Pain was part of everyday life for Linda Faulkner, one of the 8.5million arthritis suffers in the UK. Diagnosed with the incurable joint condition in 2006, she tried an array of treatments with little success, from painkillers to steroids – which helped in the short term – to supplements including glucosamine, chondroitin, fish oils and collagen.
Despite her best efforts, the pain, which began in her wrists, had migrated to her back and neck and was increasing.
So when Linda read recently of church organist Sarah Gall, who had cured her crippling arthritis pain by drinking a mixture of cider vinegar and honey, she was willing to give it a go.
Remarkably, for the past two weeks – for the first time since she developed the disease – Linda has been almost pain-free.
The 58-year-old retired pharmacist from Billericay, Essex, says: ‘After four days the pain in my neck disappeared. And, before, there was always a dull ache in my wrists and if I knocked them even lightly I would yelp in pain. I haven’t needed painkillers for the past few weeks.
‘At first, I was almost frightened to admit it was working. But it really is. I still can’t believe it.’
Every morning and evening Linda drinks a mix of a tablespoon of honey and a tablespoon of vinegar with a dash of hot water.
‘The other night my electric toothbrush broke and I had to brush my teeth the old-fashioned way. Before, I didn’t have the power in my hands and wrists to do this. It is such a small thing, but so significant.’
Cider vinegar has for centuries been prized by herbalists as a health tonic – although doctors remain unconvinced.
‘Some herbalists believe that arthritis is caused by acid crystals in the joints,’ says consultant rheumatologist Professor Robert Moots, of Liverpool’s University Hospital.
‘Drinking vinegar is supposed to dissolve them. But we know from studying the joints of those affected by osteoarthritis that the symptoms are not caused by crystals but by the wearing away of the cartilage that lines the joints. The subsequent friction leads to over-growth of bone, pain and inflammation.
‘Other claims are that vinegar somehow influences the body’s pH balance, but you would have to drink a vat of powerful alkaline to affect the acidic environment of the stomach. A change in pH would cause vital organs to stop functioning.’
Cider vinegar – which is produced by allowing the alcoholic drink to sour – contains similar nutrients to apples, including pectin, beta-carotene, potassium and magnesium.
But Prof Moots, a spokesman for UK charity the Arthritis Research Campaign, says: ‘I can see nothing of benefit. But it’s unlikely to do harm. I wouldn’t endorse it but I wouldn’t dissuade patients from trying it.