A Guide To Apple Cider Vinegar: Benefits, The Mother, Safety & Use
People have used apple cider vinegar medicinally and therapeutically for centuries, and currently it’s all the rage. Beware the hype—not every claim about this product is true. Here are all the science-backed, vetted benefits of raw, organic, unfiltered, and unpasteurized apple cider vinegar.
It's good for your gut.
The fermentation process that yields apple cider vinegar encourages the growth and proliferation of good-for-your-gut microbes. Consuming probiotic-rich fermented foods has been shown to improve digestion, boost the immune system, and even positively affect mental health. Most of the probiotics in apple cider vinegar are in the cloudy "mother" strands you'll find floating in it, so be sure to purchase apple cider vinegar that still has the mother intact.
Beyond being full of probiotics, apple cider vinegar's many other properties are beneficial for gut health. As functional medicine practitioner Will Cole, D.C., IFMCP, explains, "apple cider vinegar has also been shown1 to have antiviral and anti-yeast and antifungal benefits, all helpful in supporting microbiome and overall immune balance."
It may help control blood sugar.
Apple cider vinegar may help combat that spike-then-crash blood sugar roller coaster you can feel after a carb-heavy meal. In one small study, supplementing a high glycemic meal (think a bagel and juice) with apple cider vinegar reduced post-meal blood sugar levels by about half in healthy patients. In a similar study by the same authors, participants with diabetes or insulin resistance saw blood-sugar-balancing benefits from ACV as well.
So before digging into your starchy faves like pasta, potatoes, and pretzels, try sipping on a little apple cider vinegar.
It can aid in weight loss.
One of apple cider vinegar's best-known benefits is its role in weight loss. While there have not been many studies directly on ACV and weight maintenance, there have been studies on its components, like acetic acid. In a study of obese Japanese adults, it was found that subjects who consumed acetic acid for 12 weeks experienced significant weight loss and declines in abdominal fat2, waist circumference, and triglycerides compared to those who consumed a placebo.
Researchers believe it works by suppressing appetite. Acetic acid has been shown to delay gastric emptying3, meaning you feel fuller for longer. This is probably why apple cider vinegar consumption has also been weakly associated with lower total energy4 consumption throughout the day.
While further research is needed, you can safely include ACV as part of a nourishing weight management routine. Try adding 2 teaspoons of apple cider vinegar to 16 ounces of water and sipping this concoction throughout the day.
It's a simple DIY cleaner.
Apple cider vinegar has antibacterial properties5, so you can use it to clean everything from your kitchen counter to the bathtub. Just mix ½ cup apple cider vinegar with 1 cup water, and get cleaning. Use this solution to clean microwaves, kitchen surfaces, windows, glasses, and mirrors. It can also be used in dishwashers as a substitute for dish detergent.
Apple cider vinegar will even clean your toilets and leave your bathroom smelling like apples. Just pour it into the toilet and allow it to sit overnight.
However, it should not be used in place of more protective against serious viruses.
You can use it to wash produce.
Even if your produce is organic, there can still be pesticides on it. Apple cider vinegar is a great way to wash those off and eliminate any germs from your fresh fruits and veggies. Research has shown that ACV reduces the number of 6Salmonella6 bacteria6 on fresh salad vegetables. To boost the bacteria-fighting powers, mix in lemon juice, as this combination was found to be especially effective.
It can make your hair shine.
Your scalp and hair's natural pH is around 5.5, making it acidic. Normal shampoo is alkaline, which can throw off your hair's pH, causing brittle, dry strands7. Water, too, can alter the hair's pH, since water's pH is neutral. Apple cider vinegar's acidity makes it the perfect post-shampoo rinse to help restore pH balance, boosting hair's shine and health.
Try 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 as an ACV rinse. Or find a hair care product with apple cider vinegar.
Bonus: ACV may help get rid of flaky dandruff. Due to its antifungal properties8, it can work against some of the common causes of dandruff, like a buildup of oil or a yeastlike fungus called malassezia.
It can act as a skin toner.
The acidity and anti-inflammatory nature of ACV make it a great addition to your skin care routine. 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. The acidity helps slough away dead skin cells while soothing irritation.
It is important to note that due to its acidic nature, apple cider vinegar alone may cause skin irritation. Always dilute apple cider vinegar before using topically.
It can remove stains from teeth.
Try mixing two parts apple cider vinegar and one part baking soda for a natural tooth-whitening paste. Rub teeth directly with the apple cider vinegar paste, and rinse with water. The results won't be immediate, but done a few times a week, this should help to remove stains and whiten teeth. You can also gargle with ACV for a similar effect. Added bonus: Gargling apple cider vinegar will relieve bad breath. Its antibacterial properties5 can kill stinky breath bacteria.
It's worth noting that, due to its acidity, there is some concern that consuming ACV can contribute to tooth enamel decay9, just as soda and fruit juices do. So we advise caution with this method and don't recommend doing it long term.
It can repel fleas from your pets.
While apple cider vinegar won't necessarily rid your pet of a flea problem, it can help prevent one. Fleas apparently do not like the smell or taste of vinegar, so ACV can be a good natural repellent.
Try spraying one part vinegar and one part water on your pet's fur and rubbing it in generously. Saturate the entire coat, and continue every day for a few days to a week
What exactly is "the mother" in apple cider vinegar?
Apple cider vinegar is made from apple juice and is fermented to hard apple cider. It's then fermented a second time to become apple cider vinegar. In large volumes, it is known to contain vitamins, minerals, amino acids, organic acids (acetic acid and citric acid), and polyphenolic compounds (micronutrients known for their role in preventing disease).
When apple cider vinegar is made using a slow fermentation process, there is a buildup of yeast and bacteria. This buildup, 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.
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. Make sure you shake it well to disperse the mother before you use it.
How to add apple cider vinegar to your diet.
There are plenty of ways you can add apple cider vinegar to your diet that tastes great and packs a nutritional punch. Here, a few of the favorites—read more here.
Elevate your salad by substituting your usual balsamic for apple cider vinegar. Just mix it with healthy oils, herbs, and spices. This is a great way to sneak in some extra health benefits. You can also buy premade dressings that use ACV as one of the main ingredients.
Try creating your own tonic by mixing apple cider vinegar with fruit and something sweet. Let it sit for a few days in the fridge. Pop in a few fresh berries for added color and flavor for a fun probiotic drink!
Another creative way to incorporate apple cider vinegar 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 marinade recipe.
Cocktails or drinks
Having a party? Try adding ACV to your spiked cider or Bloody Mary mix recipes.
Still not sure about the taste? You can also get apple cider vinegar in capsule or pill form and take it that way. Warning: The capsules will still smell like apple cider vinegar.
Is apple cider vinegar safe?
It's time to have the talk. The apple cider vinegar safety talk. In general, consuming it in small amounts is considered safe. However, many doctors suggest that you don't consume more than 8 ounces per day because it has been linked to a few side effects, like low potassium levels, which can cause muscle cramps or weakness and if it gets extreme can be dangerous. Also, if you have diabetes, talk to your doctor 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 and tooth enamel decay. (It also tastes pretty terrible that way, TBH.)
Darcy McDonough, M.S., is the Senior Manager, SEO & Content Strategy at mindbodygreen. She holds a master’s degree in nutrition interventions, communication, and behavior change from Tufts Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy. She has previously worked in nutrition communications for Joy Bauer, the nutrition and health expert for NBC’s TODAY Show.
McDonough has developed & lead nutrition education programming in schools. She’s covered a wide range of topics as a health & nutrition reporter from the rise in the use of psychedelics for depression to the frustrating trend in shorter doctors' appointments and the connection between diet and disease.