open bottle of vinegar next to a person with influenza so that those who visited him/her, would not get sick.
Our ancestors used vinegar to prepare syrups, emulsions, ointments, decoctions, mouthwashes, sublimates, lotions, eyewash, soap and buffers. Vinegar was also used for rinsing, massaging, gargling, footbaths, fomentations, washing, inhalations, douching, bandaging, plasters and much more.