Kim is an RN and author of the book "360 Health: Your Guide to Cancer Prevention, Healing Foods, & Total Body Wellness."
What Is Apple Cider Vinegar?
For centuries, apple cider vinegar (ACV) has been touted as a "cure-all" for many illnesses and ailments. Taken internally, it's thought to boost immunity. Used externally, it can be used to treat various skin conditions. But what is it exactly and what's in it that is so beneficial?
This vinegar is made from crushing apples to get the juice. Then, bacteria and yeast are added to the juice to begin the fermentation process. An alcohol is formed which is then converted to vinegar as the bacteria work their magic.
Because it's fermented, it is essentially a probiotic and contains strains of beneficial bacteria as well as helpful enzymes. In addition, it has potassium, magnesium, polyphenols, and acetic acid. The acetic acid is, perhaps, the most important element of the vinegar because it can kill off unwanted "bad" bacteria and fosters the growth of "good" bacteria, making ACV an antibacterial agent. Nature's own antibiotic!
What Kind Is Best?
In order to ensure you're getting the good bacteria and all of the helpful components, you'll want to look for raw, unfiltered, unpasteurized, and organic ACV. This kind of vinegar has the "mother" still intact. The "mother" is the colony of beneficial bacteria. It makes the vinegar appear cloudy or that it has sediment at the bottom. Sometimes it's described as having a web-like appearance. It might look murky, but that's where the good stuff is! Pasteurized (and clear-looking) ACV doesn't retain any of this goodness.
How to Drink ACV
Do not attempt to drink it right out of the bottle. You may hear of people doing "shots" of it, but this is not a safe idea. Because it is an acid, the vinegar can burn your throat and esophagus. Be sure to dilute the vinegar in water. Most health experts recommend putting 1 Tablespoon of ACV into 1 cup of water and drinking that. Next, we'll get into some of the ailments that it can help, and we'll list further instructions on how and why to take the vinegar for each. At the end of the article, look for recipe ideas that make the drink more palatable.
Specific Health Benefits
ACV is rich in B vitamins, potassium, magnesium, and other trace minerals. These, coupled with a rich supply of probiotics, make it a healthy concoction. If you suffer from any of the health concerns below, consider trying it as an inexpensive natural remedy.
1) Eases Heart Burn and Digestive Issues
Did you know that "heartburn" is typically caused by a lack of stomach acid, not an overproduction? With age, stomach acid production naturally declines. This is often around the time that heartburn and reflux begin to occur. A lack of hydrochloric acid leads to an inability to properly break down and digest food. This results in a burning sensation in the esophagus as food literally backs up along with the little stomach acid that is produced. Drinking 1 Tablespoon of ACV in a cup of water five minutes before meals can really make a difference in reducing heart burn symptoms that occur after eating. Taking antacids or proton pump inhibitors (PPI) really only mask the problem and can exacerbate the issue because they further disallow the formation of stomach acid.
ACV contains healthy acids like acetic and lactic acid that can control the growth of unwanted yeast and bacteria in your stomach. The pectin is also thought to soothe intestinal spasms. This may be good for folks suffering from Irritable Bowel Diseases.
Sometimes our bodies can become overwhelmed by toxins from our food and our environment. Signs that you may need to detoxify your body include bloating, sinus congestion, sugar cravings, white-coated tongue, acne, rosacea, rashes, itchy skin, sensitivity to smells, inability to handle small amounts of alcohol, or insomnia.
This vinegar improves the liver's natural filtration and ability to detoxify. It helps to balance the body's pH. Even though it is an acid, apple cider vinegar alkalinizes the body, reducing inflammation. It can help cleanse our lymph and circulatory systems as well. By cleansing the lymph nodes, our bodies can better remove toxins through this natural process. The powerful enzymes break down bad cholesterol to keep it from clogging your arteries, and the vinegar's high potassium content pulls excess sodium from the body, too. Finally, it can also help stimulate bowel motility. Regular daily bowel movements are necessary for adequate detoxification as well. (See the end of this article for a detox drink recipe.)
3) Helps Maintain Steady Blood Sugars
Studies have shown consuming ACV before a high-carb meal can improve insulin sensitivity and reduce blood sugar levels. The acetic acid is responsible for this mechanism as it may inactivate some of the digestive enzymes that break down carbohydrates into sugar. Drinking 2 Tablespoons of ACV with a mug of water before bed is also said to reduce morning blood sugars. This drink would be effective for both people with pre-diabetes or Type 2 diabetes.
Those with Type 1 diabetes might need to avoid this approach, however. People with this form of diabetes often suffer from gastroparesis, or delayed emptying of the stomach. A study from Sweden found that this vinegar increased the amount of time food remained undigested in the stomachs of people with Type 1 diabetes. This may make it more difficult for those people to regulate their blood sugar levels.
4) Keeps Yeast Infections at Bay
Candida is a yeast that is naturally occurring in our bodies. However, when candida becomes overgrown, this can lead to yeast and fungal infections. Imbalances in our microbiome occur when our body's pH is thrown off. This can occur due to high sugar diets, obesity, overuse or prolonged use of antibiotics, use of corticosteroids, chronic stress, or a weakened immune system to name a few.
Symptoms of candida or yeast infection can be very obvious and can occur anywhere in the body, often in warm or moist areas. Examples of these are vaginal infections, thrush, diaper rash, or nail-bed infections. Sometimes candida can be less obvious, however, and can manifest in a variety of symptoms. These symptoms may include exhaustion, brain fog, sugar cravings, joint pain, bad breath, white-coated tongue, hormonal imbalances, loss of sex drive, or chronic sinus infections.
Because this vinegar has beneficial yeast, it can help crowd out the bad stuff. It also has prebiotic and probiotic properties which set the stage for healthy bacteria to thrive. Try drinking 1 Tablespoon of ACV in water 3 times a day to combat yeast.
5) Enhances Weight Loss
Studies have shown that consuming this vinegar can decrease cravings and increase feelings of satiety (or fullness). A study published in the Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry found that mice given acetic acid (the same acid found in ACV) experienced a 10% reduction in body fat. Another study published in Bioscience, Biotechnology, and Biochemistry showed that participants who consumed ACV for 12 weeks managed to achieve significant declines in body weight as well as abdominal fat, waist circumference, and even triglyceride levels.
Consuming it with a high-carb meal helped research participants eat less throughout the day compared to when they did not consume the vinegar along with food. If you're looking to lose weight, you might try drinking 1 Tablespoon of ACV in 8 ounces of water before each meal (up to three times a day).
6) Improves Heart Health
As mentioned, ACV can decrease triglyceride levels. Triglycerides are fats in our bodies, and they play a role in the development of coronary artery disease. Our bodies use them for energy, but having high triglyceride levels increases one's chance of getting heart disease.
In addition, it can improve heart health by increasing HDL (or good cholesterol) levels. This is according to a 2006 study reported in Medscape General Medicine. It also contains the antioxidant chlorogenic acid, which has been scientifically shown to protect LDL cholesterol particles from becoming oxidized, a key step in the process of heart disease.
Finally, consuming this vinegar can also lower blood pressure. The vinegar contains potassium and magnesium, two key minerals that work to regulate blood pressure. Potassium helps balance out the body's sodium levels, and magnesium is instrumental in the relaxation of blood vessels. It also helps improve overall circulation. Take 1 Tablespoon of ACV in a glass of water twice a day for optimal results.
7) Slows the Aging Process
Free radicals are unstable molecules that damage cells and contribute to aging and disease. Free radicals occur naturally as a byproduct of cellular metabolism, but they can occur in an over-abundance from illness, inflammation, stress, pollution, and other toxic exposures. As we age, these free radicals become more plentiful and cause more damage at the cellular level.
We know that ACV has the ability to help reduce inflammation and illness as it is a pH neutralizer as well as an antibiotic. It also contains many antioxidants which are known to increase immunity and reduce the risk of disease. Free radicals create oxidative damage to cells and DNA; antioxidants counteract this process. Consume ACV in water at least twice a day if you're looking to help stop premature aging.
8) Helps to Relieve Symptoms of the Common Cold
ACV helps break up mucous in our bodies. This reduces nasal congestion. It's also an antibacterial and antiviral agent which works as a natural medicinal treatment. Often, scratchy throats accompany allergies and the cold. Gargling with ACV and water can be a great way to soothe a sore throat. Try 1 Tablespoon of ACV, 1 cup of water, and 1/2 tsp of salt for an all-natural gargle.
To speed up recovery from a cold, drink 2 Tablespoons of ACV in a cup of water three times a day. You can also add a little honey as it has antibacterial properties as well. This drink is loaded with vitamins and probiotic-boosting acetic acid.
Apple Cider Vinegar Detox Drink
Adapted from recipe on Dr. Axe.com
- 16 oz. water
- 2 Tablespoons apple cider vinegar, with "the mother"
- 2 Tablespoons lemon juice
- 1/2 - 1 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1 dash cayenne pepper, (optional)
- 1 teaspoon raw honey
- Warm the water to desired temperature.
- Combine all ingredients together and stir.
- Sip and enjoy!
Don't Forget Your Doctor
The above information is to provide you with general advice but is not to be considered a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you suffer from any of the conditions listed, be sure to also consult your physician.
Bright, Sierra. "11 Reasons to Drink a Tablespoon of Apple Cider Vinegar Daily," 6 July 2017, http://www.naturallivingideas.com/drinking-apple-cider-vinegar-benefits/.
West, Helen. "30 Surprising Uses for Apple Cider Vinegar," 30 August 2016, Authority Nutrition, https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/apple-cider-vinegar-uses.
Mercola, Joseph. "Apple Cider Benefits and Uses," 21 March 2015, https://articles.mercola.com/apple-cider-vinegar-benefits-uses.aspx.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.
© 2017 Kim Maravich
Stephanie Fredricksen, LMT on June 20, 2019:
Really enjoyed reading your article about the benefits of Apple Cider Vinegar and can't wait to try out the recipe you included with the ginger. Thank you for sharing!
Kim Maravich (author) from Pennsylvania on April 19, 2018:
Thank you so much for reading, Yves! Diluting the ACV and combining it with some honey really helps the flavor. I almost crave it now!
Yves on April 19, 2018:
Wow! I had heard apple cider vinegar may be beneficial (for some reason), but had no idea why. Luckily I came across your highly informative article. Honestly, I'd rather not drink vinegar, but because you laid out the facts so well, I intend to buy some Braggs ACV. Thank you for providing this well researched hub. So appreciate it.
Dora Weithers from The Caribbean on December 05, 2017:
Thanks for detailing the good uses of ACV. Very helpful, apparently more so to the older folk like me. Will bookmark for the detox recipe.