Apple cider vinegar is much more than just a flavorful ingredient in salad dressings and pickles. Folk medicine traditions have long maintained that a wide range of health conditions can be affected by drinking apple cider vinegar. Do these traditional uses for the fermented apple product hold any scientific weight?
A growing body of evidence suggests that they do. Here are 10 health uses for apple cider vinegar that you may not have been aware of. Most of these health benefits come from drinking apple cider vinegar, but a few of them have to do with topical uses.
1. It Contains B Vitamins.
Apple cider vinegar contains vitamins B1, B2, B6, and folic acid. Vitamin B1, writes Melodie Anne, is needed for metabolizing food. B1 is also known as thiamine. Thiamine also helps regulate the appetite, prevent you from overeating, build nerve cells, and keep the heart and nervous system functioning properly.
Vitamin B2, also known as riboflavin, is needed for the development and function of the blood cells, the lining of the digestive tract, and the skin. B6, also called pyridoxine, is required for building healthy red blood cells, nerves, and skin.
B6 deficiency can cause cracked, scaly lips, increased feelings of depression and confusion, and a lowered ability to fight off infections. Most people get enough B1 in their diets, but those who suffer from certain chronic conditions can experience fatigue, weakness, and eventually brain damage from the lack of sufficient B1. Americans typically get enough riboflavin in their diets as well, but without enough riboflavin, nervous system and liver damage can result.
Folic acid, another of the B vitamins, is essential for both metabolism and cell growth. Most Americans don’t get enough folic acids from their diets. For those who are pregnant or trying to get pregnant, folic acid is important for reducing the potential for the serious birth defects anencephaly and spina bifida. The vitamin can also reduce the risks of premature labor and preeclampsia during pregnancy. People suffering from anemia must also be sure to get enough folic acid.
2. It Can Help Lower Cholesterol.
The pectin in the raw, unfiltered type of apple cider vinegar is a form of dietary fiber. Drinking vinegar with dietary fiber helps keep the digestive system from absorbing all of the cholesterol in foods. Evidence from animal studies show that the acetic acid found in vinegar can also lower total serum cholesterol and specifically LDL (“bad”) cholesterol. (Source)
In general, we want a high “good” cholesterol, or HDL, number because this is the substance that carries “bad” cholesterol in the food we eat to the liver, which then helps rid the body of it. A high level of LDL or “bad” cholesterol and a low level of HDL cholesterol puts you at risk for heart disease and stroke. We need some cholesterol in our bodies, since it is a building block of every kind of cell in the human body, but too much LDL cholesterol can build up in what are called “plaques” in the arteries. These plaques cause hardening of the arteries, and if they break off and enter the bloodstream then they can lead to blood clots, which in turn cause heart attacks and strokes by blocking off blood vessels and keeping blood from reaching the heart and the brain.
Not all apple cider vinegars are the same. According to Elizabeth Brown, apple cider vinegar is made by first fermenting apple juice, then adding a substance called “mother of vinegar.” This glue-like mass is a combination of probiotic yeasts and bacteria. The difference between filtered and unfiltered apple cider vinegar is that the unfiltered variety has some of the mother of vinegar left behind.
It’s perfectly safe to drink this vinegar, which gives the vinegar a cloudy or cobweb-like appearance. For those who prefer not to drink this probiotic substance, it can be strained out of the vinegar bottle with a coffee filter. However, many of the nutritional benefits of drinking apple cider vinegar are lost by drinking the clear, filtered variety. The “good” bacteria in mother of vinegar can help with digestive issues and boost the immune system as well as helping to lower cholesterol. Probiotics help the immune system by destroying some of the infection-causing microorganisms that live in the gut.
3. It Contains Vitamin C.
Vitamin C, also called ascorbic acid, is needed for bone and tissue growth and repair. It also plays a role in regulating blood pressure. Adults need 75 to 90 mg per day, except during pregnancy and breastfeeding, when the recommended daily allowance goes up to 80 to 120 mg per day. Vitamin C, also called ascorbic acid, is needed for bone and tissue growth and repair. It also plays a role in regulating blood pressure. Adults need 75 to 90 mg per day, except during pregnancy and breastfeeding, when the recommended daily allowance goes up to 80 to 120 mg per day.
Taking more than the recommended amount of vitamin C is no longer thought to have any significant health benefits, but it is important to get enough vitamin C. Unfortunately, most Americans are not getting enough dietary vitamin C from eating fresh fruits and vegetables, and dietary vitamin C is thought to be better for the body than vitamin C in supplement form. Drinking apple cider vinegar is an easy way to get more dietary vitamin C.
4. It Helps Lower Blood Sugar Levels.
Allan Bethea writes that a 2010 study in the health journal Diabetes Care reported men with type 2 diabetes who were given a placebo had 20% higher blood sugar levels than men in the same study who were given a solution of water and vinegar. Another study looked at two groups who drank vinegar, one with a high-sugar meal and the other group with a low-sugar meal. Both groups had reduced blood sugar levels compared to a control group that did not drink vinegar, but the blood sugar level reduction of the group that ate the high-sugar meal was more significant.
Apple cider vinegar may help reduce blood sugar levels by slowing the absorption of starch into the bloodstream. It has little to no effect on meals that don’t contain starches. The strongest effect was seen in people who are pre-diabetic, which means they are at high risk for developing diabetes but do not yet have the disease. People who have diabetes or are concerned about high or low blood sugar should consult with a health care provider if planning to add an apple cider vinegar supplement to their diets. (Source)
5. It May Help with Weight Loss.
Research into how apple cider vinegar can help with weight loss is still ongoing. Allan Bethea reports that some researchers speculate the acetic acid in the vinegar helps slow down the absorption of fat from meals eaten.
A 12-week study done in Japan gave one group apple cider vinegar every day; the control group was given water. The group that was given vinegar lost more weight than the group that was given water. Subjects who took vinegar every day also had lower triglycerides (a measure of the amount of fat in the bloodstream), less belly fat, a lower Body Mass Index (BMI), and small waist measurements compared to the group who drank only water. (Source)
6. Polyphenols in Apple Cider Vinegar May Help Prevent Cancer.
Antioxidants called polyphenols are found in apple cider vinegar. Gianna Rose writes that polyphenols are being studied for their possible cancer-preventing effects, as well as potential effects on heart disease, diabetes, and high blood pressure.
The polyphenol ellagic acid, which is found in dark red berries, has been shown in laboratory studies to prevent bladder, breast, esophageal, lung, and skin cancers. Polyphenols found in garlic, grape juice, and green tea are also being investigated for their possible cancer prevention properties.
Researchers also think polyphenols reduce inflammation in the body, which is partly responsible for the positive health benefits of drinking red wine in moderation. Excessive inflammation in the body is associated with allergies, asthma, arthritis, diabetes, hardening of the arteries, and heart disease. These same substances may also help with reducing the buildup of fats in blood vessels and increasing the body’s HDL (“good”) cholesterol.
7. It Can Help With Weight Maintenance.
Even if the evidence for weight loss related to drinking apple cider vinegar is still coming in, other evidence suggests it can at least help one maintain one’s current weight. For one thing, it has no calories. Apple cider vinegar can be added to any meal and drunk without adding any additional calories to one’s diet. Besides possible effects on helping individuals lose weight, apple cider vinegar also will not contribute to weight gain.
A 2005 study reported in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association suggested that vinegar can help people maintain their current weight by eating fewer calories. The study, conducted on female volunteers, showed that woman who drank apple cider vinegar with their morning meals ate less during the day than women who weren’t asked to drink vinegar, according to Elizabeth Brown.
8. It Can Be Used to Exfoliate Your Skin.
Non-filtered, organic apple cider vinegar can be used as an ingredient in a sea salt facial scrub. Dolan combines an eighth of a cup of coarse sea salt (she notes that this is not the same as common table salt), a “drizzle” of apple cider vinegar, and two tablespoons of chopped fresh mint leaves to make a facial scrub that exfoliates dead skin, oils, and contaminants from the face. She writes that the vinegar acts as the astringent, which causes tissues to shrink, helping prevent excessive oils and sweating. Astringents also help relieve itching and inflammation of the skin and have a mild antiseptic (i.e. germ-killing) effect. It should be noted that Dolan is author of Naturally Skinsational: Rejuvenating Skin Care Recipes.(Source)
9. It Can Be Used as a Home Remedy for Psoriasis.
Psoriasis is a chronic skin condition that results from unusual activity in the immune system. Flare-ups take the form of clusters of skin cells that grow much faster than normal, appearing on the surface of the skin as areas of red skin with flaky, whitish or silverish patches. Flare-ups can range from mildly itchy to intensely painful and are liable to crack and bleed. Although there is no known cure for this condition, it can be treated topically.
When lesions appear on the scalp, psoriasis can be treated with apple cider vinegar. Those who suffer from this condition can either use full-strength apple cider vinegar or dilute it with water, then use it like a shampoo, massaging it into the scalp and hair. It’s important to rinse after doing so to avoid any possible irritation from the acidity in the vinegar if it stays on the head. However, this home remedy should be avoided if any patches on the scalp are cracked and/or bleeding, as this will cause a burning sensation. (Source)
10. It Temporarily Relieves a Sore Throat.
Gargling with apple cider vinegar has long been used as a home remedy for a sore throat, and this is effective for some people. Because of its strong taste, the vinegar is often mixed with honey, diluted with water, or both. Heating it up slightly (not so hot that it could cause burns, of course) is especially soothing to some people. While evidence does not suggest that gargling with apple cider vinegar or drinking it will do anything to prevent, delay the onset of, or shorten the length of the common cold or other viral infection, it does temporarily relieve sore throat pain.(Source)
If you decide to drink apple cider vinegar as a health supplement, be aware that there are a few risks associated with this practice. The acidity of vinegar can be damaging to tooth enamel and can also be irritating to the stomach. It can also lower the level of potassium in the body, which can potentially cause problems if the level gets too low. For these reasons, people sometimes take their apple cider vinegar in a diluted solution, with one serving of apple cider vinegar (about an ounce) mixed into eight ounces or more of water.