Apple cider vinegar (ACV) has long been used as a home remedy for a variety of ailments, like varicose veins and sore throats. But what is it about apple cider vinegar that makes it so healing? Is it really good for you, and what benefits does it offer? But is apple cider vinegar good for you? What are health benefits of apple cider vinegar, uses & side effects? All this and more below!
Is Apple Cider Vinegar Good For You?
Apple cider vinegar has been used in cooking and medicine since ancient times. In fact, Hippocrates was prescribing apple cider vinegar and honey as medicine back in 400 BC Greece.
Apple cider vinegar is, essentially, fermented apple juice. Adding yeast to the juice turns sugar into alcohol, and the bacteria then break down the alcohol into acetic acid.
It’s the acetic acid in ACV that gives it its strong smell and overly sour taste. And it's also what researchers believe gives this vinegar its healthful properties. Apple cider vinegar is about 5-6% acetic acid.
ACV has antioxidant and antimicrobial properties, which may help fight bacteria and free radicals. It also contains:
- Malic acid
The combination of bacteria and yeast in ACV is what gives the vinegar its characteristic cloudy consistency.
Understanding “The Mother”
Raw, unfiltered apple cider vinegar has what’s called “the mother.” The mother is the collection of protein- and enzyme-rich strands that collect at the bottom of the jar. Only unfiltered ACV has the mother, and many people believe that this is what holds many of the vinegar’s healthful properties.
Apple Cider Vinegar Uses
ACV is a staple in many home kitchens, and that’s because there are many apple cider vinegar uses. It’s natural, and it’s generally safe as long as you use it properly. ACV can be used for:
Because of its antibacterial properties, apple cider vinegar is often used in natural, DIY home cleaners. Simply dilute the vinegar with water (1/2 cup ACV and 1 cup of water is a common mixture) to create a simple, all-purpose cleaner.
Keep in mind that while ACV does have the power to kill some bacteria, it’s not as effective as commercial cleaning products.
Many people apply ACV topically for a variety of reasons, including skincare and wound care.
There is some evidence that ACV may help with wound healing. In one study, groups of rabbits with back wounds were treated with apple cider vinegar in concentrations of 5%, 3.75%, or 2.5%. Researchers found that 3.75% had similar effects to using an antibiotic in terms of bacterial reduction.
Many people also use ACV as a skin toner. There’s anecdotal evidence that apple cider vinegar can help with skin conditions and even reduce signs of aging. The antiseptic properties are what make it a great option for skincare. But because ACV can be harsh, it’s important to dilute it with water before applying it to your skin. A common recipe is one part ACV and two parts water, but if you have sensitive skin, you may need to dilute the vinegar even more.
The most common use for ACV is for cooking. It’s a great addition as a marinade, but it can also be used to make homemade salad vinaigrettes or to add flavor to roasted foods.
Diluted as a Drink
Many people drink diluted apple cider vinegar as a health drink. It’s believed to help promote healthy gut bacteria and even help with GERD symptoms. It’s important to make sure that you never drink ACV straight or undiluted. One common mixture is one cup of water with two tablespoons of ACV. You can add cinnamon, lemon juice, and honey if you like.
Alternatively, you can buy premade apple cider vinegar drinks at most health food stores.
What Are the Health Benefits of Apple Cider Vinegar?
ACV can offer many potential health benefits, including:
May Help with Weight Loss
One of the most popular uses for ACV is weight loss. But new research shows that using vinegar for weight loss may not just be an old wives' tale. Human studies have shown that vinegar may act as an appetite suppressant.
Because vinegar can make you feel fuller for longer, you may naturally consume fewer calories and lose weight.
One study found that taking ACV with a high-carb meal increased the feeling of fullness. Participants ate up to 275 fewer calories throughout the day after taking the vinegar.
Another study found that daily consumption of ACV led to weight loss and reduced belly fat in people with obesity. Taking two tablespoons daily led to a weight loss of 3.7 pounds over the course of three months.
ACV isn’t a magic bullet for weight loss (there isn’t one), but it may help speed up your weight loss efforts. It may help you feel fuller for longer and may even help lower your blood sugar levels.
May Help Kill Bad Bacteria
Vinegar like ACV can be effective at killing bad bacteria. People have used vinegar for centuries to clean and disinfect. In fact, Hippocrates used vinegar for wound cleaning more than 2,000 years ago.
ACV can also be an effective food preservative. Research shows that it can inhibit the growth of certain bacteria, like E. coli.
May Help with Blood Sugar
One of the best-supported benefits of apple cider vinegar is for type 2 diabetes. Avoiding sugar and refined carbohydrates is the healthiest way to keep blood sugar levels under control, but ACV may also be able to help.
One small study found that vinegar may help improve insulin sensitivity by as much as 34% when eating a high-carb meal. It may also help improve the insulin response and lower blood sugar levels.
Another small study found that taking two tablespoons of ACV before bed lowered fasting blood sugar by as much as 4% the next morning.
While ACV (or any other supplement) should never replace your doctor-prescribed medication, it may be used in conjunction with your treatment to help manage your blood sugar levels. Talk to your doctor first if you’re thinking of using ACV for this purpose.
May Help Improve Your Skin
Earlier, we talked about how ACV is sometimes used in skincare and to help treat wounds. But it may also help with some skin issues, like eczema and dry skin.
Skin is slightly acidic, so applying ACV topically may help rebalance your skin’s natural pH. Soaps and cleansers tend to be alkaline, which can exacerbate symptoms and make eczema even worse.
However, ACV should never be applied directly to the skin. It should be diluted first to prevent irritation.
Apple Cider Vinegar Side Effects
Apple cider vinegar offers many potential benefits, but it can also cause side effects in some people, especially if used improperly. Here are some of the potential apple cider vinegar side effects:
Vinegar is acidic, which can be irritating to some people. Not everyone tolerates ACV well, especially those with digestive issues like ulcerative colitis or IBS. If you have a sensitive stomach in general, you may want to steer clear of ACV.
ACV is made from fermented apples, and apples contain pectin. Pectin is a soluble fiber that can help reduce inflammation and promote the growth of healthy gut bacteria.
These sound like great benefits and they can be, but if you overdo it, you may wind up with a bout of diarrhea.
Because ACV delays stomach emptying, consuming it regularly can cause bloating as well as gas and nausea.
Some people find that it's better to increase their water intake and eat more high-fiber, low-starch vegetables to help with weight loss.
Not Suitable for People with Kidney Issues
If you have a pre-existing kidney condition, consuming ACV may not be a good idea. There is some evidence that immunocompromised kidneys or weakened kidneys can be worsened by ACV due to its acidity.
It May Make Your Reflux Symptoms Worse
Many people take ACV to help with their acid reflux. For some, it helps. For others, it makes their reflux symptoms worse. Generally, if you have acid reflux, you should do your best to steer clear of acidic foods like apple cider vinegar.
ACV is harshly acidic, so if you consume too much of it, it can irritate the throat and esophagus. Even apple cider vinegar capsules can potentially cause irritation in the throat if they become lodged in there.
How to Avoid Side Effects
The good news is that most of these side effects can be avoided if you make sure that you’re keeping your portions under control. In other words, don’t overdo it. Excessive ACV intake is what causes most of these side effects. It’s best to start with small amounts to gauge your reaction and increase slowly over time and only if necessary.
Apple cider vinegar has potential health benefits, but it’s important to make sure that you use it properly and not overdo it. Whether applied topically or consumed in diluted form, ACV is a natural substance that you can easily add to your diet or care routine.