By now, everyone and their mother has heard about the benefits of wellness darling apple cider vinegar. The sour stuff has long been touted as a cure-all for everything from type 2 diabetes to eczema to high cholesterol and even obesity.
A quick search not only unearths endless ACV hacks but also a prevailing theory about the ideal time to take it: right before bed. Proponents say that an ACV nightcap will help you sleep, banish bad breath, and aid digestion.
Before you drink up, is there any truth to these claims? Is there an ideal way to reap all the benefits of this sweet and tangy vinegar? We went straight to the experts for answers.
What does science say?
"Many of these [cure-all] claims are not backed by large and long-term science-based studies," says Christy Wilson, owner of Christy Wilson Nutrition, a registered dietitian in Tucson, Arizona. "But despite the lack of research, there is a collection of small studies showing promise with respect to ACV as an alternative therapy to help with blood sugar and triglyceride management."
A few small studies suggest that ACV may aid digestion and help you absorb vitamins and minerals better, says Wilson. One study showed that it may help with calcium absorption, and a 2013 study indicated it may lower glucose levels by helping your body process starch.
But don't lose sight of the larger dietary picture: "What can help digestion is eating a wide variety of plant-based foods," Wilson adds. "So if the flavor of apple cider vinegar in a dressing or marinade encourages you to eat more vegetables like onion, garlic, and asparagus, which has a host of health benefits including prebiotic properties, that can help promote a healthy gut, good digestion, and a healthy immune system."
So how do I take it?
Because ACV is highly—you guessed it—acidic, don't drink it straight up. Otherwise, you risk severely irritating and damaging your esophagus and stomach. Wilson suggests diluting a small amount (1 to 2 tablespoons) of ACV in liquid and having it with food, making it into a salad dressing or drizzling it on veggies or meats.
If you're not so skilled in the kitchen or are just short on time, there are easier ways to get your ACV on. For a convenient, tasty and on-the-go option, try Flora Health's Apple Cider Vinegar Wellness Shots. These pre-portioned organic bottles in four delicious blends—Elderberry, Lemon & Ginger, Turmeric & Cinnamon, and Red Beet—are brewed in small batches using freshly ground herbs blended with ACV.
When should I take it?
While some claim that ACV helps them sleep by triggering the release of tryptophan, which in turn helps produce serotonin (the "feel-good hormone"), there is no science-based evidence to back it up. According to Wilson, "This is a far-fetched and oversimplified explanation of a complex process of amino acid breakdown and how it impacts levels of neurotransmitters that can help induce sleep."
Wilson actually warns against drinking ACV before bedtime because its acidity can irritate your stomach and disrupt your zzz's. "I wouldn't recommend it, especially right before lying down, and definitely not if you have gastrointestinal issues, chronic kidney disease, or chronic insomnia."
The tart vinegar in the a.m., however, can help with dreaded dragon breath. "Apple cider vinegar has antibacterial properties, which is how it can help kill bad breath," she explains. Want to try it out? Wilson suggests gargling diluted ACV with water before brushing your teeth.
To get the maximum effect, take ACV on an empty stomach at least a half-hour before eating. One of our favorite—and one of the tastiest—ways to get our daily dose is to down one of Flora Health's Apple Cider Vinegar Wellness Shot when we wake up—it's a spicy, fruity, and tangy start to the day. If you have a sweet tooth, try the new Red Beet blend—it's earthy with a hint of sweetness.
The TL;DR bottom line?
Though more studies still need to be conducted, apple cider vinegar's wellness cred is legit. Just make sure to drink it well before bedtime.
The information in this article is the opinion of the author and/or individuals quoted and in no way reflects the policies or positions of Flora Health. This is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical or nutrition advice. Further, these statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.