The Health Benefits of Apple Cider Vinegar

Apple cider vinegar is a liquid produced during the fermentation of apple cider. During this process, the sugar in apples is fermented by yeast and/or bacteria added to the cider, which then turns it into alcohol and, finally, into vinegar.

Like other types of vinegar, the key component in apple cider vinegar is acetic acid. Apple cider vinegar also contains other substances such as lactic, citric, and malic acids, and bacteria.

For centuries, apple cider vinegar has been used as a home remedy to treat many health ailments and as a disinfectant and natural preservative.

Health Benefits

Proponents claim that apple cider vinegar may boost your health in a variety of ways. Science backs up some of these claims.

benefits of apple cider vinegar
Verywell / Emily Roberts

Blood Sugar

The acetic acid in vinegar appears to block enzymes that help you digest starch, resulting in a smaller blood sugar response after starchy meals such as pasta or bread.

A 2017 review of studies published in Diabetes Research & Clinical Practice suggested that the increased intake of vinegar with meals can decrease fluctuations in insulin and blood sugar after meals.

To incorporate apple cider vinegar in your meals, try adding a splash to salads, marinades, vinaigrettes, and sauces. If you have diabetes or prediabetes, be sure to consult your doctor if you’re considering using amounts larger those normally found in cooking. Vinegar can interact with diabetes medication, and it shouldn't be used by people with certain health conditions, like gastroparesis.

Weight Loss

Proponents claim that consuming vinegar before or with a meal may have a satiating effect. A 12-week study from Japan conducted reported that people who had consumed up to 30 milliliters (roughly 6 teaspoons) of vinegar per day experienced a modest one-to-two pound reduction in body weight. Body mass index (BMI), waist circumference, triglycerides, and visceral fat were also slightly reduced.

People tend to consume greater than normal amounts of apple cider vinegar when using it for weight loss purposes, with some even taking it in tablet form.

Other Uses

Over the years, apple cider vinegar has been used as a home remedy for many health and beauty issues. While there isn't strong science to back these claims, there is some anecdotal evidence to affirm its potential.

Dandruff

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. There have 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 very dilute to prevent stinging the eyes.

Sunburn and Other Skin Injuries

While the more common recommendation for a mild sunburn is 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 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.

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 health care provider for help in determining the severity of your sunburn.

If you have mosquito bites, poison ivy, or jellyfish stings, a weak apple cider vinegar solution dabbed onto bites and stings may help itching and irritation.

Acne and Other Chronic Skin Disorders

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 or chemical burns if it’s not dilute enough.

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.

Sore Throat

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 capsaicin in hot peppers alleviates pain, there hasn’t been any research on apple cider vinegar’s ability to fight sore throats. 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).

It is unclear at what concentration apple cider vinegar would safe for use in treating pharyngitis, particularly in children.

Deodorant

To help keep smelly feet under control, proponents claim apple cider vinegar may help to balance the skin’s pH and fight the bacteria that causes foot odor. Typically, a bit of apple cider vinegar is mixed into water. Baby wipes, cotton balls or pads, small towels, or cotton rags can be dipped into the solution, wrung out, and used to wipe the bottom of the feet. Wipes can be made ahead and stored in an airtight container.

Although a vinegar scent will be noticeable, it often dissipates when the vinegar solution has dried. Avoid wearing shoes made from materials like leather that can be damaged by the acidity.

An apple cider vinegar solution can also help to neutralize odor-causing armpit bacteria. Typically, cotton pads, towelettes, or cotton rags are lightly spritzed with a very weak solution and swiped onto the armpits. The vinegar smell should dissipate as it dries.

It's a good idea to test the apple cider vinegar solution in a smaller area first and to avoid using it if you're wearing delicate fibers, like silk.

Possible Side Effects

Apple cider vinegar is a popular household ingredient, which may lead you to believe that it's completely safe. While there may be no cause for alarm if you are generally healthy, there are some potential effects to be aware of, particularly if the concentration is too strong or is in contact with your body for too long.

Apple cider vinegar, for instance, may cause chemical burns. There have been case reports of chemical burns after apple cider vinegar was used for warts and a skin condition known as molluscum contagiosum.

Although apple cider vinegar is widely touted as a home remedy to whiten teeth or freshen breath, exposing your teeth to the acidity may erode tooth enamel and lead to cavities.

When taken internally, ACV may result in decreased potassium levels, hypoglycemia, throat irritation, and allergic reactions. It is an acid (a pH less than 7 is an acid, and many apple cider vinegar products have a pH of 2 to 3) and can cause burns and injury to the digestive tract (including the throat, esophagus, and stomach), especially when taken undiluted or in large amounts.

Apple cider vinegar may interact with certain medications, including laxatives, diuretics, blood thinners, and heart disease and diabetes medications.

Apple cider vinegar shouldn’t be used as a nasal spray, sinus wash, or in a neti pot, and it shouldn’t be added to eye drops. Vinegar won't help in the treatment of lice.

Dosage and Preparation 

Apple cider vinegar is available as a liquid and in supplement capsules. There is no standard dose for ACV supplements, so follow the package directions and check with your healthcare provider.

When using vinegar, most suggested uses involve diluting apple cider vinegar before applying it to the body. However, the safety of different vinegar-to-water ratios isn't known. A 1:10 ratio has been suggested when applying it directly to skin, however, it should be weaker (or avoided entirely) on weak or delicate skin.

Although a teaspoon to a tablespoon mixed into 8 ounces of water is often suggested as a reasonable amount for internal use, the safety of various doses isn’t known.

You can try to use it highly diluted, but the amount of acetic acid in commercial apple cider vinegar varies (unlike white vinegar, which is 5% acetic acid) making it impossible to be sure of the true strength.

What to Look For

Apple cider vinegar is available filtered or unfiltered. Filtered apple cider is a clear light brown color. Unfiltered and unpasteurized ACV (such as Bragg's apple cider vinegar) has dark, cloudy sediment at the bottom of the bottle. Known as "mother of vinegar" or simply "the mother," this sediment consists mainly of acetic acid bacteria. Apple cider vinegar is also available in tablet form.

When buying apple cider vinegar in supplement form, read the product label to ensure that apple cider vinegar is listed in the ingredients rather than acetic acid (white vinegar).

Recipes

A splash of apple cider vinegar can brighten many dishes (not just salads) and add wonderful flavor to your cooking. Try it in these recipes:

A Word From Verywell

There are many anecdotal uses and some preliminary evidence suggesting that it may help certain conditions. While you might find that you benefit from its properties, large-scale clinical trials are needed before it can be recommended as a treatment for any health condition.

If you’re considering using apple cider vinegar for any health purpose, be sure to speak with your healthcare provider to see if it’s right for you, rather than self-treating and avoiding or delaying standard treatment. People with certain conditions (such as ulcers, hiatal hernia, Barrett’s esophagus, or low potassium) may need to avoid apple cider vinegar entirely.

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