9 Proven Health Benefits of Apple Cider Vinegar (+Other Useful Applications)
Most of us use apple cider vinegar to add a tangy kick to savory meals or as salad dressings, but how healthy is it really? Is it that much better than regular vinegar?
With a wide range of uses in folk medicine, this fruity vinegar has been associated with a lot of health benefits, including its ability to combat the flu and even cure warts.
Although many benefits of apple cider vinegar are unproven, some experts strongly believe that including it into your daily diet may help you stay healthier. (1) It is advisable, however, to consult a medical professional before you make any major health decisions concerning apple cider vinegar as there are some minor side effects.
What is Apple Cider Vinegar?
Apple cider vinegar is made from the fermented juice of apples and acetic acid. It contains vitamins B1, B2, and B6, and vitamin C. It also contains folic acid, biotin, niacin, and trace minerals like calcium, iron, sodium, and potassium among others. (2)
The History and Production of Apple Cider Vinegar
Did you know that apple vinegar has been used for around 5,000 years? Historical records confirm that apple juice has been fermented into vinegar since before 5000 BC. Since then, apple cider vinegar has been widely used to stimulate circulation, purify blood and detoxify the liver, cleanse lymph nodes, and improve metabolism and immune system response. Hippocrates often recommended it as a cure for coughs and colds when mixed with honey.
Since then, apple cider vinegar has been widely used to stimulate circulation, purify blood and detoxify the liver, cleanse lymph nodes, and improve metabolism and immune system response. Hippocrates often recommended it as a cure for coughs and colds when mixed with honey.
Produced similarly to other fermented drinks like kombucha, kefir and wine, apple cider vinegar is made using active yeast mixed with sugar.
In the case of apple cider vinegar, sugar comes from a natural source – crushed apples. The yeast feeds on sugar, which stimulates the growth of good bacteria, which then promotes fermentation. The best vinegar is made from organic apples.
Pasteurization is not required and it is not recommended for health and wellness uses, as it kills the nutrients and enzymes naturally occurring in apple cider vinegar.
Loaded with acetic acid, apple vinegar is an effective anti-bacterial and anti-fungal agent that can kill unhealthy bacteria, including E.Coli.
Apple vinegar may contain strands of yeast, which give it a murky brown aspect. This is called the “mother”. This is actually a sign that the vinegar is a good, healthy product, as the strands of live yeast floating in the bottle are rich in good bacteria that can kill the infection-causing bacteria in their path.
Although sugar is essential to fermentation, the amount of it consumed in the process is so low that in the final product you hardly ingest any of it. Containing as little as 3 to 5 calories per tablespoon, apple cider vinegar is an important ingredient to a weight-loss salad and/or drink mix in combination with raw honey.
9 Proven Health Benefits of Apple Cider Vinegar
1. Apple cider vinegar supports weight loss.
Apple cider vinegar is touted as a powerful health and weight loss supplement all over the world, and is even considered a miracle food in some circles.
In one study, subjects were given either water or apple vinegar for 12 weeks. During the study, their diets were recorded in a food journal. Investigators found that those using apple cider vinegar saw greater weight loss than those who only drank water. The vinegar group lost as much as two more pounds than the water group over a period of three months. (3)
Researchers concluded that apple cider vinegar was responsible, at least in part, of the weight loss that was observed. This is potentially due to certain fat-burning genes that were activated in the presence of specific enzymes in apple cider vinegar. It is also believed that the acetic acid in apple cider vinegar can slow down the digestion of starch and delay the feeling of hunger pangs. (4)
2. Apple cider vinegar helps prevent and manage diabetes.
Diabetes is a disease in which blood sugar levels or blood glucose are too high. Glucose is a product of the food you eat, specifically carbohydrates. Insulin is a hormone that helps shuttle glucose into cells for energy.
However, those with type 1 diabetes cannot make insulin, and those with type 2 diabetes either cannot make insulin or cannot use it well. Without insulin, glucose is left circulating in the blood. Chronically high blood sugar levels can pose serious problems to your kidneys, nerves and eyes.
There are also those with pre-diabetes, which basically means that your blood sugar levels are higher than what is considered normal, but not high enough to be considered diabetes. Pre-diabetes puts you at higher risk for type 2 diabetes. Diabetes has been linked to a higher risk of stroke and heart disease.
To manage blood sugar levels, you need to exercise and eat a healthy diet. Certain substances and supplements can also help prevent diabetes. Apple cider vinegar for instance, has been shown to have beneficial effects for diabetics. In one study, apple cider vinegar repressed the glucose response to a carbohydrate meal of white bread by 31%.
3. Apple cider vinegar improves insulin sensitivity.
Studies conducted on the efficacy of vinegar as an anti-diabetic therapy are warranted, especially since more and more people are being diagnosed with diabetes each year. In fact, by 2029, numbers are expected to have increased by 50%, hence the importance of finding preventive therapies.
There have been numerous studies that found links between drinking apple cider vinegar and improved insulin sensitivity. These showed how vinegar can balance the insulin and glucose responses to a starchy meal.
4. Apple cider vinegar has anti-glycemic properties.
According to experts apple cider vinegar may have similar effects on blood sugar to those of conventional blood sugar medications.
Apple vinegar has an anti-glycemic action, therefore it partially blocks the digestion of starch. While it does not block the starch completely, it does prevent some of it from being digested and entering the bloodstream, causing the blood sugar levels to rise. (5)
However, if you are on diabetes medication, Johnston suggests you should not discontinue and substitute it with apple cider vinegar. If you consider taking it alongside your medication to help lower your blood sugar levels, always seek medical advice first.
5. Apple cider vinegar improves digestion.
Drinking apple vinegar after a starchy meal helps feed the good bacteria in your gut, which thrive on non-digested starches.
Generally, dietitians recommend using the kind of vinegar that has “the mother” still in it. The mother is a rich source of probiotics and other beneficial bacteria that promote digestion.
Additionally, the vinegar helps support the immune function as well. Some people drink apple cider vinegar first thing in the morning to jumpstart the immune system, but there is no data that supports this.
6. Apple cider vinegar lowers blood pressure.
According to a 2009 study, apple cider vinegar can help reduce triglycerides and blood pressure. Subjects in the study were observed over a period of 12 weeks. (6)
In an earlier 2006 study, it was observed that acetic acid in apple cider vinegar could lower cholesterol and blood pressure in laboratory rats. (7)
If you are on medication that lowers your blood pressure, ask your doctor about using apple cider vinegar as there could be a negative interaction between the two.
7. Apple cider vinegar can fight off ulcerative colitis.
Apple cider vinegar can help improve your gut health. Ulcerative colitis is an inflammatory bowel disease. It causes inflammation and the development of ulcers in the digestive tract, particularly the large intestine. (8)
A study conducted on mice confirms the potential benefits of apple cider vinegar for ulcerative colitis.
Investigators found that when acetic acid was added to the rodents’ drinking water, the levels of the good bacteria in their gut, such as Lactobacillus and Bifidobacteria, increased and minimized gastrointestinal symptoms associated with the ailment. (9)
8. Apple cider vinegar promotes detoxification.
The cleansing nature of apple cider vinegar has been known for centuries. Toxins attach to the acids in the vinegar which make them easily expelled by the body. (10)
Studies also confirm that apple vinegar has a tonic action on the lymphatic system and the liver, supporting the natural ability of the body to detoxify itself. Apple cider vinegar works by improving lymphatic drainage by clearing up mucus in the body. It also contributes to balancing the body’s pH levels, enhances cardiovascular function, and improves bowel motility. (11)
9. Apple cider vinegar has anti-cancer properties.
The big “C” word is something everyone is looking to avoid. Each year 12.7 million people are diagnosed with cancer in the US. (12)
Although acidic in nature, the acetic acid in apple cider vinegar has an alkaline effect on your body. By helping balance your body’s pH, it can reduce your risk of developing chronic diseases including cancer while giving you a significant energy boost.
There is promising research on the effects of apple cider vinegar and how it can prevent the onset of cancer. It was observed from some laboratory studies on rats that vinegar may have the ability to kill or slow down the growth of cancer cells. However, further studies are needed in order to have more conclusive results. (13)
Apple cider vinegar has other therapeutic and aesthetic benefits, but most of these need more scrutiny, especially if they are home remedies. It is also always a good idea to seek medical advice before you adopt any changes to your health and wellness regimen.
15 Other Useful Applications of Apple Cider Vinegar
1. Apple cider vinegar has been credited with teeth-whitening properties.
Rich in healthy bacteria and enzymes, apple cider vinegar is believed to help with teeth-whitening. Try rubbing apple cider vinegar on your teeth for 60 seconds. Then lightly gargle with water. Notice any whitening? The acidity of the vinegar is said to help remove stains on your teeth.
But there’s a downside. Acetic acid, which is the active ingredient in vinegar, may also cause some erosion in the tooth enamel. This was observed in a laboratory study of wisdom teeth that were allowed to soak in vinegar for four hours. The result was that the wisdom teeth lost 1–20% of their minerals. (16)
So, if you think this remedy is worth trying out, just be aware of potential side effects on tooth enamel.
2. Apple cider vinegar may offer relief from heartburn and acid reflux.
An imbalance of stomach pH combined with the lack of probiotics and enzymes are some of the main causes of heartburn. Apple cider vinegar is rich in these essential nutrients.
As a home remedy, dietitians suggest that drinking a mixture of one tablespoon apple cider vinegar diluted in a cup of water, five minutes before meals can ward-off acid reflux, the main cause of heartburn.
3. Apple cider vinegar is a natural hair conditioner.
Apple cider vinegar can also be used as a hair conditioner. The acetic acid in apple cider vinegar helps remove oil build-up in your hair, thus giving your hair a healthy shine.
A good recipe to try would be to mix one tablespoon of apple cider vinegar into one cup of water into a clean container. Pour this mix on your hair after shampooing three times per week. Or, you may try this once-a-month conditioning rinse: mix 1/3 cup of vinegar with four cups of water and use this mixture to rinse your hair. (17)
4. Apple cider vinegar kills candida.
Believe it or not, a lot of people have bouts of candida and yeast infections. Typical symptoms include exhaustion, cravings for sweets, having a coat of white on your tongue, bad breath, and joint pain.
It is believed that apple cider vinegar can kill off candida because it is rich in probiotics and is a type of acid that stimulates the growth of probiotics.
A 2011 study found that apple cider vinegar was very effective against candida albicans and was more effective than fluconazole, an antifungal drug. Because of these positive results, the study recommended that apple cider vinegar can be considered as an add-on therapy. (18)
It also has anti-fungal action. Apple cider vinegar is a great natural remedy for skin and toenail fungus because it is rich in anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties. To get rid of fungus, try dabbing the affected area with apple cider vinegar in a cotton ball twice a day. This should kill your fungus in no time!
5. Apple cider vinegar helps ease the symptoms of colds and sore throat.
Hippocrates first used this remedy around 400 B.C. Packed with vitamins and probiotics, apple cider vinegar is a natural therapy for colds and sore throats.
To ease the symptoms of your cold or sore throat, mix two tablespoons of apple cider vinegar with lukewarm water in a big glass and drink twice daily, while there are symptoms. Hippocrates added a little honey to make a soothing mixture.
6. Apple cider vinegar is known to ease sunburn and swelling from poison ivy.
Because it is mild on the skin, apple cider vinegar can be a soothing balm for sunburn. If you’re looking forward to a nice, warm bath, try tweaking it with a cup of apple cider vinegar and ¼ cup of coconut oil and your choice of essential oil.
Additionally, apple cider vinegar is also known to ease poison ivy. Rich in potassium and other minerals, this vinegar helps reduce swelling and inflammation caused by poison ivy. At the same time, apple vinegar can help flush the poison out of the skin thus healing poison ivy quicker.
7. Apple cider vinegar helps tone the skin and alleviates inflammation.
Try rubbing apple cider vinegar on an area affected by eczema or acne to help rapidly heal the blemish due to its neutral pH properties.
To speed up the healing process, you can also add some coconut oil and essential oils on the area after applying or washing the area with vinegar. (19)
Due to its antioxidant properties, apple vinegar can slow down the aging process. It can be used as a skin toner to maintain a balanced pH in the skin. (20)
8. Apple cider vinegar assists in healing warts.
To get rid of warts, soak a cotton ball with apple cider vinegar and secure with a bandage or tape on the affected area. Allow the vinegar to seep into the wart overnight and remove the covering in the morning. This remedy is believed to cure warts in a week or more. (21)
9. Apple cider vinegar can act as a natural deodorant.
Body odor is often caused by yeast and bad bacteria overgrowth. The armpit is the perfect place for bacteria because it can stay damp longer especially under layers of clothing.
Try swabbing your armpits with apple cider vinegar using a cotton ball and then air-dry. This should kill most of the odor-causing yeast and bad bacteria.
10. Apple cider vinegar clears up allergies.
Another amazing benefit of apple cider vinegar is that it can effectively combat seasonal allergies. It does this by keeping the body’s alkalinity in correct balance. Keeping the right pH balance of the body is one of the benefits of apple cider vinegar. It has properties as a natural remedy to keep all types of allergies at bay.
Apple cider vinegar helps break up mucous in your system, thus promoting lymphatic drainage. This leads to clearing up the sinuses an overall boost in your body’s immune function as well.
11. Apple cider vinegar can help prevent osteoporosis.
More than one in four women in the US aged 65+ suffer from osteoporosis. This alarming condition has been estimated to affect a total of 200 million women worldwide.
Preventing the condition before it starts ravaging your bones is essential.
Apple cider vinegar was found and confirmed to aid in the absorption of calcium. This mineral is essential to the prevention of osteoporosis and thus reduces the risk of any related complications. Conversely, however, some reports say that that apple cider vinegar may cause decreased bone density and lower potassium levels if used excessively and long-term. (22)
The Final Word
Believe it or not, not all apple cider vinegar is of good quality. Try not to buy the crystal-clear vinegar products that are usually in supermarket shelves. These products have undergone the high-temperature pasteurization process that kills all the probiotic nutrients and enzymes contained in the “mother”, thus resulting in a clear, but nutrient-less vinegar product.
To make sure you buy a good vinegar product, look for raw, organic and unpasteurized vinegar, with the “mother”. The mother ensures that it still contains the bits of live yeast and enzymes that make it very beneficial to your health. The cloudier it is, the richer in probiotics and good enzymes it has.
Taken properly and moderately, apple cider vinegar can keep your body in the right pH balance and can provide many health and therapeutic benefits.