Apple cider vinegar is everywhere. Everybody talks about it and everybody seems to love it. Is this just a new hype or is apple cider vinegar actually amazing? Are there actual health benefits of apple cider vinegar?
As the name suggests, apple cider vinegar is a product that is made from apples. Given the popular folk wisdom that “an apple a day keeps the doctor away,” it is likely not surprising that apple cider vinegar can boost your health and vitality. Keep reading to learn about the six health benefits of apple cider vinegar.
Apple Cider Vinegar is made by fermenting apple juice. It is popular for its healing properties and used as medicine in natural health communities for centuries. Literature reveals that Hippocrates used it with honey as a healing elixir, antibiotic, and tonic for general health in 400 B.C.
It’s true that vinegar has some benefits. Research shows this acidic liquid (and not just the apple cider variety) has antimicrobial effects against norovirus and E. coli. The “mother” in unfiltered apple cider vinegar—which the University Chicago of Medicine describes as “the combination of yeast and bacteria formed during fermentation”—is packed with probiotics.
First of all, there’s nothing new here. Apple cider vinegar was used as a natural remedy for health problems for a very long period of time. In fact, it’s an ancient remedy. It seems that we’re becoming more aware of those benefits these days, but they were always there. It’s a re-discovery, if you will.
More people are trying to improve their life by making healthier and more natural choices these days and that’s why you’ll see apple cider vinegar pretty much anywhere there’s a conversation about health, food, and natural remedies.
What Is Apple Cider Vinegar Exactly?
First, let’s explore exactly what apple cider vinegar, or ACV, is. ACV is made from fermented apples and water. Like other vinegars, ACV has 5 percent acidity.
You may notice that there are different types of ACV available at the store. For instance, distilled ACV looks clear in the bottle, and it may be the one you’re most familiar with. (2) But raw, unfiltered or unpasteurized ACV contains a cloudy substance that floats around in the mix. This is called the “mother” and is formed by natural enzymes during fermentation. No need to be wary of it: This stringy substance usually settles to the bottom of the bottle; it’s also completely safe to consume.
Regardless of the variety, you do not have to refrigerate ACV, and it will last for a very long time. Vinegar, in general, has an almost indefinite shelf life, according to The Vinegar Institute, an international trade association for vinegar manufacturers. Even if your vinegar changes appearance (it may look cloudier, for instance), it is still okay to be used.
As for nutrition facts, you can be sure that ACV won’t pack on the pounds. In fact, diluted apple cider vinegar contains zero calories per tablespoon (tbsp), as well as no fat, carbohydrates, protein, or fiber. You can think of it as a great way to add a burst of flavor to foods without adding calories or extra salt.
How Apple Cider Vinegar is Made
Before we explore the various health benefits of apple cider vinegar, let’s briefly explain how the product is made. The most important ingredient is, of course, apples. These apples are first cut up into pieces and then are squeezed to produce juice. The fermentation process is then started with the addition of yeast. After that, it is fermented a second time, transforming the juice to alcohol and then to a slightly bitter vinegar.
The nutritional components of ACV include:
- Vitamin B1
- Vitamin B2
- Vitamin B6
- Folic acid
- Pantothenic acid
- Vitamin C
- Amino acids
ACV can also be used as a flavoring agent in foods.
Health Benefits of Apple Cider Vinegar
High In Healthful Substances
Apple cider vinegar is made via a two-step process (1Trusted Source).
First, the manufacturer exposes crushed apples to yeast, which ferments the sugars and turns them into alcohol.
Next, adding bacteria further ferments the alcohol, turning it into acetic acid — the main active compound in vinegar.
Acetic acid gives vinegar its strong sour smell and flavor. Researchers believe this acid is responsible for apple cider vinegar’s health benefits. Cider vinegars are 5–6% acetic acid (2Trusted Source).
Organic, unfiltered apple cider vinegar also contains a substance called mother, which consists of strands of proteins, enzymes, and friendly bacteria that give the product a murky appearance.
Some people believe that the mother is responsible for most of its health benefits, although there are currently no studies to support this.
While apple cider vinegar does not contain many vitamins or minerals, it offers a small amount of potassium. Good quality brands also contain some amino acids and antioxidants.
Drinking Apple Cider Vinegar For Weight Loss
Most people use apple cider vinegar for weight loss, but they don’t know the rest of the health benefits of apple cider vinegar. That’s because apple cider vinegar was used as an aid in weight loss for ages.
There are several studies that have concluded using apple cider vinegar for weight loss actually works. They also found it works even without dietary changes. However, when drinking apple cider combined with a healthy lifestyle, the results are truly impressive.
So…how does this happen? Most people overeat because they don’t feel full. Apple cider vinegar increases satiety (your feeling of fullness) and that’s very helpful for staying on track with your healthy diet. Especially at the beginning of your weight loss journey when you need a little bit of help to start and to stay on track.
Lowering Blood Sugar
One of the biggest health claims for apple cider vinegar is related to diabetes and blood sugar control. A few small studies found that consuming apple cider vinegar after a meal could lower your blood glucose (sugar). This could be helpful for people with Type 2 diabetes or prediabetes.
But don’t expect vinegar alone to keep your blood sugar levels in check. “Apple cider vinegar might lower your glucose a little, but not enough,” says Czerwony. “To prevent or manage diabetes, follow a healthy diet and exercise plan.”
Apple Cider Vinegar May Keep The Bacteria On Your Salad From Getting Out Of Control.
In 2005, a study assessed vinegar’s anti-microbial properties by inoculating arugula with Salmonella. The researchers treated the tainted arugula with either vinegar, lemon juice, or a combination of them both. The researchers sought to see if these interventions could reduce bacterial growth.
They found that both lemon juice and vinegar decreased the growth of Salmonella. In fact, the ACV/lemon juice mixture decreased Salmonella to undetectable levels (I wouldn’t bank on this at home, though).
Bottom line: Nowadays, it seems like there’s a recall for lettuces at least once per week. Throwing some ACV on your salad may serve a purpose beyond adding flavor. Even if you use ACV, you still have to use common sense. If you dip raw chicken in your spinach, the vinegar won’t stop the bout of diarrhea that’s coming.
It Kills Bacteria
Studies show that vinegar of all kinds help kill pathogens, including bacteria. This is why we associate vinegar with disinfecting and cleaning. This power also makes vinegar a preservative by stopping the growth of food spoiling bacteria like E. coli.
Researchers proved this by treating groups of tainted arugula with one of the following: vinegar, lemon juice or a combination of both. Both the juice and vinegar decreased the growat of Salmonella, and the mixture dropped the bacteria levels to nearly undectable.
To address dandruff, some people find that lightly spritzing an apple cider vinegar and water solution onto the scalp combats persistent flakes, itchiness, and irritation. Vinegar’s acetic acid may alter the scalp’s pH, making it harder for yeast—one of the main contributors to dandruff—to flourish. It has also been suggested that it can treat a form of eczema known as seborrheic dermatitis.
A 2017 study published in the Galen Medical Journal suggested that the topical application of the flowering herb Althaea officinalis combined with vinegar was able to resolve seborrheic dermatitis is a 32-year-old woman.
Although apple cider vinegar is sometimes recommended as a hair rinse to remove shampoo build-up and clarify dull hair, the solution has to be very diluted in order to prevent stinging the eyes.
That said, there is some preliminary research suggesting that ACV may be beneficial for health. One animal study showed that obese rats who took apple cider vinegar daily saw a reduction in total cholesterol, LDL (“bad”) cholesterol, and triglyceride levels due to its antioxidant benefits. It’s important to note, though, that this study was done only on rats, so it’s not known if these findings hold up when applied to humans.
Helps Improve Digestion
Like other fermented foods, unpasteurised apple cider vinegar contains healthy bacteria – the gut-friendly bacteria that helps keep your digestive system working properly. Cider vinegar could provide relief for those with stomach problems like indigestion or heartburn. This is because it neutralises stomach acid whilst acetic acid fights harmful bacteria.
Apple cider vinegar has also been shown to have antiviral and anti-yeast and antifungal benefits, which are all helpful in supporting microbiome and overall immune balance.
Apple Cider Vinegar May Help Fight Obesity
Apple cider vinegar may help fight obesity, and this is primarily due to its acetic acid. Acetic acid makes up roughly 5 to 6 percent of apple cider vinegar. Not only does acetic acid help curb a person’s appetite, but it also may help in stoking their metabolism. Basic science tells us that if someone is eating less and simultaneously burning more calories, they will likely lose weight.
In addition, another good thing to know, if you are concerned about your weight, is that apple cider vinegar is very low calorie. You can consume large quantities without having to worry about your waistline. The apple cider vinegar can also leave you feeling full and less likely to consume excessive calories.
Teeth cleaning and whitening
Speaking of teeth …
“Some people like to use it to remove stains and whiten their teeth,” according to one of many online articles touting apple cider vinegar for this purpose:
“I let out an audible gasp when I read about this! It made me cringe, to be honest with you,” said Chicago dentist and American Dental Association spokesperson Dr. Alice Boghosian. “You’re putting acid on your teeth, the last thing you’d want to do to promote oral health.”
A pH of 7 is neutral, and anything less is acid, Boghosian said, adding that many of today’s popular apple cider vinegars are in the 2 to 3 pH range — about the same as stomach acid.
“Anything acidic which contacts your teeth will wear out the enamel, the protective coating, and that will cause cavities,” Boghosian added. “This is totally, completely wrong, unless you want to be paying more visits to your dentist.”
A healthier option would be to brush your teeth twice a day for two minutes with a whitening toothpaste with the American Dental Association seal, she said. “That shows it’s been tested to do what it’s supposed to do.”
Other articles promote rinsing your mouth with apple cider vinegar, soaking dentures with a diluted mixture or using it to clean a toothbrush.
“You just have to rinse off your toothbrush, get all the toothpaste out, and let it air out. That’s all you have to do,” Boghosian said. “Cleaning dentures or rinsing with vinegar is not a good idea. It too could put your teeth at risk. And just think how it might affect the metal on partial dentures.”
Reduced Heart Risks
ACV can help reduce cholesterol and triglyceride levels, which are known to increase the risk of heart disease when they are too high. Additionally, alpha-linolenic acid (which ACV is high in) has also been found to reduce the risk of heart disease in women. And vinegar has been shown to reduce blood pressure in hypertensive rats—good news, seeing as high blood pressure is linked to cardiovascular disease and increased mortality rates.
So if heart health is a concern of yours, adding ACV to your diet may be something to consider.
May Boost Skin Health
Apple cider vinegar is a common remedy for skin conditions like dry skin and eczema (22Trusted Source).
The skin is naturally slightly acidic. Using topical apple cider vinegar could help rebalance the natural pH of the skin, improving the protective skin barrier (22Trusted Source).
On the other hand, alkaline soaps and cleansers could irritate eczema, making symptoms worse (23).
Given its antibacterial properties, apple cider vinegar could, in theory, help prevent skin infections linked to eczema and other skin conditions.
Some people use diluted apple cider vinegar in a face wash or toner. The idea is that it can kill bacteria and prevent spots.
However, one study in 22 people with eczema reported that apple cider vinegar soaks did not improve the skin barrier and caused skin irritation (24Trusted Source).
Talk with your doctor before trying new remedies, especially on damaged skin. Avoid applying undiluted vinegar to the skin, as it can cause burns.
Apple Cider Vinegar And Cancer
When it comes to apple cider vinegar and cancer, it has been shown that apple cider vinegar can help in cancer prevention because it promotes health. There are many factors and causes for cancer and we still have a long way to go in terms of prevention and treatment but, what we do know is apple cider vinegar can reduce the risk of cancer and can slow down the cancer cell (tumor) growth.
That being said, apple cider vinegar shouldn’t replace treatment for someone diagnosed with cancer or a healthy lifestyle for those who want to reduce the risk of developing different types of cancer.
Sunburn and Other Skin Injuries
While more common recommendations for a mild sunburn include a cool water compress, cool bath, aloe gel, or moisturizer, some people swear by apple cider vinegar. It can be added to a cool bath or mixed with cool water and lightly spritzed on affected areas (avoiding the face) to relieve related pain and discomfort.
There is little evidence that apple cider vinegar can help heal or relieve sunburn pain better than no treatment. It does, however, have excellent antibacterial properties that may help prevent skin infections caused by sunburn and other skin injuries.4
Apple cider vinegar shouldn’t be applied full-strength or in strong concentrations to the skin, as the acidity can further injure the skin. It also shouldn’t be used for more serious burns. Be sure to consult your healthcare provider for help determining the severity of your sunburn if it seems more than minor.
If you have mosquito bites, poison ivy, or jellyfish stings, a weak apple cider vinegar solution dabbed onto the affected area(s) may help itching and irritation.
Acne and Other Chronic Skin Issues
Apple cider vinegar may help to dry out pimples when a solution is dabbed onto pimples. It should be diluted before applying it to the face as it can cause skin injury if it’s not sufficiently diluted.
The concentration of acetic acid in apple cider vinegar varies widely and is not standardized, making it difficult to judge how much to dilute it to be safe as a skin toner or for other purposes.
Although the evidence supporting the use of apple cider vinegar in treating acne is lacking, research has suggested that it may help diminish the appearance of varicose veins when applied topically.
It seems counterintuitive that taking vinegar could decrease acid production, but that’s the reason why ACV is suspected to be useful in addressing acid reflux and heartburn, per a review published in July 2019 in the journal Current Gastroenterology Reports. That said, there are almost no published reports examining if acid reflux can be treated with ACV, the researchers explain.
Condition Of Your Hair
If you have dry, brittle hair or an itchy scalp, replacing your usual shampoo with a bottle of unfiltered cider vinegar could give you more manageable tresses. Research found that using high alkaline shampoos leads to hair breakage and dryness.
The acetic acid in the mother is thought to help lower our hair’s pH to combat that dry, frizzy feel. The pH level of our scalp and hair is acidic at around 5.5. Normal hair products are alkaline, which can contribute to our hair becoming brittle and dry. Water can have the same impact too because it’s pH neutral. But because apple cider vinegar is acidic, it can help restore hair’s pH balance if you pour it on your hair after shampooing.
The internet also touts apple cider vinegar as a treatment for skin infections and acne, a way to fight lice and dandruff, as a natural wart remover or an anti-aging treatment.
“It will dry out a pimple, but it’s not an anti-aging method,” said dermatologist Dr. Marie Jhin, a spokesperson for the American Academy of Dermatology. “I wouldn’t recommend it. We have much more effective and safe methods today than this.”
While it can help with sunburn, there are many other good remedies so “we don’t usually suggest that to patients,” Jhin said.
One use she can agree with: “I do love it for bites, especially mosquito bites. It’s a very underutilized home remedy. If you have a lot of bites, put two cups in a full tub of water and soak. It will help with itching,” she said.
But don’t turn to it to get rid of head lice or warts. One study found vinegar to be the least effective natural method to eliminate lice, and as for warts, they “are caused by a virus, so there’s no cure,” Jhin explained.
“You can dab a diluted version of apple cider vinegar on a wart with a Q-tip, and it’s going to help remove dead skin, which is what we do in the office by paring it down, cutting it out or burning it with liquid nitrogen. But it’s not going to be as fast or effective as what we do in the office,” she said.
American Academy of Dermatology spokesperson Dr. Michael Lin, director of the Advanced Dermatology and Skin Cancer Institute in Beverly Hills, has a more negative perspective on home use.
“I’ve had quite a few patients harmed by apple cider vinegar,” Lin explained. “One terrible example was a man trying to treat genital warts. When he came into the office, the entire area was raw, burned by the vinegar.
“I don’t know if he was using it full-strength, but whatever he was doing it was too strong,” he continued. “He probably has permanent scarring from that natural home treatment.”
Lin said he feels more comfortable recommending distilled white vinegar, as it is created to a standardized formulation of 5% acidity.
“With apple cider vinegar, you don’t know what strength you’re getting,” Lin said. “It depends on the brand, and even among batches within a brand, you could get different concentrations of acidity.”
“If you do choose to use apple cider vinegar, try to buy a name brand that clearly labels the acidity level. And whatever you do, don’t use it full-strength.”
He suggested a 1:10 ratio.
A time-honored throat elixir, apple cider vinegar drinks and gargles are said to alleviate the pain of a sore throat (pharyngitis). Although there are many different recipes and protocols, a basic drink recipe calls for a teaspoon of apple cider vinegar, a teaspoon of honey, and a small pinch of cayenne pepper stirred in a cup of warm water.
Although proponents claim that apple cider vinegar has germ-fighting properties and the capsaicin in hot peppers alleviates pain, there hasn’t been any research on apple cider vinegar’s ability to fight sore throat. Moreover, there is evidence that treating a sore throat with vinegar can cause more harm than good.
If not properly diluted, vinegar can corrode esophageal tissues, causing persistent throat pain and dysphagia (difficulty swallowing).6
It is unclear at what concentration apple cider vinegar would safe for use in treating pharyngitis, particularly in children.
Some people suggest taking apple cider vinegar as a treatment to manage symptoms in inflammatory conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis (RA), multiple sclerosis (MS), and ankylosing spondylitis (AS). One explanation is that the vinegar may reduce inflammation and lessen symptoms. However, there are no studies that directly explore ACV as a therapy for RA, MS, or AS.
Where ACV may be useful is for possible relief from some gastrointestinal symptoms, which may occur in people with these health conditions. Taking vinegar may also help improve gut bacteria, which may affect inflammation, but research needs to be done to explore this possibility. Talk to your doctor if you have one of these conditions before trying ACV.
Because of apple cider vinegar’s antimicrobial properties, it is often suggested as a natural cleanser for the home.
The acid is effective against mold, but according to the Pesticide Research Institute, an environmental consulting firm, so are salt, lemon juice, hydrogen peroxide, tea tree oil and baking soda.
Many of those also smell better.
Apple cider vinegar is biodegradable, and because of its low pH, it’s great against alkaline grime such as hard water and mineral deposits, as well as soap scum.
But it won’t cut grease. Why not? Just think of a simple oil and vinegar salad dressing. After mixing, the oil and vinegar quickly separate because oil is nonpolar, while vinegar and water are polar, meaning they are not attracted to each other.
Will apple cider or other vinegars sanitize or disinfect your home? Probably not enough to make you feel germ-free.
This 1997 study showed that undiluted vinegar had some effect on E. coli and salmonella, but a study conducted in 2000 showed no real impact against E. coli or S. aureus, the common staphylococcus bacteria responsible for most skin and soft tissue infections.
That 2000 study also showed vinegars to be quite effective against the waterborne bacteria Pseudomonas aeruginosa, mostly found in hospitals and untreated hot tubs. It was also effective against Salmonella enterica, a rare pig-borne version of salmonella.
If you do choose to use a vinegar to clean your home, never mix it with bleach or ammonia, because it will create toxic chlorine or chloramine gases.