These days people are shouting from the rooftops about the health and beauty benefits of apple cider vinegar. Chances are if you have a jar of coconut oil and a jug of apple cider vinegar laying around, you’ve covered the basics when it comes to natural health remedies.
But despite its recent fame, vinegar has actually been around forever. Most likely your grandmother and even your great-grandmother used it as medicine, food, a preservative and even a cleaning solution. So what’s the deal with it and why is apple cider vinegar now so popular?
Science Behind Apple Cider Vinegar
Apple cider vinegar is a fermentation made from the juice of fresh pressed apples. Yeasts turn the apple sugars into alcohols, then bacterias and eventually an organic compound called acetic acid. This is what gives vinegar its sour taste and smell (1). Acetic acid can also be found in pickles, sourdough bread and kimchi.
But apple cider vinegar is different from plain white vinegar in that it still has all the good polyphenols and antioxidants from apples in it. Apple cider vinegar’s secrets don’t lie in the vitamins it contains, as you’d need to drink a lot in order to get any kind of sufficient nutrition benefits. But it is packed with healthy compounds like malic acid, lactic acid and citric acid. In other words, it’s chock full of good bacteria, probiotics and digestive enzymes.
Here are some tips to remember when buying apple cider vinegar (2).
- Make sure it is organic apple cider vinegar! This means it is free of any chemicals, additives or genetically modified ingredients that could be harmful to your health.
- Look for raw apple cider vinegar, which is actually unpasteurized and still contains the “mother”. This is the cloudy sediment floating around in the jar and is full of enzymes and probiotics, aka all the good stuff.
- Make sure it is unfiltered so that the “mother” is still inside. This will assure that you get all the health benefits of apple cider vinegar.
So what is it good for anyway? Well the history of apple cider vinegar for natural medicine goes way back. In fact, in Ancient Greece Hippocrates prescribed it for colds and flus along with a little honey. While there is a lot of speculation about all the ways you can use ACV, we’re going to discuss the scientific truth behind apple cider benefits below.
6 Top Health Uses of Apple Cider Vinegar
It’s a Blood Sugar Stabilizer
One of the biggest health issues plaguing our nation today is Type 2 Diabetes and the most studied benefit of apple cider vinegar is the way it can work to stabilize blood sugar.
One 2003 study in Japan found that glycemic index was reduced by more than 30% if regular cucumber was switched to pickled cucumber (3). Remember those acetic acids that form in vinegars and pickled things? Consuming that along with meals can help to lower blood sugar levels, especially with high carbohydrate and protein foods.
Another 2007 study showed a 34% improvement in insulin sensitivity (2). In other words, it helps your body use insulin properly. If you can’t use insulin effectively, this could lead to chronic high blood sugar and eventually diabetes.
But let’s be real here, whether you’re diabetic or not, stable blood sugar levels are important. If you find yourself skipping meals and then downing a whole bag of chips or cookies, you’re experiencing blood sugar crashes. This can lead to erratic eating habits, adrenal fatigue and moods that are all over the place. Women in particular should be aware of blood sugar because it can negatively impact your hormones!
Keeping your blood sugar stable means you feel full longer, are able to stay ahead of your cravings, maintain a healthy weight and keep your endocrine system in check. Speaking of weight, this leads me to my next apple cider vinegar benefit.
It Supports Weight Loss
One of the proven health benefits of apple cider vinegar is if you drink some every day, it can help with your weight loss goals. This is another well researched fact and one 2009 study showed that consuming two tablespoons every day resulted in lower body mass without any other changes in lifestyle (4). Now don’t get too excited because this isn’t always the case. But it can’t hurt to try!
ACV also works to increase your feelings of fullness so you may naturally cut calories and carbs. Remember that carb cravings often have to do with irregular blood sugar levels, so anything you can do to process them quickly will help your metabolism.
Another theory is that apple cider vinegar may support the liver to increase bile flow. This could then loosen up fatty deposits and help convert them into energy (3). It also stimulates stomach acids which break down excess proteins. That’s why including apple cider vinegar on the keto diet could be really helpful. When you’re trying keto, anything that supports the liver, metabolism and digestive tract is a good idea!
It Lowers Cholesterol
While not proven in humans, a study on rats showed that apple cider vinegar helped to lower bad cholesterol levels while raising the good kind of cholesterol (2). This could be due to the polyphenols in apple cider alongside the acetic acid, which seem to help the metabolism of fats.
Like diabetes, heart disease is a major risk for people today. A study done on nurses over a period of ten years showed that consuming vinegar as part of a healthy diet lowered their risk of heart disease significantly. This could be due to its positive effects on cholesterol and reducing high blood pressure (3).
It Helps to Ease Acid Reflux
One of the most annoying chronic health conditions is acid reflux disease. It affects anywhere from 15-30% of the population and that’s just the people who see a doctor for it (5).
There is conflicting information out there about what exactly causes it, but one theory is that having low levels of hydrochloric acid in the stomach relaxes the esophageal sphincter. When that isn’t functioning properly it will let acid out of the stomach and up into the esophagus. In this case, apple cider vinegar can support the formation of adequate hydrochloric acid in the stomach, as well as offer up digestive enzymes and probiotics to aid in digestion.
This can ease an upset stomach that’s due to poor digestion. While there isn’t much scientific evidence on this particular effect, people swear by it! To try it for yourself, add 1-2 tablespoons into a glass of water and sip it before a meal. Or if you’ve eaten something heavy (holidays anyone?!) and you’re already feeling the burn, try an after dinner tonic to support your digestion.
It’s a Natural Antibiotic
Remember how Hippocrates prescribed apple cider vinegar with honey as a cold and flu tonic? Well he may have been onto something there! One 2014 study found that acetic acid in vinegar was an effective disinfectant on the bacteria that causes tuberculosis (7).
With cold and flu season rapidly approaching, it couldn’t hurt to start your day with 1-2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar in warm water. Add a little honey to sweeten it up and further those antimicrobial effects. Apple cider vinegar is also detoxifying for the lymph nodes, promoting a health immune system from many directions.
One thing to remember is that cooking with apple cider vinegar is not as good as consuming it on its own. This is because high temperatures could destroy the beneficial bacteria and enzymes inside. If you’re adding it to warm water, make sure it’s not boiling.
It Can Lower Inflammation
Apple cider vinegar can help with arthritis by lowering inflammation in the joints (3). This could be due to the antioxidants and polyphenols or the detoxifying properties of ACV. Because of its antioxidant benefits it also scavenges free radicals which damage cells and accelerate aging.
It is said to be natural anti-inflammatory and while there isn’t much scientific evidence to support this, there are anecdotal stories of people who have found relief by consuming 1-2 tablespoons twice daily in water. Keep reading for a DIY morning tonic that includes turmeric, another excellent anti-inflammatory from mother nature’s medicine cabinet.
Other Uses for Apple Cider Vinegar
Besides the health effects, there are other reasons to use apple cider vinegar too. And some that may really surprise you. Read on for some apple cider vinegar insider info for your home and beauty needs!
It Supports Healthy Skin
Remember the antimicrobial activity of acetic acid? That works both internally and externally so if you’ve got a cut, scratch or even poison ivy, applying a little apple cider vinegar with a cotton ball could help prevent infection. Keep in mind that it could really burn, so make sure it is diluted first, especially on broken or irritated skin.
Another great tip is to use it as a toner for the face. If you struggle with acne it can help strip away excess oil, kill off acne causing bacteria and balance the pH of your skin. The polyphenols and antioxidants in apple cider vinegar could also support aging skin and help to clear sun spots and acne scarring (8). Yes please! The best way to use it for your skin is to dilute it into a mixture of 3 parts water and 1 part vinegar and apply it with a cotton ball.
It Can Nourish Your Hair
Apple cider vinegar has multiple benefits on your hair and can be used for both dandruff and even as a conditioner. Here’s why: Hair that is dry and a little dull often has a high pH. This means that it could benefit from a little acidity. Apple cider vinegar provides just the right amount to bring back shine and detangle those dry split ends.
If you struggle with dandruff or other scalp issues, the antimicrobial and exfoliating agents in ACV can help (9). To use it for your hair or scalp, create an ACV hair rinse to use once a week and see what happens!
Take ½ cup of purified water and add in about 3 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar. Avoiding your eyes, carefully pour the mixture over your scalp and hair, let it sit for a few minutes and rinse! Below you’ll find a hair rinse with rosemary that is both healing and stimulating for the scalp.
It Can Remove Warts
Perhaps it’s the acetic acid, or even the antimicrobial and antifungal effects but people swear by using ACV for wart removal. Just soak a cotton ball in plain apple cider vinegar, then apply it to the wart and cover it up with a bandage. Try this every day for 1-2 weeks and see what happens.
While it might react or swell at first, the wart should begin to fall away within a week of use. Of course always check with your doctor before trying any at home remedies, and if you notice an extreme reaction discontinue using it.
It Cleans Your Home
For years before all these chemical laden cleaners hit the market, people were using vinegar to disinfect their homes. Just ask your grandmother! Make your own DIY cleaning spray that is totally non toxic and see how you like it.
The same antimicrobial agents that make apple cider vinegar a great cold and flu preventative also work on surfaces as well. Keep reading for an all purpose cleaner recipe I’m sure you’ll love!
It Can Help Ward Off Bugs
Whether it’s the fleas on your family dog or the mosquitoes buzzing around your ankles, apple cider vinegar could be just what you need to get rid of nasty pests. Try a 50/50 dilution of ACV in water and spray it on your pet a few times a day. It may not smell great but it should help get rid of fleas and ticks that may be hiding away in their fur.
Avoiding bug bites in the summer can be a challenge, especially if you want to avoid chemicals. DEET is the active ingredient in most bug repellents but it is also super toxic! Luckily apple cider vinegar can work to both soothe your skin and keep the bugs away.
It Neutralizes Bad Breath
If you’re dealing with embarrassing bad breath apple cider vinegar could actually help the problem. The acidic properties of apple cider vinegar make it hard for the harmful bacteria to grow – especially the kind that live in the mouth and cause bad breath.
Apple cider vinegar can also help to balance pH levels of the mouth and support healthy digestion, mitigating bad breath and promoting overall health. This is a simple natural remedy to freshen breath without exposing yourself to toxins and chemicals found in conventional mouthwash and over the counter products.
Apple Cider Vinegar Recipes
Here are some ideas to get you thinking about how to use apple cider vinegar for your beauty, health and household needs.
DIY Hair And Scalp Rinse
- ½ cup of water
- ½ apple cider vinegar
- 5 drops of rosemary essential oil
Mix ingredients and apply after washing and conditioning your hair. Leave on for 5-10 minutes and then rinse thoroughly. Your scalp should feel clean and invigorated, and rosemary essential oil even stimulates hair growth. Click here for more essential oils that support healthy hair.
DIY Facial Toner for Acne
- 2 oz glass bottle
- 2 tablespoons of rose water
- 2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar
- 5 drops of tea tree essential oil
Combine the ingredients and shake well! For best results, apply after washing your face and before moisturizing. This will tone, disinfect and balance your skin’s pH. The tea tree also supports the healing of any acne or spots.
DIY Bug Spray with Apple Cider Vinegar
- 4 oz glass spray bottle
- ¼ cup of apple cider vinegar
- ¼ cup of witch hazel
- 5 drops of citronella essential oil
- 5 drops of lemongrass essential oil
- 5 drops of geranium essential oil
- 5 drops of tea tree essential oil
Combine the ingredients, shake well and use liberally as a bug repellent. The essential oils help to eliminate the vinegar smell and this combo really works!
DIY Household Cleaner
- 8 oz glass spray bottle
- ½ cup of water
- ½ apple cider vinegar
- 20 drops of orange essential oil
- 20 drops of lemon essential oil
Combine all the ingredients, shake well and use as needed for countertops, bathrooms or any other surface. Not only does it clean and disinfect, but the citrus should remove any excess grease or scum as well.
Apple Cider Vinegar Tonic:
- 8 oz warm (but not boiling) purified water
- 2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar
- 1 teaspoon of turmeric
- 1 teaspoon of raw honey
- 1 teaspoon of lemon juice
- Sprinkle of black pepper
Mix together and enjoy in the morning to boost detoxification, lower inflammation, support a healthy liver and stabilize blood sugar levels.
Tangy Salad Dressing
- ½ cup olive oil
- ¼ cup of apple cider vinegar
- 2 teaspoons of dijon mustard
- 2 teaspoons of raw honey
- 1 clove crushed garlic
- Salt and pepper to taste
Blend all the ingredients on high or until well combined. This makes a super detoxifying dressing and when eaten with a heavy meal will support the digestion of proteins and carbs. Salad dressings are a great way to include raw apple cider vinegar in your diet.
Apple Cider Vinegar Risks
Okay you may be totally sold on apple cider vinegar by now. And why wouldn’t you be? It’s cheap, easy to find and incredibly multipurpose. But there could be some risks when it comes to using apple cider vinegar.
- It’s an acid. This means you have to use caution when using it on broken or sensitive skin. It’s a good idea to dilute it first. This includes when you’re drinking it as well.
- It lowers blood sugar. While this can be a good thing for people with insulin resistance or diabetes, it can also lead to hypoglycemia if you don’t modify your medication or watch your levels. In small quantities it shouldn’t make enough of a difference, but monitor your levels just in case.
- It can erode tooth enamel. So make sure to keep it diluted and if consuming it before bed always brush your teeth afterwards.
- It can leach potassium from the body. One woman who consumed 8 oz of apple cider vinegar a day for six years was eventually admitted to the hospital with low potassium levels and a case of osteoporosis (11). As with anything, moderation is key! And anywhere from 1-2 tablespoons a day in water shouldn’t cause any issues.
- It is unpasteurized. This isn’t usually a problem for most people, but pregnant women or those with a compromised immune system may want to use the filtered apple cider vinegar in order to avoid any potential bacteria strains that may be lurking around in the raw unpasteurized kind.
To wrap it up, apple cider vinegar can be used internally, topically or even as a household cleaner. Some of its benefits are well-researched and some are anecdotal but regardless, it’s worth keeping a bottle on hand for day to day use.
I’m wondering if any of you know of other ways to use apple cider vinegar? Do you have any recipes to share or remedies I don’t know about? Please leave a comment below to share any tips you may have. We love hearing from you!
- WebMd (2018). Apple Cider Vinegar and Your Health. Retrieved from: https://www.webmd.com/diet/apple-cider-vinegar-and-your-health
- Dr. Axe (2018). 20 Apple Cider Vinegar Uses + 6 Health Benefits. Retrieved from: https://draxe.com/apple-cider-vinegar-uses/
- Dr. Jockers (2018). 12 Ways to Use Apple Cider Vinegar. Retrieved from: https://drjockers.com/12-ways-use-apple-cider-vinegar/
- Kondo, T. Kishi, M. Fushimi, T. Ugajin, S. Kaga, T. Vinegar Intake Reduces Body Weight, Body Fat Mass and Serum Triglyceride Levels in Obese Patients. Biosci Biotechnol Biochem. 2009 Aug;73(8):1837-43. Epub 2009 Aug 7. Retrieved from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19661687
- Healthline (2018). GERD: Facts, Statistics, And You. Retrieved from: https://www.healthline.com/health/gerd/facts-statistics-infographic#2
- Harvard Health Blog (2018). Apple Cider Vinegar… for Heartburn? Retrieved from: https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/apple-cider-vinegar-for-heartburn-2018032813530
- Cortesia, C. Vilcheze, C. Bernut, A. Contreras, W. Gomez, K. De Waard, J. Jacobs, W. Kremer, L. Takiff, H. Acetic Acid, The Active Component of Vinegar, Is An Effective Tuberculocidal Disinfectant. Retrieved from: https://mbio.asm.org/content/5/2/e00013-14
- Dr. Oz (2018). 7 Surprising Ways to Use Apple Cider Vinegar. Retrieved from: https://www.doctoroz.com/slideshow/surprising-ways-use-apple-cider-vinegar?gallery=true&page=5
- Healthline (2018). Can Apple Cider Vinegar Benefit Your Hair? Retrieved from: https://www.healthline.com/health/apple-cider-vinegar-hair
- Healthline (2018). Apple Cider Vinegar for Sunburn Care? Retrieved from: https://www.healthline.com/health/apple-cider-vinegar-for-sunburn-care#1
- Healthline (2016). 7 Side Effects of Too Much Apple Cider Vinegar. Retrieved from: https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/apple-cider-vinegar-side-effects#section4