Apple cider vinegar (a.k.a. ACV) is my new health obsession. I recently began taking apple cider vinegar shots a few times a day for a quick and effective energy burst. However, I've since discovered so many other useful and healthy ways to incorporate it into my daily routine.
It's effective for pretty much anything — your skin, your hair, your house, and even your pets can benefit from its qualities. Raw, organic, unfiltered, and unpasteurized, apple cider vinegar is so much more than a salad dressing!
1. It can detoxify your home.
It's made from apple juice and is fermented to hard apple cider. It's then fermented a second time to become ACV. By using it in lieu of other products, we instantly decrease the consumption of unnatural chemicals in our homes and daily lives.
2. It can make your hair shine.
It can be used as a rinse for your hair after shampooing, and it will boost your hair's body and shine. I recommend recycling an old shampoo bottle, then filling it with ½ tablespoon of apple cider vinegar and 1 cup of cold water. Pour the solution through your hair after shampooing. Do this several times a week for dramatic results.
3. Natural apple cider vinegar regulates the pH of your skin.
Dilute it with two parts water, and spread the concoction over your face with a cotton ball to replace your current toner. You can do this at night after washing, and in the morning before you apply your moisturizer. A dab of it can also be left on the skin overnight to fade age spots or acne scars.
It's also a recommended agent for warts. For warts, soak a cotton ball in ACV, then fasten the cotton ball over the wart with a Band-Aid overnight. The skin may swell some as it reacts with the solution. However, the wart will fall off. Once it falls off, the treatment should be continued for a few more days, to make sure the wart doesn't return.
4. It can remove stains from teeth.
Rub teeth directly with apple cider vinegar, and rinse with water.
5. It can soothe sunburned skin.
Add 1 cup to your bath, and soak for 10 minutes to eliminate discomfort from sunburn.
6. It can be used as a natural aftershave.
Fill a bottle with equal parts ACV and water, and shake before applying to the face.
7. It's an all-natural massage treatment.
Rubbing it on your hands and feet will give massage-like relief to tired hands and feet.
8. It can aid in weight loss.
For daily weight management, try a recipe of 2 teaspoons of apple cider vinegar to 16 ounces of water. This concoction can be sipped throughout the day. Data shows some limited, yet significant, weight loss from sustained daily intake of acetic acid (which is a main ingredient).
In a 2009 study published in Bioscience, Biotechnology, and Biochemistry, it was found that subjects who consumed acetic acid for 12 weeks experienced significant weight loss and declines in abdominal fat, waist circumference, and triglycerides. Triglycerides contribute to the bad cholesterol that we want to avoid.
9. It can balance your entire inner body system.
The body constantly strives to achieve a state of equilibrium. ACV helps maintain a healthy alkaline pH level. Research shows that higher acid levels (lower pH level) lead to a lack of energy and higher incidences of infection. Hence, my desire to sip some a few times a day for a natural boost of energy.
10. It can help you detox.
As part of balancing your pH, ACV creates an overall detoxification of the body. Research shows that it can help stimulate cardiovascular circulation and help detoxify the liver.
11. It is great for your lymphatic system.
It helps to break up mucus and cleanse the lymph nodes. Believe it or not, research suggests that ACV can help with allergies because of its ability to reduce mucus and sinus congestion. When reducing the effects of allergies, it can also help stave off sinus infections and their related symptoms, such as sore throats and headaches.
12. It can help you get rid of candida.
It is rich in natural enzymes that can help rid your body of candida — yeasts that are attributed to thrush in humans. Candida is also blamed for creating symptoms of fatigue, poor memory, sugar cravings, and yeast infections.
13. It can help you reduce heartburn.
Though it might seem like an oxymoron to treat stomach acid with an acid-containing vinegar, there is research suggesting that ACV works by correcting low acid, hence reducing heartburn. Natural remedy experts say you should begin to feel relief very shortly after you drink 1 teaspoon followed by a glass of water. Note that this will not give relief if you have an ulcer.
14. It is effective in repelling fleas on your pets.
One part vinegar and one part water can be sprayed on your pets' fur and rubbed in generously. Saturate the entire coat, and continue every day for a few days to a week. Any flea infestation will surely be gone.
15. It's an all-natural room freshener.
It will clean your toilets and leave your bathroom smelling like apples! Just pour it into the toilet, and allow it to sit overnight. It can also be used in dishwashers as a substitute for dish detergent. Mix ½ cup with 1 cup water, and you can use this solution to clean microwaves, kitchen surfaces, windows, glasses, and mirrors, too.
As you can see, it is a miracle product that can be used in a multitude of ways. I highly recommend it!
More information below: This article has been updated as of November 8, 2016 by mbg editorial to include new studies, information, and data.
How it's made
It’s likely that you most often use vinegar in your salads or use it for a marinade, but do you know exactly how it’s made? Vinegar can be made from molasses, apples, honey, grains, or any other carbohydrate source that can be fermented. You can make vinegar using a fast or slow fermentation process but basically, in ACV, yeasts ferment the sugars in the apples into alcohol and then bacteria convert the alcohol into acetic acid. Acetic acid is the main ingredient and is responsible for its strong flavor.
ACV with the mother
When you make it using the slow fermentation process, there is buildup of yeast and bacteria and this build up, called the mother, is commonly thought to contain most of the beneficial ingredients (enzymes and proteins). The mother makes it look slightly cloudy, and may even show up in strands or sediment in the finished product.
Buying the best
Looking to buy the best kind of ACV? Pick one that is raw, organic, unfiltered, unpasteurized, and has the mother intact. (All of this should be written on the label.) Also, make sure you shake it well to disperse the mother before you use it!
Why is it good for you?
So now you know what it is, how it’s made, and what kind to buy, but you might be thinking: why is it good for me? It is known to contain the following elements: vitamins, minerals, amino acids, organic acids (acetic acid and citric acid), and polyphenolic compounds (micronutrients known for their role in preventing disease). Basically, it's a concentrated liquid filled a lot of beneficial ingredients, like magnesium and B6, that your body needs to stay healthy.
ACV and probiotics
Apples also contain pectin, which is an insoluble fiber found in many fruits and other plant species. As a fiber, pectin contains the health benefits of other types of fiber and also acts as a prebiotic. Prebiotics are non-digestible foods that encourage a healthy gut by supporting the growth of probiotic bacteria.
It may seem like it, but using it for health purposes is not a new trend or modern wellness innovation. It is one of those ingredients that has been used for medical purposes for centuries and it’s been well-documented in history.
It was traditionally used as a tool for wound healing, cleaning and sanitizing, and food preservation. Even Hippocrates (a man commonly known as the father of medicine), would recommend a mixture of vinegar and honey to his patients to treat coughs.
ACV and disease
One of the most common beliefs is that it has disease-fighting properties due to its high concentration of beneficial ingredients. Some studies have supported the notion that taking it can help prevent disease by demonstrating its ability to combat oxidative stress.
What is oxidative stress you ask? Oxidative stress is best described as the burden that is placed on the body by free radicals and by toxins in the environment and food and water that we consume, or that are by-products of the food we consume.
In a healthy body, free radical production is counteracted by antioxidant activity. But if this balance is upset and you get more free radicals than antioxidant activity, the result is oxidative stress, which ultimately leads to dis-ease.
Common sources of antioxidants in food are berries and chocolate, but apple cider vinegar also seems to have the potential to assist in maintaining this balance by adding antioxidant enzymes and vitamins to the mix. One Japanese study even showed that a vinegar extract was able to inhibit the proliferation of different types of cancer cells, keeping with the theme that it may have disease-fighting properties that are not just limited to one part of the body.
Does it lower cholesterol?
The upside doesn't end with antioxidants, some research suggests that consuming it can be good for your cardiovascular health. In a recent study, animals on a high fat diet were given doses of ACV. The results demonstrated that the animals given these doses had a significant reduction in body weight and food intake, suggesting some sort of satiating effect. This group also showed improvements in cholesterol and blood lipid levels, which are key factors in atherosclerosis, the major cause of heart attacks and strokes. If it can play even the smallest role in preventing these very common illnesses, we’re excited to see what more research can show.
The liver and kidneys are both major elimination organs and it’s important to support them while they work to process toxins from foods, medications, and the environment. The liver works to clean the blood and transforms toxins and chemicals so we can excrete them. The kidneys follow the liver and flush those toxins through the urine. Both are essential for maintaining a healthy body.
The toxic load our bodies have to bear is bigger now than ever before and ACV may be able to help protect the liver and kidneys, supporting detoxification pathways and the ability to deal with the constant onslaught of chemicals from the outside world.
Does it actually help reduce heartburn?
If you walk down the pharmacy aisle, you will see dozens or medications for acid reflux, heartburn, and GERD. These are some of the most common digestive disorders out there, but have you ever wondered why that is and why we have so much acidity? Well, the problem might not be acid at all.
Much of the time, acid reflux is not directly caused by stomach over-acidity, instead it is caused by acid that is supposed to be in the stomach backing up into the esophagus where it causes a burning sensation. When you take conventional acid reflux medication, you neutralize the acid in the esophagus and it relieves the burning sensation. The issue here is that it while it gets rid of the symptoms of acid reflux it doesn't actually fix the problem.
Many integrative and functional medicine providers suggest that heartburn is actually caused by a lack of stomach acid. Acid is essential when is comes to keeping the valve at the end of the esophagus shut. When this valve stays shut during digestion, it keeps the acid in the stomach where it belongs and where it can do its job of helping with digestion and the absorption of key minerals.
Hydrochloric acid (HCl), the type of acid in your stomach, is essential for your gut health. It helps break down everything you ingest, it keeps your stomach at the right pH for digestive enzymes to work, and it helps attack harmful bacteria that might get into your GI tract.
Holisitc doctors theorize that stomach acid might actually help keep the valve at the end of the esophagus opening and shutting properly. Therefore, a lack of stomach acid could cause the backflow and uncomfortable symptoms of reflux.
Try diluting a tablespoon in water and drink it with your meals for better digestion and decreased heartburn.
In another study, supplementing a high glycemic meal (think: a bagel and juice) with ACV reduced post-meal blood sugar levels. The same study also showed that women taking it ate less calories throughout the day, suggesting that it might help you experience less hunger overall, but that it may especially counteract the effects of high-sugar or high-carb meals.
Turns out, there are many different ways to take advantage of its antimicrobial benefits. Have a scratchy, sore throat? Dilute it with some warm water and gargle away. Bacteria won’t get along with the acetic acid and the vinegar will fight against germs that might be making you feel sick.
Is it a laxative?
Another common use is as a gentle laxative. There isn’t much hard research in this area, but by reading online reviews, you can see loyalists swear by it. As a totally natural alternative to pharmaceuticals, it might be worth a try to help keep things regular and moving.
It’s the candida diet tonic
Candida is a type of fungus that, when out of balance in humans, can cause a yeast infection or overgrowth in the gut. When the balance of good and bad bacteria in the gut is disrupted by antibiotics or a poor diet, candida can colonize the GI tract and grow out of control. In this case, candida can cause symptoms of fatigue, poor memory, digestion issues, irritability, and sugar cravings. Apple cider vinegar is the only type of vinegar recommended to people on the candida diet due to its prebiotic and gut health enhancing ingredients.
For your skin
It’s likely that at some point you’ve read or heard something about using it for healthy, glowing skin. There are so many different creams, lotions, and potions out there that it can be an opportunity to actually simplify your routine. Bring a minimalist attitude to your beauty routine by using it as great all-natural, simple, and inexpensive addition to your beauty routine.
Speaking of acne, many people swear by it for clearing breakouts. Loyalists report smaller pores, more even skin and less acne. Who knows, in a few weeks you could be tossing all those expensive creams, cleansers, and pills in the trash. The idea here is the it can restore natural acidity, skin that is too acidic or alkaline can lead to breakouts.
Acetic acid, one of the main ingredients, has been used as a local antiseptic for thousands of years. Acetic acid has been used as a disinfectant for wounds and was even used as an antiseptic agent to fight and prevent the plague. Studies comparing acetic acid to common household antiseptics (like iodine) have confirmed that vinegar can successfully kill a wide range of bacteria. In the age of antibiotic resistance we are always looking for more natural alternatives, so this might just be our favorite things about it!
For dandruff and scalp health
Many people also use it as a dandruff treatment; due to its anti-fungal properties, it can work against some of the common causes of dandruff like a buildup of oil or a yeast-like fungus called malassezia.
As an all-natural weed killer
You can also try using it as an organic weed killer and there are multiple vinegar-based herbicides on the market already. It definitely beats using harsh chemicals that can leech into our water supply and ultimately harm the environment and our health.
Wash your fruits and veggies
One study that tested this theory showed that it could reduce the number of Salmonella bacteria on fresh salad vegetables and was especially effective when mixed with lemon juice. Many people also use a vinegar-based mixture to wash their fruits and vegetables after they buy them from the store. Even if your produce is organic, there are likely still pesticides on it and this is a great way to wash those off and eliminate any germs from your fresh fruits and veggies.
Whiten your teeth
Try mixing two parts ACV and one part baking soda and using it as a tooth whitening paste. The results won’t be immediate but done a few times a week, it should help to remove stains and whiten teeth. It’s worth noting that there are many resources (mainly local dentists like this one) that say consuming high-acid ACV can contribute to tooth enamel decay, so we recommend caution with this method and don’t recommend doing this long-term. You can also gargle with it to relieve bad breath; not only does it help with digestion, its antimicrobial properties will help you kill stinky breath bacteria.
It's a hiccup remedy
It sounds funny but some people swear by it as a remedy for persistent hiccups. We could not believe that we found research on this but various studies demonstrated the use of it to relieve persistent hiccups.
Stain and odor remover
People use it for everything: try it as a stain and odor remover, or for that mildew on your shower curtain, or to unclog your drain. So grab an old spray bottle, mix with one part water, and go crazy.
How to add to your diet
Try creating your own tonic by mixing it with fruit and something sweet and letting it sit for a few days in the fridge. Try it with berries for added color and flavor for a fun probiotic drink!
Try elevating your nutrition by substituting it for balsamic in your salad dressing recipe and mix it with healthy oils, herbs and spices. This is a great way to sneak in some extra health benefits. You can also buy pre-made dressings that use it as one of the main ingredients.
Another creative way to incorporate it into your diet is to use it as a tenderizer when you are cooking meat or poultry. Mix it with herbs and spices to create your own health-conscious marinade recipe.
Having a party? Try adding it to your spiked cider or bloody mary mix recipes. This can help counteract the negative effects of the alcohol and is a fun way to incorporate it into your day.
Don’t like any of these ideas? Just try keeping it in the fridge and drink it simply with water and some lemon. At the very least you’ll get used to it and might even learn to like the taste. Its definitely an acquired one.
Still unsatisfied? You can also get it in capsule form and take it that way. Warning: the capsules will still smell like apple cider vinegar.
It’s time to have the talk. The ACV safety talk. In general, consuming it in small amounts is considered very safe. However, many doctors suggest that you don’t consume more than 8 ounces per day because it has been linked to low potassium levels which can cause muscle cramps or weakness and if it gets extreme can be dangerous. Also, if you have diabetes it’s suggested that you proceed with caution because it can lower blood glucose levels. If you have any type of chronic health condition it is wise to consult your doctor before deciding to supplement with it. It is also recommended that you don’t drink it straight as it is very acidic and can therefore harm your esophagus and possibly contribute to tooth decay. (It also tastes pretty terrible that way, if you ask us.)
Myths and folklore
Reading through the internet, it’s easy to spot articles or posts dedicated to debunking its benefits. Some cite various studies that discredit specific claims about health benefits or uses—including many that we have included in this guide. So, let's take a moment clarify that it is not a magical potion or a cure-all for disease and dysfunction. Many of the studies cited here are preliminary and serve only to demonstrate research that supports the potential health benefits. That being said, accounts of people benefiting from it are everywhere and impossible to ignore, making it—in our opinion—worth trying out for yourself.
You might be wondering, ‘out of all the different types of vinegar, why is the apple variety so famous?’ Apples have many known health benefits including but not limited to: decreasing risk of cardiovascular disease, cancer, and asthma. Studies have shown apple consumption is related to an improved intestinal environment. Apples also contain a variety of phytochemicals that act as antioxidants, and have been shown to be successful at inhibiting cancer cell proliferation and lowering cholesterol. The idea here is that ACV provides you with some of the benefits of apples, in a concentrated, liquid form.
In other worlds: it takes the old saying “an apple a day keeps the doctors away” to a whole new level.
A guide to apple cider vinegar
Phew, you made it to the end. Congratulations, you now know all the ways to make the most out of your apple cider vinegar! And don’t worry, we created a short guide so that you don’t forget any of the take-home messages:
- It is made by fermenting apples into alcohol and then alcohol into vinegar. One of the main ingredients is acetic acid.
- When buying, you always want to purchase one with the mother still intact as that is the part of the vinegar that retains many of the beneficial ingredients.
- The health benefits are diverse. Some praise its antioxidant abilities, others for its blood sugar regulating power. None of these are scientifically proven but there is some research that points in that direction.
- One of the most common uses is as a digestive aid. Try diluting it in water and drink it with meals to see if you notice a difference.
- Nothing is proven, but some studies suggest that it can help you feel less hungry and help control blood sugar spikes, which might be beneficial for weight loss.
- It exhibits some antimicrobial activity and therefore can be used as an organic household cleaner by diluting it with water.
- It can be added to your beauty regime as a toner or hair scrub.
- The taste is very strong, but there are many creative and different ways to incorporate it into your diet.
- Make sure that you dilute it before ingesting it or putting it directly on your skin (unless you are removing warts).