When you think about apple cider vinegar (ACV), do you picture just another ingredient in a salad dressing, or one of nature’s food-as-medicine wonder drugs?
Various schools of thought exist around this sometimes controversial liquid. In recent years, it’s become a popular ingredient in detoxes and cleanses that claim to offer numerous benefits – but many health pros say it’s all hype, and not much science. Let’s take a look at what the evidence has to say about the health benefits of drinking apple cider vinegar.
How Is Apple Cider Vinegar Made?
First, just what is apple cider vinegar? And what makes it more special than, say, the balsamic, champagne, or white varieties?
This type of vinegar is made by squeezing the juice from apples, then adding bacteria and yeast to promote fermentation. This process turns the sugars in the apple juice to alcohol—hence ACV’s sour (instead of sweet) taste.
As for what might make apple cider vinegar more advantageous for health than any other variety, the research is limited. All vinegars contain acetic acid, the active ingredient believed to confer many of ACV’s benefits, and most varieties come with potassium, amino acids, and antioxidants. So it’s possible that any vinegar could confer comparable health benefits to ACV.
Many believe that “The Mother” (the murky strands of proteins, enzymes and beneficial bacteria) present in organic and unfiltered brands of apple cider vinegar, such as this one from Bragg, are responsible for apple cider vinegar’s impressive health benefits, but there is currently a lack of research to back this up.
5 Popular Apple Cider Vinegar Benefits – Do They Stand Up To Science?
Claims of apple cider vinegar’s medical usefulness are all over the map, from controlling blood sugar to improving polycystic ovarian syndrome. How do they hold up to scrutiny?
1. Weight Loss
Weight loss is possibly the most popular of apple cider vinegar’s supposed benefits for health.
In an age where over two-thirds of us are carrying too much weight, many people are seeking an effective approach to shedding some pounds—and many consumers now prefer a natural approach. But despite the anecdotal evidence you may see on blogs or Instagram posts, evidence for ACV as a weight loss aid is conflicting.
One study revealed that when people drank vinegar (not just apple cider vinegar) alongside a meal, they felt fuller and ended up eating fewer calories by the end of the day. Another found that consuming one or two tablespoons of vinegar daily led to “significantly lower” body weight after 12 weeks—around two to four pounds. Body Mass Index (BMI), waist circumference, and other measures were also reduced. It’s been theorized that the reason for this modest weight loss is that the acetic acid in vinegar suppresses enzymes that hang on to fat.
Still, according to the Mayo Clinic, the research has “not consistently shown significant and sustainable weight loss across diverse groups of people.” With strong opinions on both sides, it’s tough to draw firm conclusions about whether ACV actually helps you lose weight—or whether it’s significant, if it does.
Verdict: Whether it’s a placebo effect or the acetic acid acting on enzymes hanging on to fat, apple cider vinegar shows promise as a weight loss aid, even if further study is needed.
2. Blood Sugar Control
One proven effect of apple cider vinegar is the slowing down of gastric emptying — the rate at which the stomach releases its contents into the lower digestive tract.
When this emptying process slows, sugars enter the bloodstream less quickly. This can keep blood glucose lower and steadier after a meal—a major boon for people with diabetes. Several studies have shown promising results for a dose of ACV as a supplemental treatment for type 1 and type 2 diabetes. It should be noted, though, that the studies were conducted on relatively small groups.
Verdict: The science suggests apple cider vinegar is an effective supplemental treatment for controlling blood sugar for people with type 1 and 2 diabetes, although further study is needed.
3. Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome
Generally characterized by irregular periods, disrupted hormone levels, and infertility, Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) can wreak emotional and physical havoc on women’s lives. Like diabetes, PCOS is often linked to blood sugar issues. So it’s not surprising that if apple cider vinegar improves one condition, it may also improve the other.
A 2013 study gave seven women a beverage containing one tablespoon of ACV daily for up to 110 days. By the end of the study, four of them were able to ovulate and have more normal periods, and six had better insulin sensitivity. Like the blood sugar studies, this one was small, but promising.
Verdict: ACV shows early promise as a treatment for PCOS but much more research is required.
4. Lower Cholesterol
High cholesterol can put you at risk for heart disease and stroke. So it’s a worthy goal to keep your numbers in the healthy range. Can apple cider vinegar help? Quite possibly.
A 2012 study of 19 people with high blood lipids found that subjects had significantly reduced levels of total cholesterol, triglycerides, and LDL after eight weeks of drinking two tablespoons of ACV twice a day. Another experiment at Aston University in the UK had the same result.
Verdict: Apple cider vinegar shows early promise as a way to reduce high cholesterol.
5. As A Cleanse Or Detox
Many people have jumped on the ACV bandwagon in the form of “cleanses” or “detoxes.” These multi-day regimens involve drinking apple cider vinegar diluted in water (or in combination with spices like cayenne powder or sweeteners like honey) first thing in the morning, or up to three times a day. This approach is sometimes used as a component of long-term or intermittent fasting. The idea behind a cleanse is that apple cider vinegar will boost the body’s ability to flush out toxins.
It’s important to understand, however, that your body is already equipped with its own innate (and quite powerful) detoxification system. Your liver and kidneys work around the clock to clear your body of invading organisms by excreting them through urine, sweat, and feces – and there’s little proof that cleanses help them do so more efficiently.
Some health experts have speculated that the real reason behind people’s reported increased energy and focus after a cider vinegar cleanse has less to do with its power to remove toxins, and more to do with the elimination of processed foods and sugary drinks.
Verdict: While many people claim ACV is an effective way to cleanse or detox, there is no science to back this up and positive benefits may be linked to the absence of other harmful foods and drinks rather than the consumption of ACV.
How To Take Apple Cider Vinegar
If you’re intrigued by the possibilities of ACV, you may wonder about the best way to take it, and how to make it more palatable if you do. (After all, a shot of vinegar first thing in the morning probably doesn’t top your list of appetizing breakfasts.)
Just keep in mind that you should never drink apple cider vinegar straight as it can burn your esophagus. Instead, mix one tablespoon with 8 ounces of water. If you don’t like the taste, use a straw (a reusable one, of course!) to minimize contact with your taste buds. We share some recipes for making ACV more palatable below.
3 Ways To Make ACV Taste Better
Add raw honey. The combination of ACV, raw honey and water is an easy way to make swallowing the bitterness a lot more tolerable. Just combine one cup of water with one teaspoon of ACV and one tablespoon of raw honey.
Combine it with juice for a tasty tonic. You can also mix a couple of teaspoons of ACV with apple or grape juice – it’s not only bearable, but you’ll also actually enjoy drinking it.
Make a tea. Boil a cup of water and pour into a mug. Add a dash of cinnamon or a cinnamon stick, a teaspoon of raw honey and a teaspoon of apple cider vinegar.
The Best Type Of Apple Cider Vinegar To Consume
For best results, look for an organic, unfiltered variety of apple cider vinegar. Bragg’s, for example, is a trusted brand that’s been around since 1912. It’s available from this page on Amazon in a number of different quantities.
How To Make Your Own Apple Cider Vinegar
Since turning apples into apple cider vinegar is a relatively simple process, you could even make your own at home.
We’ve got an entire tutorial dedicated to this process which you can read here.
If you go this route, however, be sure to follow directions for cooking and storage to the letter, as excessive levels of bacteria can become dangerous.
Possible Side Effects Of Apple Cider Vinegar
While the top side effect of a shot of vinegar might include a puckered mouth and a sudden need for a breath mint, there are other, more serious possible complications.
Any vinegar contains a plentiful amount of acid, so some people experience upset stomach or other digestive problems after consuming it. Its acidity may also irritate your throat or erode tooth enamel. That’s why you should always dilute in water, fruit juice or tea. Some proponents recommend drinking it through a (reusable) straw to minimize contact with teeth.
Also, if you’re on any medications, be sure to check with your doctor before starting an apple cider vinegar regimen. ACV could interfere with certain drugs or supplements.
The Last Word
It’s clear from the science that any vinegar makes a healthy addition to your diet and apple cider vinegar may just be the best of them, so feel free to use a heavy hand with it in salad dressings, marinades, and dips.
And as long as side effects aren’t a problem, you can feel good about drinking up to several tablespoons a day. Just keep in mind that ACV isn’t magic, and probably won’t result in extremely dramatic changes to your health.
More Brilliant Ways To Use Apple Cider Vinegar
Apple cider vinegar shows numerous benefits when taken internally, but you can also use it on your hair and skin, for household cleaning, and in the garden.
Apple Cider Vinegar Hair Rinse
Apple cider vinegar has long been used as an alternative to shampoo, not only does it help to remove excess buildup of mineral deposits, it improves blood circulation to the hair follicles to encourage hair growth and prevent loss. If you rinse your hair regularly with apple cider vinegar, it makes removing tangles from your hair easier and closes the cuticles to improve porosity and encourage stronger strands, it leads to a reduction in breakage and split ends.
To use ACV as a rinse, combine a cup of water with a quarter cup of ACV. After you’ve washed your hair in the shower, be sure that it’s thoroughly rinsed and then pour the mixture over your head, making sure to avoid getting it into your eyes. Massage it into your scalp for a minute or two to stimulate blood circulation and hair growth, and then rinse well.
To learn more about using ACV for hair and how to make a herbal apple cider vinegar rinse, read our full article here.
It Can Relieve the Pain of a Sunburn and the Itch of a Bug Bite
If you find yourself with a sunburn, you can use ACV to help promote healing, prevent blistering, relieve the pain and decrease the redness. Just combine a half cup of ACV with four cups of water and then dip a clean washcloth in the mixture and apply it to affected areas. Use the same method for eradicating the itch and pain of a bug bite.
It Can Get Rid of Warts
ACV can get rid of warts too. While it doesn’t kill the virus, because it’s high in acidity, it can attack the flesh that makes up the wart, killing it so that it will naturally peel away from the skin. This also takes the virus along with it, which helps to prevent a recurrence. For this purpose, gather up about two tablespoons of ACV, some cotton balls, and a bandage. Soak a cotton ball in the apple cider vinegar allowing it to completely saturate, and then gently squeeze out the excess liquid so that it is not dripping when you apply it to the wart. Place it over the wart, and then secure it with a bandage. Repeat this every day, and it should die and come off within a couple of weeks.
ACV Makes an Effective Toner
Why spend an arm and a leg on a pricey toner that probably contains multiple toxic compounds. Instead, save some cash and your health by mixing equal parts of water and ACV. Used as you would any toner, the mixture helps to even out skin tone, balance skin pH and even battle breakouts too. The malic acid in ACV contains antiviral, antifungal and antibacterial properties that keep the skin clean, balanced and free of acne while encouraging it to heal itself.
ACV Can Fade Age Spots
Those creams and lotions with alpha-hydroxy acid that are designed to fade age spots can also come with a high price tag, but you can replace them with inexpensive ACV. ACV also contains alpha-hydroxy acid, which helps the skin stay firm, fresh and renew itself. To use, combine an equal amount of water and ACV, dip a cotton ball or pad into it and then dab it onto age spots, allowing it to soak in. Leave it on for a couple of minutes initially – if your skin reacts well, leave it on longer for the best results (10 to 15 minutes), and then rinse.
Apple Cider Vinegar Can Make Toilet Cleaning Easy
You can make toilet cleaning much easier by using full strength ACV. It not only cleans stubborn stains but it disinfects too. Pour in two cups of undiluted ACV just before you go to bed. Don’t flush. Allow it to sit overnight, and those stains will begin to disappear. Whatever is left will be easily scrubbed away.
Use ACV to Acidify Your Garden Soil
Some plants prefer more acidic soil, and if you need to adjust the pH level of your garden soil to help them thrive, you can use ACV instead of harsh, expensive commercially produced products. Soil with a pH that ranges from 1 to 6 is considered acidic, and while most plants require a pH between 6.5 and 7, others need those more acidic conditions – test your soil first to determine its precise pH before amending it with ACV. If it needs to be more acidic, mix a gallon of water with a cup of ACV in a watering can and then pour it over the soil.
It Makes a Great Fertilizer
You may have heard that white vinegar is an effective herbicide, but ACV has the opposite effect due to its 5 percent acidity. It can be used as a fertilizer to maintain healthy plants, for those that thrive on more acidic soil, like azaleas, gardenias, and blueberry bushes. Simply add 10 ounces of it into a 10-gallon bucket, and then fill the remainder with water. Pour the mixture onto the soil and around the roots, using a sprayer or watering can, of each plant you want to fertilize. If the sun is out, be especially careful not to touch the plants themselves, as they’re likely to wilt. There are lots more ways to use apple cider vinegar in the garden, as we reveal in this article.