Apple cider vinegar is touted as a popular remedy for a wide range of ailments. Take a look at some of the common uses, benefits, and risks of using apple cider vinegar below.
Is Apple Cider Vinegar Good for You?
Apple cider vinegar is made in a two-step process. In the first step, apples are crushed and combined with yeast. The yeast eats the natural sugars in the apples to produce alcohol, giving you plain apple cider. Bacteria is added to the combination, fermenting the alcohol and turning it into acetic acid, the main active component in apple cider vinegar.1 Apple cider vinegar also contains a mix of vitamins, polyphenolic compounds, and organic acids (including malic, citric, and lactic acids), all of which can contribute to potential health benefits.2
Is apple cider vinegar actually good for you, and is it the health tonic that everyone says it is? Here are some of the most common use cases and whether they are actually true.
- Weight Loss
- Blood Sugar Regulation
- Sore Throats
- Yeast Infections
- Common Cold
Apple Cider Vinegar Pills for Weight Loss – True
Apple cider vinegar has been suggested to promote weight loss, and there are several studies that can support that claim. In one study, 12 healthy participants were provided with three different levels of vinegar containing different concentrations of acetic acid (18, 23, and 28 millimoles per liter) along with a portion of white wheat bread containing 50 grams of carbohydrates as breakfast after an overnight fast. Each participant also had a meal of bread served without vinegar as a reference meal. Researchers took blood samples after 120 minutes, measuring insulin and glucose levels. They also measured subject satiety based on a subjective scale.
The results of the study found that acetic acid significantly lowered blood glucose and insulin responses while increasing satiety levels. This suggests that acetic acid in apple cider vinegar may help to promote weight loss by preventing fluctuations in blood sugar and increasing fullness from meals.3
Apple Cider Vinegar Pills for Blood Sugar Regulation – True
As seen above, acetic acid can have a significant effect on blood sugar. In another study, 10 patients with type 1 diabetes and diabetic gastroparesis were given 300 grams of rice pudding and 200 milliliters of water and were required to drink 200 milliliters of water daily the week prior. Researchers measured the gastric emptying rate using standardized ultrasonography and labeled this initial measurement GER1. The subjects were then given 300 grams of rice pudding and 200 milliliters of water with 30 milliliters of apple cider vinegar and were required to drink 200 milliliters of water with 30 milliliters of apple cider vinegar before breakfast during the two weeks prior. This was labeled as GER2.
The results of the study showed that apple cider vinegar had a significant effect on reducing the gastric emptying rate while improving insulin sensitivity and lowering post-prandial blood glucose levels.4
Apple Cider Vinegar Toner for Acne – Plausible, but Not Recommended
Apple cider vinegar is known for its ability to kill various bacteria and viruses. While there aren’t many specific studies on apple cider vinegar’s ability to kill Propionibacterium acnes, the bacteria that contributes to acne, apple cider vinegar does contain a variety of organic acids that have been shown to effectively eliminate P. acnes.5 Studies show that long-term application of lactic acid, one of the acids found in ACV, may be an effective treatment for acne, reducing inflammatory lesions by 90 to 100 percent.6
This all suggests that apple cider vinegar may possibly help with acne, but that comes with a large risk. Apple cider vinegar is highly acidic by nature. Some studies show that direct topical application of apple cider vinegar can be irritating and possibly result in chemical burns.7 Diluting the vinegar with water may be helpful, but even this can be problematic for those with sensitive skin or open wounds.
For acne we recommend our Dermatrope™ line of supplements and acne gel treatments.
Apple Cider Vinegar Rinse for Hair Dandruff – Plausible
There is no current research on apple cider vinegar’s effects on dandruff. Dandruff is thought to be caused by Malasezzia yeast. It is plausible that ACV would work on dandruff because it exhibits strong antifungal properties,8 anti-inflammatory properties and exfoliating properties.9
For dandruff we recommend our HairOmega® Shampoo which contains the anti-fungal compound ketoconazole and a number of natural anti-fungals such as tea tree oil that works against Malassezia yeast.
Drinking Apple Cider Vinegar for Sore Throats – Plausible
Some studies show that apple cider vinegar does possess some antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties that may help with a sore throat cause by a bacterial infection.10 However, most sore throats, like those that come with the common cold and flu, are caused by viral infections.11 There’s a general lack of scientific evidence to support the use of apple cider vinegar as an effective remedy for sore throats, but anecdotal evidence has said otherwise. If you do try ACV for your sore throat, make sure you dilute it in water. Swallowing straight apple cider vinegar can further irritate your throat.12
Drinking Apple Cider Vinegar for Heartburn – False
Heartburn is a form of indigestion characterized by a burning pain in your chest that is often accompanied by acid reflux, wherein stomach acids flow back up the esophagus.13 Although some have anecdotally suggested that drinking apple cider vinegar may help heartburn and acid reflux, there’s no actual scientific research to back these claims up. One study even suggests that apple cider vinegar could contribute to indigestion and nausea, particularly when mixed into more unpalatable drinks.14
A better product to take for heartburn and indigestion would be Digestive Enzymes which help support digestive function by aiding with the breakdown and processing of food. Indeed, prescription digestive enzymes have been found to be helpful for dyspepsia and indigestion.22
Apple Cider Vinegar Baths for Yeast Infections – False
As mentioned, apple cider vinegar has been found to effectively combat species of Candida. Candida albicans is one of the most common yeasts that contributes to vaginal yeast infections. Studies also show that ACV may inhibit the growth of E. coli and Staphylococcus.15 However, these studies were conducted outside the human body. Research directly related to using apple cider vinegar to treat yeast infections in the human body are lacking.
A study in the Annals of Internal Medicine showed that the regular consumption of yogurt-containing Lactobacillus acidophilus led to a three-fold decrease in the number of yeast infections.23 The proposed mechanism is that Lactobacillus is a probiotic that normally resides in the vagina and helps it to maintain a healthy pH which keeps away yeast-infection causing yeast. You can get a concentrated dose of Lactobacillus probiotics from probiotic supplements.
Apple Cider Vinegar Baths for UTIs – False
UTIs refer to any bacterial infection within the urinary tract. While apple cider vinegar does possess antibacterial properties, most urinary tract infections are located in the bladder or urethra. Considering water cannot enter your urethra while taking a bath, taking an apple cider vinegar bath for UTIs would not be effective. UTIs are usually treated with antibiotics.
Probiotics aid in the prevention of UTIs by competing against UTI-causing E. coli bacteria and are good to take while on antibiotics.24 You can also prevent UTIs by practicing good hygiene. For women it is better to wipe from front to back to avoid introducing fecal bacteria into the vagina.
Drinking Apple Cider Vinegar for the Common Cold – False
The common cold is caused by a virus, and as mentioned earlier, apple cider vinegar’s antiviral properties still remain in question. Furthermore, most common colds will clear up on their own given time and rest. That said, apple cider vinegar may help to reduce certain symptoms. For instance, apple cider vinegar’s acidity can help to thin out mucus and loosen phlegm. Apple cider vinegar also contains antioxidants, potassium, and vitamins C and E, all of which may support your immune system to fight off the virus.17
Most of the time your body will recover from a cold on its own. Antibiotics will not help because viruses cause colds and antibiotics only work on bacteria. Symptomatic relief with a cold medicine containing a cough suppressant (dextromorphan), a decongestant (pseudoephedrine), and pain reliever (acetaminophen) is recommended.
Apple Cider Vinegar Pills for Gout – Plausible
Gout is a form of arthritis that is characterized by sudden flare ups of pain, redness, swelling, and tenderness in the joints, most frequently in the big toe. These joint pains are caused by the buildup of urate crystals, which form when there are high levels of uric acid in the blood.18 There is no scientific evidence to suggest that apple cider vinegar has a direct effect on gout. However, apple cider vinegar does support weight loss, and one study on 12,379 men with a high cardiovascular risk profile found that weight loss could significantly reduce urate levels in blood.19
Tart cherry is one herbal remedy for gout that has been proven to work for gout. It reduces inflammation-induced pain26 as well as the recurrence of gout attacks.25
Apple Cider Vinegar Baths for Sunburn – False
Although some sunburn sufferers swear by apple cider vinegar, there is no scientific evidence to suggest that an apple cider vinegar bath can help a sunburn. On the contrary, applying the vinegar to a sunburn may just further irritate your skin. Those who do tout this remedy for sunburns are likely diluting apple cider vinegar in a cold bath.
Keeping the skin cool, like with a cold bath or dampened towel, can help to reduce the pain and discomfort of a sunburn all on its own.20 Using aloe-vera burn gels can also provide a great deal of relief.
Side Effects and Warnings When Consuming Apple Cider Vinegar
Taking small amounts of apple cider generally should not contribute to any health issue, but taking large amounts can potentially lead to:
- Digestive issues
- Low potassium levels
- Bone loss
- Erosion of tooth enamel21
How to Minimize Side Effects
Thankfully, it’s fairly easy to minimize the side effects of apple cider vinegar.
- Limit your dosage. Start with small amounts before you work your way up. Limit yourself to a maximum of two tablespoons of apple cider vinegar per day.
- Dilute your dosage with plenty of water. You should avoid taking apple cider vinegar on its own. Aside from the strong, unpleasant taste, straight apple cider vinegar can wear down your tooth enamel and hurt your throat.
- Rinse out your mouth after taking apple cider vinegar.21
Taking apple cider vinegar supplements can help you avoid most of the side effects. Above all, avoid reaching for apple cider vinegar for every ailment. Although it can be helpful, particularly for weight loss and digestion, apple cider vinegar is not the panacea that you think it is.